Inexpensive weather monitoring towers may warn of freezes

04/09/2013 10:52:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

mark battanyCourtesy University of CaliforniaUniversity of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor Mark Battany errects a meteorological monitoring station.Even in sunny California, untimely frosts can cause damage during spring bud break in coastal winegrape vineyards.

Although sprinkler protection is effective, the state has limited water supplies.

But a group of University of California researchers is gathering information that may help growers determine whether wind machines, which are effective but costly, may be a worthwhile investment, according to a news release.

In 2011, the central coast production region suffered the most severe frost in 30 years, and winegrape growers lost millions of dollars of crop.

Mark Battany, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, has led a study that entails 35-foot-tall meteorological towers with data loggers on the top. The loggers also are placed at the 5-foot-height to measure the difference in temperature.

The towers cost about $250 each. Instructions and specifications are available at the UCCE website.

During the first year of study, inversion conditions were present nearly 75 percent of the nights when there was frost.

Wind machines can be used to help break up the inversions.

The study will continue in 2013 and 2014.

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