Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Free rainfall data

Rainfall data is essential information for farmers to help manage their fields. However, one of the main challenges is to have good coverage in areas where there are only a few weather stations close by. In addition to that, the cost for farmers to acquire weather stations is still significant. Therefore, is there any other way to acquire public weather data in areas with few weather stations?

Currently, remote sensing allows you to obtain data from different platform levels, such as terrestrial, aerial or orbital. Satellite images are used to supervise crop development, area delimitation and climate assessment. Thus, it is possible through remote sensing to measure rainfall data.

Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station data (CHIRPS) is a near-global precipitation dataset. It is an efficient alternative for farm management support, especially where weather stations are scarce. Next, we will explain how to download the CHIRPS rainfall data, using a delimited (marked) area or boundary.

Three easy steps

The first step is to know the exact location of your field of interest. You can build a delimited area or boundary in any GIS software, such as Qgis or Arcgis. (Figure 1) This step is essential to create a polygon of the field of interest in a shapefile format and then compress or zip the file necessary in the second phase.

After creating the zipped file, create a Google Earth Engine account (https://earthengine.google.com). A sharing link, which will be used in the third step, will be generated on this site.

With the link generated in the previous step, you will open a new web page called Climate Engine (https://climateengine.com). On this site, you will see the area of interest delimited in the first phase. According to the selected input mechanisms, we will have the precipitation graph plotted for visualization and the availability to download the raw data in CSV format.

If you have problems loading a boundary, the other option is to check the box “Region Point.” Then move the point to a certain location in the climate engine map. But this is data for just a specific location, not an area of interest, such as a basin/farm.

It is necessary to create an account to use the site in both the second and third phases. You will need your existing Gmail account to log in and explain the reasons for using the sites.

With CHIRPS data, you can have a historical series of the rainfall pattern in a region or production field to help effectively manage mechanized operations. It can be used to select tractor power and number of farm machinery needed to cover dry days to plant, spray and harvest. Furthermore,  farmers will have more support in choosing the ideal planting window to match all operations with rainfall events.


LSU AgCenter’s Armando Lopes de Brito Filho, Franciele Morlin Carneiro  and Luciano Shiratsuchi, contributed this article previously published in LA Crops Newsletter March 22.

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