CHICO — Chico rice farmer and meteorologist Rob Doornbos kept getting asked what the winter weather was going to be like.
He founded his company, Weather Tools, Inc., to let farmers and others know just that. Users can buy a subscription to the service at www.weathertools.org.
“I was in a combine and entering the rice harvest, and I started thinking ‘what is it that growers ask me that I can’t answer?” Doornbos said.
Doornbos’ California Annual Precipitation report reveals how much precipitation California will get in the coming water year and has been correct every year for the last several years years. Doornbos joined forces with international weather company Baron Weather to distribute the CAP report, which comes out Nov. 1.
“The Department of Water Resources and partners said we were still in a drought and then in March of 2023 we had three weeks of atmospheric rivers. It was a very wet spring and that was the most gratifying experience of my 30 years,” he said.
Doornbos holds bachelors and masters degrees in atmospheric science from the University of Wisconsin.
Doornbos gave a presentation at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Big Room in 2017 regarding his data and several people approached him afterwards and accused him of meteorological malpractice.
“They said ‘how could you get up there and say that?’ and ‘how do you know that?’ and ‘It’s irresponsible.’ I was so discouraged by that that I didn’t look at it for four years. Tim Johnson with the California Rice Commission then asked me where I could look for winter precipitation,” Doornbos said.
Doornbos worked with Johnson closely.
“I said there were big problems with the weather service information. I told him about my work and he said ‘that sounds really promising,” Doornbos said.
Doornbos teamed up with marketing guru Nicole Johansson, who is a contractor and public information officer for the city of Chico and is very knowledgeable about agriculture. Johansson helped him obtain publicity for his company.
“Nicole refreshed our brand and introduced weathertools.org,” he said. “She made critical introductions at agencies in Sacramento.”
The report comes out Nov. 1.
Mike Bolen, who has worked as assistant manager at M&T Inc Chico Ranch farms for 27 years, has used Doornbos’ predictions for the past eight years. M&T grows almonds, prunes and walnuts.
“I find it is the most reliable and accurate and he gives a five-day forecast,” Bolen said. “I want to know how much frost the crops are getting.”
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Bolen uses the tool every day. He receives an email alerting him to the forecast at 6 a.m.
“He provides the most accurate wind speed and how much and the high and low temperatures,” Bolen said.
“It’s very helpful. … I plan my day around it.”
Bolen knew Doornbos already and when he heard about the tool, he immediately got a subscription.
“It allows me to forecast and plan. It helps me in the winter because if there is a big rainstorm coming in it helps me manage my flooding issues.”
Bolen uses the tool year round.
“It helps during the growing season,” he said. “I don’t want to lose my crops to frost so I get the high and low temperatures. It allows us to plan for our crops from frost to harvest.”
“He takes his weather service forecasting very seriously. If I have questions I can call him to verify.”
Doornbos uses the California Annual Precipitation Forecast Model to obtain his results. CAP forecasts the total precipitation for California’s water year, from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.
This statistical model provides two critical pieces of information, whether it will be an above or below normal water year. A definitive range of precipitation amounts to less than 40% below normal, 20-40% below normal, 0-20% below normal, 0-20% above normal, 20-40% above normal, or greater than 40% above normal.
“I want people to know I care, and I am genuine. I love this and I’m passionate and I see how it affects peoples’ lives in a positive way,” he said.