North Carolina Environment and Climate Observing Network

NC ECONet SealWith improvement in our understanding of local weather and climate issues, it has become clear that local weather and climate observations are critical for so many applications. To improve local weather information and forecasts and to create a database for future research, the State Climate Office, in cooperation with state and federal agencies, has initiated development of the NC ECONet. In its entirety, the NC ECONet will have at least one automated weather station in each county in North Carolina. Data from these stations will be provided to government agencies to improve severe weather management, weather forecasts, energy planning, and natural resource management. Data will also be made available in real-time to the general public for a variety of uses. A conservative cost-benefit analysis suggests that such a network of local weather stations could save the people of North Carolina nearly $90 million in a year. The State Climate Office has placed development of the NC ECONet as the top priority for weather and climate services.

In its full capacity, the proposed NC ECONet would be a state-of-the-art network of more than 100 weather and environmental observing stations across North Carolina. The NC ECONet will use the North Carolina Information Highway to provide maximum benefits to the educational institutions of North Carolina as well. This will be achieved by integrating and upgrading the existing observation sites. Current stations operated by the SCO are funded by the Agricultural Research Service, the NC Division of Air Quality, and the NC Division of Emergency Management. To complete the network, NC ECONet plans to establish observation stations in counties that do not currently have a monitoring station. The NC ECONet will assist in agriculture, emergency response, natural resource management, tourism, economic development, education, and many other applications that affect the day to day lives of North Carolina's citizens.

Map of Hourly Stations as of November 2015The NC ECONet is part of the NC CRONOS Database, which combines the automated weather network currently operated by the SCO with other stations maintained by the National Weather Service, Federal Aviation Administration, and the US Natural Resource Conservation Service. Monitoring stations are designed to international standards, provide data that is collected, analyzed, and archived by the State Climate Office. Data are collected from surrounding states to help with numerical modeling and forecast efforts. These data help resolve boundary conditions and improve atmospheric simulations. Additional ECONet stations are planned to help fill gaps in existing data coverage. Ultimately, there will be at least one station for each county in North Carolina.

A December 2003 Analysis of Monitoring Station Density of the NC ECONet is available on our website.

In addition, a November 2003 paper on the value of the NC ECONet to the State of North Carolina is also available.

Citizens of North Carolina will realize enormous benefits thanks to the NC ECONet. In addition to providing real-time information to everyone on wind, temperature, humidity, precipitation, and soil moisture, NC ECONet will provide valuable assistance to a wide range of interests. The table below is a composite of several reports on the value of weather and climate data for just a few applications in North Carolina.

Application How will ECONet help? Money Saved
Crop Management Planting, watering, frost protection and harvesting. 6% of planted acreage lost due to weather events $4 million per year
Pest Management Number and timing depends on accurate local weather conditions $14.4 million per year
Drought Forecast & Mitigation Continuous and accurate monitoring of rainfall, soil moisture and surface weather conditions $25 million every drought year
County Economic Development Reliable, county scale information on weather and climate for industrial establishment and/or relocation $1 to 2 million for the state
Public Safety and Emergency Management Continuous information for planning, scheduling, relocation, and distribution of state, federal, and private resources during emergency situations Lives and $10 million per year
Energy Planning Accurate information on short and long term weather forecasts for estimating and handling energy requirements $12 million per year
Tourism Increased tourism and improved planning through accurate weather information from beaches to mountains $10 million per year
Technological Disasters Provide critical weather information for transport of toxins, aid in evacuation planning and management, and and assist with emergency preparedness and response Lives

Additionally, the NC ECONet will also assist various state departments by providing a continuous, dedicated, and accurate means for:

Frying Pan Mountain
  • Agriculture and Consumer Services Allocation
  • Land and Air Transport Decisions
  • Environmental and Water Resources Management
  • Insurance and Disaster Assessment
  • State Planning
  • Community Resource Information
  • Watershed Management
  • Water Supply Protection
  • Information for FEMA
  • Land Resource Development
  • Water Quality Assessment
  • Education and Training of K-12 and college students
  • Transport and Dispersion of Toxins