Extended Summary

Extended Summary of the State Climate Office 25th Anniversary,
Inauguration of the NC ECONet,
& Symposium on Future of Climate Services in North Carolina

October 26, 2001


On October 26, 2001, the 25th Anniversary of the State Climate Office of North Carolina rededication ceremony was held on the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University. It provided an unprecedented avenue for different organizations and experts to meet and develop a cohesive discussion on the future needs of climate-related services in North Carolina. Over 150 participants contributed to the symposium objectives representing diverse local, state, and federal agencies, and educational and private institutions. The participation was through presentations and active panel discussions. Presented below is an overview of different presentations and the discussions during the expert panel sessions.


The State Climate Office of North Carolina (SCO) is a public service center whose primary mission is to provide the most up to date climate services to the citizens of North Carolina and to offer extension and outreach services to state and federal agencies on issues related to weather and climate such as drought, hurricanes, floods, and forest fire. Extension-related research, the education and training of students, and creating a public awareness of North Carolina weather and climate are other objectives of the SCO. The SCO is supported by the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences of North Carolina State University. Its inception can be traced to1976 when the National Weather Services eliminated the federal State Climatologist program, thus creating a need for a state-level organization. The State Climate Office of North Carolina was formed in 1976 in UNC-CH and was transferred to NC State University in 1980. The State Climate Office generally acts as a statewide source of weather and climate expertise and provides an interface between climate information compiled through measurements principally by the NWS and the general public. Over the years, there has been a significant change in the nature and extent of the climate information needed in everyday business, research, and operations. In the last few years, the SCO has been a very visible public service entity interacting with media, educators, government and policy makers by providing important climate information, seasonal predictions, and climate services in North Carolina. The SCO also began operating and modernizing the NC agricultural weather network in 1997. This network is fully functional and provides valuable weather and climate information in real-time every hour.

Organized by the State Climate Office and the UNC-CH Department of Geography, the 25th Anniversary provided an opportunity to achieve two main objectives:

  1. Review the progress made over the past 25 years
  2. Develop a summary of climate service needs and discuss possible framework for achieving these needs.

Summary of Presentations

Sethu Raman, Director of the SCO and NC State Climatologist, welcomed the participants. He provided a brief climatology of NC, history of the SCO, and an overview of the meeting and its objectives. He then introduced Stephen Jones, Vice Chancellor for Extension and Engagement at NC State University.

Stephen Jones welcomed all the delegates and participants to North Carolina State University. He also discussed the role of weather and climate in extension and outreach efforts of the University and the benefits to the citizens of NC. Stephen Jones said:

"There's no question that few things influence our lives, day in and day out, more than weather. Little has influenced our past any more than long term climate patterns. And perhaps nothing will affect our future more than this ever-changing climate, over the long century ahead and beyond. The critical role of the State Climate Office is to help us explain those past patterns, to understand the current processes, and to anticipate future climate shifts and their consequences and implications for us."

Chancellor Marye Anne Fox gave an overview of research efforts at the SCO to understand climate features affecting North Carolina. These include the teleconnections between El Niño and NC precipitation, the information technology needs for the transfer of data and analysis of information for various scientific, and socio-economic decisions. She then outlined the national pilot project between SCO and the Raleigh National Weather Service Forecast Office on providing enhanced seasonal climate forecasts.

"The SCO and NWS have been working ... since 1997 to bring forth prediction of severe weather related incidents that would be important to NC citizens. This is a program that is of great importance to not only in North Carolina but everywhere in the nation."

Jane Smith Patterson, Executive Director of the NC Rural Internet Access Authority, then gave a televised presentation on the effective linksbetween the NC ECONet and rural economic development. She provided her impressions on the support for NC ECONet expressed by the NC legislators and different departments in state government, and discussed the potential of the NC ECONet to advance information technology, disaster mitigation, e-agriculture, and digital government in North Carolina.

President Molly Corbett Broad then gave a presentation on the role of climate service needs for the state and integration of education, public service, and research in everyday activities. She provided encouragement for the SCO to seek partnerships with state and federal agencies in developing projects and then inaugurated the North Carolina Environment and Climate Observing Network (NC ECONet). President Broad stressed that:

"The ECONet is an important new tool of the digital world. It will make it possible for North Carolina to plan for, to recover from, and to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters and technological disasters."

Daniel Solomon, Dean of College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, gave an overview of educational and outreach activities pursued by the SCO and identified it as a model for what university can provide to its students and the citizens.

Johnny Wynne, Director of North Carolina Agricultural Research Services (NCARS) then outlined how the NC ECONet evolved through the modernization of Agricultural Weather and Climate Observing Network (AgNet) and the cooperation between the NCARS research stations and the SCO in monitoring weather and climate.

William H. Glaze, Director of the Carolina Environmental Program at UNC Chapel Hill, conveyed the UNC-CH chancellor's support for the program and outlined the similarities between the Carolina Environmental Program and the SCO activities, and expressed interest in developing collaborations for environmental management activities that will benefit the state.

Stephen Harned, Meteorologist in Charge of National Weather Service Forecast Office in Raleigh, discussed the cooperation between his office and the SCO on different areas, including cooperation with emergency management, water resources and drought monitoring, teaching and research for undergraduate and graduate students, and enhanced seasonal climate outlooks. He offered his impressions on the SCO's progress and its future in his perspective as the Chair of the SCO Technical Advisory Committee. Observations from NC ECONet sites are being sent every hour to the Raleigh NWS Office for local analysis and forecast preparation. These stations help fill gaps in the NWS monitoring network. Similarly, NWS has established a data link for all NOAA surface observations, which is being used for database development and archival in the SCO.

