The science, and the art, of studying and interpreting large and small-scale weather patterns, and predicting the impact of those patterns on this region is an essential part of the South Florida Water Management Ditrict's water resource management strategy.
Our mission is to provide descriptions of rainfall in the recent past and accurate forecasts of future rainfall to enable the District to operate its canal systems in a proactive manner.
Our forecasts are different from what is generally provided by the National Weather Service or on radio and television. We break the SFWMD up into about a dozen areas, and then indicate the amount of rain which is forecast in each of these areas over a 24-hour period. This type of forecast is called a Quantitative Precipitation Forecast. We relay this information to engineers and technicians in the control room and throughout our Operations and Management staff, who then use it to adjust the daily "water strategy". Assuming an accurate forecast, engineers can anticipate heavy rains, and then prevent or limit flooding as well as make more efficient use of water resources during dry spells.
The amount of water already in the ground is just as important as anticipated rainfall when trying to prevent flooding -- since the ground typically absorbs at least some rain as it falls. However, if recent rains have nearly saturated the soil, then there is very little storage left in the ground, creating a situation more prone to flooding. Therefore, the meteorologists use approximately 130 rain gauges to generate a Daily Rainfall Report which estimates how much rain has fallen in each area of the SFWMD over the past 24 hours, past week and past month.
The meteorologists work with the District Emergency Manager throughout the year whenever weather becomes headline news. During the hurricane season (June 1 through November 30), we produce a daily Tropical Conditions Report which discusses the various systems in the tropics and their potential impacts on the District. When a hurricane threatens an area, it is very important that the public be given consistent and accurate information. Therefore, the District meteorologists echo the Hurricane Forecast Tracks from the National Hurricane Center since they have the best personnel, data, and equipment to monitor and forecast these systems.
The District meteorologists also provide data to personnel operating in the field. Information pertaining to conditions such as lightning, winds, and rains can aid the scheduling of field work while also reducing some of the inherent risks. The Herbicide Applications Forecast is an example of one of these tailored forecasts, but the meteorologists also respond to real-time inquiries directly from the field.