Tips for Measuring Temperature Inversions

Tips for Measuring Temperature Inversions

Farmers and ranchers must manage many tasks and responsibilities to successfully maintain an agriculture operation. One of the most challenging aspects to plan for and manage is the impact of ever- changing and unpredictable weather.

Surface Temperature Inversions

Atmospheric Temperature Inversions occur when air temperature of the atmosphere increases with height from the ground surface. This is the opposite of what normally happens - temperature decreasing with higher altitude.

While incoming temperature inversions can’t be as easily predicted as, say, a thunderstorm-- there are indicators to look for that can help you recognize the chance of this weather condition happening. It’s important to recognize when a temperature inversion may occur since these conditions can increase the potential for spray drift. Spray drift is a costly problem for pesticide applicators and a potentially dangerous issue for surrounding communities.

Recently, we monitored and documented a temperature inversion here at the Kestrel headquarters. We tracked the weather experience and logged conditions to provide tips on what to look for if one comes your way.

How to Spot an Incoming Temperature Inversion

What atmospheric conditions and present signs should you look for? Here are some indicators to keep in mind that set the stage for a temperature inversion.

  • Mist
  • Fog
  • Dew
  • Low Winds (speeds less than 3 mph)
  • Sunrise or sunset hours

In our example, we experienced the following conditions; mist, dew, wind speeds recorded at less than 1 mph all occurring in the early morning between the hours 6:52am – 8:59am.

Measure to Understand Conditions

It is usually not accurate enough to merely guess about the environmental conditions. We used Kestrel DROP data loggers along with Kestrel Weather Meters to determine the actual onsite environmental data.

Measurements Support Visual Signs of Temperature Inversion

Using the Kestrel DROP, temperature was measured at two locations: 12" above ground level and at 10' above ground level.

Time Temperature Location Inversion = cooler air on bottom
6:52 AM 47.7 12" Yes
6:52 AM 50.2 10' Yes
8:16 AM 51.4 12" Yes
8:16 AM 54.5 10' Yes
8:57 AM 59.9 12" No
8:57 AM 59.7 10' No

6:52 AM
You can see the inversion in the background

8:57 AM
The physical signs of an inversion are gone

Using the Kestrel 5400AG, we measured temperature at two locations: 12" above the ground level and 10' above ground level. Any Kestrel AG line product can be used for this simple temperature comparison.

Temperature inversions that occur during spray applications contribute to causing serious damage to non-target crops and surrounding areas. By knowing what to look for, and measuring at the recommended field-level heights- you can prevent spray drift and protect your operation from expensive litigation.

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