Site News

Apr 01, 2015: Spring!

Spring is here for at least the southern parts of Wisconsin. Soil temperatures are above freezing and frost has thawed down significantly. If you are not sure if a basin is in "winter mode" or not, first look at the color. If it is blue, it is frozen. Red with bars? Frozen and high spreading risk. Orange or clear? Spring. For red basins, click on the map, the popup will display 5 days of forecast if the basin has moved to spring, or 10 if still frozen.

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: season,runoff forecast,spring

Nov 18, 2014: Winter is here

That was fast! The remainder of the Wisconsin watersheds have followed suit into frozen and snow-covered soils. So regardless of what the calendar says, for the RRAF, winter has arrived.

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: winter,season

Nov 13, 2014: Winter is Coming!

We've been feeling the chill for days, but now the snow accumulation and frozen soils in the northern part of Wisconsin make it official: The RRAF is in winter mode for many watersheds. The rest of the state is certain to follow in pretty short order; soil temps even in the southern portion are down into the thirties. So winter spreading guidelines and the ten-day risk forecasts are in effect.

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: winter,season

Apr 17, 2014: Spring for southern WI!

At long last we see frost coming out of the soil in Wisconsin. The northern portion of the state is still sufficiently frozen that managers should apply their "winter" logic to spreading, but soil temperatures and frost gauges both indicate spring conditions elsewhere. This year we have elected to "turn off winter" incrementally, instead of waiting for the whole state to thaw out; as always, the person closest to the land is best equipped to judge the local conditions.

Longtime users of the RRAF will remember that the color scheme changes when spring arrives; instead of blue for "winter spreading risk" and red for "high risk", the legend shows basins with no color overlay for "low" (i.e. "normal") spreading risk, orange when forecast precipitation indicates a possibility of runoff ("moderate"), and red when the model statistical history indicates probable runoff ("high").

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: season,spring

Apr 03, 2014: Service Provider Outage!

Our site uses the OpenLayers library to provide you with live, "clickable" maps in your browser. We download this libary on the fly from the OpenLayers site; up-to-date software is usually a good idea. Today, however, we are seeing the downside of that: is down, and so we have fallen back to an older, buggier version of the library. It displays the maps fine, but clicking to display the basin details does not work. This is the first time since 2008 that our maps have been taken offline by a service interruption at their end; we will investigate caching the library locally in case it ever happens again. Thanks for your patience.

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science


Mar 12, 2014: Red Map / Mobile Support

The Big Melt is underway in much of Wisconsin, and the RRAF map shows it. Snow cover is rapidly diminishing, but frost remains deep in the soil. Watch the RRAF for updates.

And as it happens, we have just made it even easier to do that -- the front page features a link to our new mobile-device page, which reads your current lat/long from your phone or tablet and grabs the latest RRAF from our server for that basin. You can also enter a latitude and longitude by hand to check a different area. Bookmark the page in your phone/tablet browser for future reference (the same bookmark will work wherever you are in the state). The team would like to thank Carlos Landeau of DNR for writing the geolocation code that made that page possible.

In addition to the new device-dedicated page, the main RRAF map has also been reworked so that tapping on a basin brings up its details for mobile devices, just as it does for desktops and laptops.

As always, we would be delighted to hear from you about the new features, or the RRAF in general, whether it is a bug report, a new feature you would like to see, or even a story about using the forecast.

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: forecast,status,spring,updates,mobile

Jan 07, 2014: Red with "Winter Risk"?

As we bottom out in the arctic vortex and look forward to moderating temperatures, the Runoff Risk Advisory map shows some potentially-confusing guidance. For example, as of this writing the WDRW3 basin near Madison is red, but clicking on it yields a popup with just "Winter Risk" for each day. The answer is that the model is calibrated for year-round runoff events, and the small amount predicted would normally be filtered out as low risk. However, any amount of runoff on top of snowpack is of concern, since manure could easily be carried off that surface. So the map shows red for "high risk".

