Computer Program Eases Climate Change
Research By Don
Comis September 29, 2008
Agricultural Research Service
(ARS) researchers and colleagues have developed a computer program that allows
them to automatically recreate or simulate the environment of remote locations
throughout the world inside plant growth chambers.
The program, called WeatherEze, which includes an online global map,
was developed by
Spokas, a soil scientist at the
Soil and Water Management Research Unit in St. Paul, Minn., and
Forcella, an agronomist at the ARS
Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory in Morris, Minn., in
cooperation with Percival
Scientific, Inc., of Perry, Iowa.
ARS studies plant growth in chambers for a variety of research
purposes, including mimicking environmental conditions that may result from
global climate change. ARS has such chambers in a number of research locations,
including Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio.
The commercially available WeatherEze program runs Percival-controlled
environment chambers and incubators from any computer equipped with Microsoft
WeatherEze connects the chambers to hourly reports from airport
weather stations throughout the world via METAR weather data (http://weather.noaa.gov/weather/metar.shtml).
The ARS scientists developed computerized statistical models to use
the weather and latitude and longitude data to estimate weather variables such
as sunlight amount and quality, and automatically recreate those conditions in
Without WeatherEze, climate change and other researchers who want to
recreate daily climates of various regions of the world have to manually adjust
the chambers daily to match weather reports from those regions. And they
typically would not have time to estimate anything far from obvious from the
data, such as daily lighting conditions. WeatherEze accomplishes this in real-
The software can also recreate and continually control past climate
scenarios for global warming studies, using the last 30 years of weather data.
WeatherEze can also control carbon dioxide levels (provided this feature is
available in the growth chamber) and can simulate almost any set of
environmental conditions around the globe.
The ARS scientists worked with Percival through a Cooperative Research
and Development Agreement.
ARS is a scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.