Summer 2019 eNewsletter

Featured Research

Using the NOAA National Water Model to Guide Fertilizer Application and Improve Water Quality

Many lakes and streams in the Great Lakes region and upper Midwest have water quality issues related to nutrient runoff from the land, some of which can be prevented by carefully timed decisions by fertilizer applicators. When fertilizer is applied just before a heavy rainfall, nutrients intended to enrich the soil can end up in the water instead. Farmers lose revenue as their fertilizers wash away and crop yields suffer, while local and downstream waterways experience serious water quality consequences.  

CIGLR Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Yao Hu presents at the 3rd Annual Regional Runoff Risk Meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

A collaborative effort spearheaded by the NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) has produced a decision support tool called the Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast (RRAF) to help guide the timing of fertilizer application based on real-time weather forecasts and soil moisture conditions. The RRAF has been developed for states in the upper Midwest including Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio, with ongoing coordination toward RRAF development in New York, Indiana, and Illinois.

CIGLR hydrologists are working with NWS and collaborators from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to upgrade the RRAF in preparation for operational use in NWS forecasts. The team is working to incorporate the NOAA National Water Model (NWM) into the RRAF, which will improve the accuracy of the runoff forecast. The NWM simulates observed and forecasted streamflow over the entire continental United States and operates by using the specialized Weather Research and Forecasting hydrological model (WRF-Hydro).

“This is a new revolutionary project. Very few people in the country are running the NWM configuration of WRF-Hydro model,” says Lindsay Fitzpatrick, CIGLR hydrological modeler. “The goal of integrating the RRAF tools with the NWM is to produce a finer-scaled risk assessment that results in better runoff forecasts for our stakeholders.”

About the Project
The Runoff Risk project is funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and was awarded to NOAA’s NWS North Central River Forecasting Center (NWS-NCRFC). This project is a collaborative effort between the NWS, NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) and the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) with special acknowledgements to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the US Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit, MI.