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: basins,model,rraf,risk,runoff

Dec 13, 2013: 590 Restriction Map Downloads Streamlined

We have changed how the 590 restriction GeoPDF maps download from this site somewhat. Now when you click the "Download" button, your browser will open a new window (or tab) instead of navigating the current window away from the download page. This should considerably streamline the process of downloading multiple maps -- you only have to click through the disclaimer once! It also solves a problem where the wrong township, range, or section sometimes showed up in the button when you downloaded multiple maps in sequence.

It is possible that some popup blockers will prevent this new window from opening; if you click on the button and nothing happens, try turning off your popup blocker for the duration of your session.

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: updates,590 maps

Sep 20, 2013: Previous forecasts

Ever wanted to look back and see what the RRAF was on a date in the past? As of today, you will be able to. Six times per day, before and after each forecast update, a snapshot will be taken of the map and stored permanently. Click the link in the sidebar ("Snapshots of previous RRAF maps") for a list of all the available dates and times.

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: rraf,retrospective,history

Sep 13, 2013: Improved Infrastructure

We are almost done migrating the Manure Management Advisory System to new infrastructure, for better uptime and performance. During the process, you may have noticed some quirks; for example, your browser bar probably displayed a numeric address, now replaced by "". As soon as our testing is complete, the last vestiges of the old server will go away.

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: status

May 08, 2013: Spring! Finally!

At long last, spring can arguably said to have come to all of Wisconsin. As of this morning, the National Weather Service areal forecast for snow cover showed nothing on the ground, and the Co-Op Observer reports agree; nothing more than a trace of snow, and all soil temperatures above freezing. Pockets of ice and snow may still persist, of course, but at the watershed level, we have switched back to 3-season mode for all basins. This means that the map colors are based on a 72-hour risk forecast instead of 10 days, and that the map shows:
  • Low risk (no color) when the 'interflow' value (model's runoff prediction) is below the low threshold for that basin
  • Moderate risk (orange color) when the runoff prediction is between the low and high thresholds
  • High risk (red color) when predicted runoff exceeds the high threshold.

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: status,rraf

Apr 18, 2013: New Map Colors for Spring

Soils in the southern part of Wisconsin are thawing at last, and we are updating the status of the watersheds in the Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast as the data come in.

And with the switch out of "winter" mode, the RRAF is showing a new look. Based on requests from our users and further analysis of ground-truth data, we changed the "low risk" category from yellow to clear. The users told us that they had gotten the message: "low risk" does not necessarily mean "no risk", that manure spreading carries inherent risks even when the forecast does not predict runoff.

The team have also modified the "moderate risk" criteria. Previously, whenever our model indicated any runoff at all, we erred on the side of safety and flagged "moderate risk". But after a statistical analysis of how the forecasts gibed with reality (as measured by runoff at the edge of test fields and by USGS stream gauges), we decided that the model was "crying wolf" too often, and applied a threshold value to weed out some of the false alarms.

As always, you should use the RRAF as a guide. The watershed-level forecasts cannot exactly predict what will happen at the edge of any given field. So your judgement is very much still in the equation, to interpret the forecasts using the characteristics of your particular landscape and your experience with it.

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: forecast, legend, spring, model

Apr 10, 2013: April Runoff, Site Migration

Spring is coming. Really. There may be ice on the trees, and ice on the lakes, but soils are thawing in the southern half of the state and the RRAF will soon start leaving winter mode. The fronts moving through are dumping plenty of precip on our partially-thawed state, putting us at high risk of runoff just about everywhere. If you absolutely have to spread, click the 'Need to spread on a high-risk day?' link at right for suggestions.

You may notice that the URL line of the runoff forecast is different in your browser. We had planned to migrate our site to some newer software and hardware, but some persistent failures on our five-year-old server mandated that we bring up the new site immediately to avoid a service interruption. We'll proceed with the rest of our migration plan now; soon the URLs will look the same as they always have. In particular, there is no need to bookmark the 'new' URL, will continue to work.

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: status,spring,runoff,systems

Feb 27, 2013: February Runoff Events and Forecast Improvements

During the last week of February, you may have noticed that some basins in southern Wisconsin showed up red in the forecast, but without the snowmelt hashmarks. That means that the model expected rain to be running off frozen fields...and that made us wonder. While precipitation was in the forecast, it was supposed to be mostly or all snow, and snowmelt was certainly possible given the forecast temperatures.

