Basic Education

Advances in the fields of weather analysis and prediction, and climate change and climate variability have been rapid. Thus, it is necessary that agricultural meteorologists have full understanding of the scientific background relating to these areas in order to effectively service the agricultural community. This means that agricultural meteorologists themselves need to attend frequent update sessions where they are continually challenged to refresh their understanding and skills based on the latest knowledge.

As long as agricultural meteorologists have a firm science background, they will be able to maintain a current state of awareness in developments related to impacts, adaptation, vulnerability, and mitigation resulting from trends in climate change and climate variability. The undergraduate education of agricultural meteorologists needs to be diverse and broad so as to ensure that they have a firm scientific and technical base on which to build for the future. In their undergraduate studies, students need to prepare for professional careers that focus on advances in operational agrometeorological services and developing new, innovative techniques for improving services to their local communities. Furthermore, students must be equipped to keep abreast of possible future developments in the science of agricultural meteorology, including rapid changes in climate that may alter land-use planning or force significant changes in agricultural practices.

Training requirements should not only focus on those who have received formal degrees in agricultural meteorology but also on those now working in the field who were trained in related disciplines. Meteorology is based on sound physical, mathematical, biological and statistical principles (Lomas et al., 2000). If any of this background is lacking, then those from other disciplines may be in need of special training to catch-up and understand the science at a more advanced level. Training tools should be developed for use at the secondary school, technical, undergraduate, and graduate levels.

Another matter that should receive attention is the best ways to convey agrom-eteorological information to the lay groups that have a vested interest in the interpretation of climate science and its application to their specific needs. In order to promote the use of climatic data in agricultural applications, agricultural meteorologists should have a wide range of knowledge and experience of the kind that makes them respected in their users communities. This will enable them to interpret complicated scientific issues for their clients, few of whom will have a science background. In many countries successful efforts of this kind can bring much goodwill among communities of farmers/pastoralists/foresters and strengthen support for the continuation of local and national weather services.

The aim of this paper is to address some of the options available to educators in preparing agricultural meteorologists to address climate variability and change and their possible impacts on agricultural production systems. The first part of the paper will focus on the basic professional skills essential for agricultural meteorology training. The second part will address how these skills relate to the application of agriculture as a sensitive indicator to climate change and climate variability.

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