Consider this a work in progress. We learned of a new service offered by www.Myrainscout.com. The idea is ingenious. A group of adventurous weather gurus figured out that by using Doppler radar and exclusive math formulas, they could determine how much rain fell during a rain event at any spot on Google Earth maps. Seeing value in it for farmers, they're selling the service.
Beck's Hybrids, Atlanta, Ind., obtained exclusive rights to sell it. However, you don't have to be a Beck's customer to get the service. You can visit the Website, or you can call Beck's at 800-937-2325.
Cost is $10 to set up each site for reporting, then $10 per month, or $15 per month for daily information plus a monthly summary of weather data. The service is only offered during spring, summer and fall months.
To see how it works, Beck's Hybrids enrolled us at two locations, Franklin and Morgantown. Here are the results so far:
Rains 1 and 2: Less than 0.3 each. Exact same amounts reported at both locations both times. We asked the sales agent to recheck site information. She said it was correct.
Rain 3: Report was 0.8 at Franklin, and 0.4 at Morgantown farm. Farmer confirmed that 0.4 was right- they received less rain as part of a thunderstorm where rainfall varied.
Rain 4: Three days of drizzle, both sites physically reported 0.5 to 0.1 in gauge each day. My RainScout did not issue emails. The Website says a report will be issued for 0/1 inch accumulation during a 24-hour period.
Rain 5: 0.9 inches at Franklin vs. 1.2 inches at Morgantown were the reported amounts. The farmer confirmed 1.2 on the nose at Morgantown. The Franklin observer also thought he received 1.2 inches. Here's where the inaccuracy of human reporting comes in. The rain fell in two parts. He can't remember for sure if he dumped the gauge the first time after 0.4 inches or not. If he did, the totals would be right.
Rain 6: 1.7 inches at Frnaklin,1.4 inches at Morgantown after major round of storms. Observer only found 0.8 inches in gauge at Franklin. However, when he went to empty the gauge, there was a clean break below the water line in the gauge. It broke into two pieces. The rain event included marble-sized hail, and it's possible the gauge took a hit, with some water seeping out overnight. Anecdotal evidence of water in buckets, amount of mud and water standing indicated 1.7 was likely the correct amount.
Conclusion: Service is convenient and appears to be reasonably accurate. Due to human error, we can't say it's 100% accurate. However, we intend to continue monitoring it, comparing report against rain gauge and reports for two locations against each other.
Benefits: It would be very useful to have weather data recorded on computer to total up for the season. A monthly report will be issued at each site to help simplify that process. It also removes the temptation not to look, or forgetting to look at the rain gauge- the data is till there for you.
The real benefit is if you have two farms several miles apart, you could track what is happening at both without having to drive there.
Complication factor: The rain is tallied for a 24-hour period, 4:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. Since rain doesn't always fall according to a clock, some storms may fall in two different days. That complicated determining accuracy and making comparisons.
Also, if it rains in mid-day and you're thinking about whether to switch to another farm because you just got rained out where you are, you need to know whether your other farm received rain then, not at 7 a.m. when the daily email appears on your screen.
Wish list: So far, we see room for two improvements:
a) Sending the daily email whether there is measurable rain or not. That way the person knows that if he recorded a tenth or half-tenth, the radar determined it was less than the reportable amount. He's not left wondering if the email just got lost.
b) Why not develop a real-time app so you could get this information instantly 24 hours a day?
Bottom line: The service is neat and cost-effective. However, we want more time to look at it to make sure there aren't glitches in the system, and the daily reporting period plus waiting for one daily report is not as helpful as if you could get instant access. If it was a movie, right now I would give it 3.5 stars out of 4 stars.