To make a long story short, when our NWS team members examined the event model, they found that it did not indicate snowmelt when the snowpack captures and freezes some of the rainfall that occurs and passes the rest to the soil. In this case there is a net gain to the snowpack, so, technically speaking, snowmelt is not occurring. However, water is still being conveyed to the soil through the snowpack, so we thought it made sense to alter the logic to categorize events like this as being partially due to snowmelt And indeed, with very similar conditions over the past 24 hours, we now see that wherever the map is alerting us to forecast runoff, there is a snowmelt component.

The effort to tune and improve the forecast is ongoing, and we hope you'll help. If you see something on the page that doesn't jibe with your sense of what's really going on, please don't be shy -- tell us! Even if the forecast turns out to be "right", that doesn't mean you were "wrong"; it means that we need to improve the presentation, and we welcome your suggestions for doing so. Likewise if there is a problem with the forecast, we need to know about it before we can fix it.

For questions about and problems with the forecast, contact Mark Jenks; for website problems (broken links, etc.), Rick Wayne is the guy. Contact info for the whole team is here.. Thanks for your help!

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: feedback,rraf,updates,model

Jan 11, 2013: Jan 2013 Runoff Event

We hope you evaluated the RRAF over the last several days as Wisconsin saw a January rain and thaw event. How do you think the RRAF performed? Did you see runoff in your fields when the RRAF indicated high risk? Did you have the opposite situation where you had no runoff and conditions were still good to spread although you were under high risk? let us know via our contacts page or, better yet, by submitting a survey!

Were you in a basin that was showing no risk although all the watersheds around you were highlighted red for high risk? Maybe you are wondering how could that be? If so, be sure to see the previous Blog post which describes some of the reasons you may be seeing that behavior on the RRAF.

The RRAF team conducted an on-the-fly evaluation of some of these basins that were consistently "blue" during the last few days and wanted to share with you some of their findings. The good news is that these basins were very close to being categorized as high risk as well. As discussed in the previous blog post, category thresholds were in play during this runoff event. These basins needed just a bit more melting, or bit more rain to knock them over to the high risk category.

In the future, the RRAF team will continue to evaluate and update the model to provide the best decision support tool we can for your nutrient management.

Dustin Goering, North Central River Forecast Center, NWS

Tags: basins,model,thresholds,feedback,rraf

Jan 11, 2013: RRAF Behavior Notes

Winding down from Wisconsin's first widespread runoff event in 2013, it's a good time for some additional background about the RRAF.

1. Source Model

The RRAF is derived from the North Central River Forecast Center's (NCRFC) Sacramento Soil Moisture Accounting Model (SAC-SMA) calibrated and used for operational river forecasting. Each of the variously-sized watersheds on the map can respond differently to rainfall and snowmelt to generate runoff into their streams.

2. Spatial Scale Challenge

Replicating runoff you see on your fields with much-larger modeled watersheds (the average RRAF watershed is 192,000 acres) is an obvious challenge. And it's key to realize that the SAC-SMA is a lumped model, yielding just one runoff value per watershed. This might seem alarming, however, the RRAF team has compared the model versus observed runoff from Edge-of-Field sites at several Discovery Farms sites and small watersheds gauged by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and have found that the RRAF can do a decent job in detecting risky runoff conditions for producers.

3. Watersheds have "On/Off" Behavior

To define simple categories of risk, thresholds had to be chosen. Crossing a threshold essentially turns the basin's runoff risk "on or off". As mentioned above, the model watersheds can have slight differences in how they behave and this is why we can see some basins having high risk and a neighboring basin in low or medium risk.

4. Model Basin Boundaries versus Nature

The RRAF's watersheds act like distinct puzzle pieces, whose defined boundaries separate each watershed and its risk value from its neighbors. Why is this important? In real life, as you travel across the landscape, changes are continuous and gradual. So if your farm is near the boundary inside a low-risk watershed, with high-risk ones nearby, this should tip you off that you might be in near risky conditions as well.

5. The RRAF is only one part of the decision making process

The RRAF is meant to be a tool for producers to use in planning manure and nutrient applications. However, it is a model, and thus includes assumptions and limitations inherent in all weather and watershed models. Producers must rely on their own knowledge of the local conditions and fields in addition to any model guidance when making application plans.

6. Future RRAF Plans

The RRAF is the only decision support tool of its kind currently available, and this is Version 1. The RRAF team is dedicated to continually monitor and improve the RRAF over time. However, you can help as well. Did the RRAF work great for your area lately? Let us know by sending us a note via our contacts page or submitting a survey. Did the RRAF bust on a forecast lately? Help us improve the tool and let us know that as well.

In the near future the RRAF team will begin the planning stages on implementing the second generation RRAF tool. This version could include a much finer resolution model and perhaps provide an even better forecast tool for using in your decision making process. Stay tuned and let us know what you think of the RRAF!

Dustin Goering, North Central River Forecast Center, NWS

Tags: basins,model,thresholds,feedback,rraf

Jan 03, 2013: Thrice-Daily Updates Soon!

The NWS River Forecast Center runs their forecast model three times per day; once in the evening, once in the early morning, and again later in the morning with updates and accuracy enhancements from the experienced human forecasters.

Up until now, we have incorporated the two morning forecasts; we are currently working on a new automated uptake system that will enable us to use all three.

Watch this site for the evening forecast, once we have everything working it should appear around 7 PM local time.

Rick Wayne, UW Soil Science

Tags: forecast,schedule,rraf

Dec 17, 2012: Winter Mode

Winter is here, at least for the RRAF! Cold weather and snow in Wisconsin have yielded frozen and/or snow-covered soils for much of the state. So the forecast is now looking 10 days out for runoff risk, with special alerts for snowmelt (see the legend above the map).

Rick Wayne

Tags: status,winter

Dec 14, 2012: Press Release on the RRAF

Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast Tool Being Developed

The ability to predict the risk of runoff on a particular day can greatly assist Wisconsin producers, manure haulers, and nutrient applicators when making decisions about when to land apply manure or other nutrients. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), United States Geological Survey (USGS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Weather Service (NWS), National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), University of Wisconsin (UW), and others are collaborating to develop a risk assessment tool that identifies when there is a high likelihood for surface runoff and, therefore, when to avoid spreading nutrients on agricultural fields.

The Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast map currently shows this assessment of day-to-day runoff risk occurring across Wisconsin using National Weather Service forecast models that consider predicted precipitation, soil moisture, snow melt forecasts and actual individual watershed basin characteristics. However, because all of these conditions can and do vary across a watershed basin, persons intending to apply manure or other nutrients should always apply their knowledge of local conditions when deciding whether or not to spread on a specific field. This tool is a work in progress, continuing to be refined as better weather forecasting data and field runoff information becomes available.


The forecast map is updated 3 times each day to account for changes in weather forecasts and soil moisture conditions over short time periods. The forecast tool can be found on the Wisconsin Manure Advisory System website link below.

We need your input to help improve the tool and make it as useful as possible. When visiting the website, please take a few moments to complete the National Weather Service survey, located in the lower right hand portion of the screen, to provide feedback on the forecast’s usefulness to you.

Mark Jenks
WI Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
262 521-5011
Sara Walling
WI Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

Mark Jenks, DATCP

Tags: news,site,press release

Dec 14, 2012: Basin-By-Basin Model Adjustments

As we gain experience with the forecast, we can see where the model results fail to agree with reality on the ground, and update the model. The basins WI15C, WI14C, WI13C, WI12C (in Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, and Iron Counties) are all up on the northwest coast of the state and have frequently been outliers for our risk forecast. We expect that the new parameters will bring them more in line. Next up is basin PDSW3 near Prairie du Sac, which may already be responding better by the time you read this. We are watching some other basins that seem to average out fine over time, but respond more slowly than their neighbors (NEWW3 near New London, SHIW3 near Shiocton, and RAYW3 near Raymond).

Dustin Goering, North Central River Forecast Center, NWS

Tags: updates,basins,model,thresholds


We encourage you to submit comments on these items, the forecast, or this site. We hope to have a good comment/moderation system up soon; in the meantime, please email Rick Wayne,

Click for Details

Click on the map to pop up the forecast for precipitation and runoff risk.