Gavin Smith, Deputy Director of NC Division of Emergency Management, discussed SCO participation in emergency management and disaster mitigation activities, particularly during Hurricanes Bonnie (1998), Dennis (1999), Floyd (1999) and Irene (1999). He identified SCO observations as a major source for operations under weather-related emergency situations and highlighted the FEMA supported project to install and operate one new meteorological station along the coast. He stressed the need for developing efficient links and real-time weather information for emergency preparedness and response for a future natural or technological disaster that might affect the state.

The keynote session was chaired by Sethu Raman and Richard Patty, Head of the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences and NC State University. The keynote speaker was Thomas R. Karl, Director of NOAA's National Climate Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, North Carolina. He presented a synthesis of the nature of climate changes affecting the US and the role of different state, regional, and national agencies in developing a truly representative assessment of the regional effects of global climate change. He outlined a vision for a partnership between the state climate offices and NCDC for developing region specific climate products.

Keynote presentation was followed by a feature presentation on NC Climate during lunch and three panel discussions. The lunch presentation was made by Grant Goodge, a retired Climatologist from NCDC and an avid photographer with expertise in climate and weather related photography. His slides showed indications that the North Carolina climate could indeed be changing rapidly, and that North Carolina has distinct climatic features unique to different regions. In addition to the oral and panel presentations, a number of posters were also presented on topics including:

  • agriculture meteorology
  • air pollution modeling and monitoring (jointly with NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources)
  • NC ECONet development and its benefits
  • history of the State Climate Office
  • hurricanes of NC
  • climate services
  • media Interactions

A 25th Anniversary commemorative volume on the State Climate Office of North Carolina was also unveiled and distributed to all the participants.

The first panel session Partnerships for Climate Services was chaired by Michael Janis, Director of the Southeast Regional Climate Center and Katharine B. Perry, Assistant Dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State University. The panel participants included:

  • Adel Hanna, Manager of the Environmental Modeling Center in the Environmental Program of MCNC
  • John Dorman, NC Flood Mapping Program Manager, NC Division of Emergency Management
  • Jerad Bales, US Geological Survey, NC Division
  • Michelle Kennedy, WXII-TV, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Greg Fishel, WRAL-TV, Raleigh, NC and through a televised message

The presentations provided specific examples of existing or potential partnerships between the SCO and the activities of their groups. These activities include computer modeling of environmental and emergency response situations, flood warning system design and implementation, citizen advisory through media interactions, and developing sustainable and responsive communities through education and public outreach. The panel members highlighted the unique role the SCO plays and suggested ways in which this can be expanded further by providing region-specific climate information and assessments.

The second panel session on Partnerships for Climate Services was chaired by Stephen Harned, Meteorologist in Charge of the Raleigh National Weather Service Forecast Office, and Dev Niyogi of the SCO. The panel participants were:

  • Sheila Holman, NC Division of Air Quality
  • Alan Huber, US EPA / NOAA, Research Triangle Park, NC
  • Michael Janis, Southeast Regional Climate Center, Columbia, SC
  • Ken Waite, Meso Inc., Raleigh, NC
  • Karen Siderelis, US Geological Survey, Reston, VA
  • Teddy Holt, US Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, CA
  • S. T. Rao, U.S. EPA, Research Triangle Park, NC
  • Katharine B. Perry, NC State University
  • John DeLuisi, NOAA, Boulder, CO through Vin Saxena, NC State University

Similar to the first panel discussion, this session generated a summary of the existing or potential partnerships between the different organizations and the SCO. It outlined specific projects on which the SCO can embark. Examples include developing a test bed for the Navy's atmospheric modeling system using NC as an example, testing of emergency and air emission transport models for emergency response and public health assessments, continued development of the DAQ-Net and AgNet as part of the NC ECONet, and interlinking federal monitoring networks for radiation and climate change within the NC ECONet.

The third panel session was chaired by Jerry Davis of NC State University and Peter Robinson of UNC-Chapel Hill. It focused on partnerships between regional and state climate offices and the climate education programs within the UNC system. The participants included:

  • Pat Michaels, University of Virginia and Virginia State Climatologist
  • Milt Brown, State Climatologist for South Carolina
  • Amos Winter, University of Puerto Rico and Climatologist for Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
  • Jay Lennartson, UNC-Greensboro
  • Doug Gamble, UNC-Wilmington
  • Walter Martin, UNC-Charlotte
  • Chip Konrad, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Fred Semazzi, NC State University

The state climatologists gave an overview of the activities in their respective states. Each has a different level of support from the state, and has requirements for a sustained support to accomplish the full potential their programs can provide to the educational, governmental, and public activities. They also identified the diverse needs and responsiveness of the state level climate services for developing efficient and continuous data accessibility, information archival, and dissemination through the state climate offices. Such a 'standard' framework is critical for quick information dissemination during emergency response and for efficient resource management within the state. The presentations from faculty within the UNC system provided information on potential avenues for utilizing NC ECONet for their education and research activities and for developing programs that can be linked with the SCO. The interaction between the academic community and the state and federal agencies through the SCO can directly benefit the citizens of North Carolina by developing synergistic programs. Jay Lennartson of UNC-Greensboro presented observations from a tower site at High Point and suggested its integration within the NC ECONet. (As a follow-up to the this suggestions, additional sensors were added to this site and a real-time communication link was established in February 2002, along with display on the SCO web site thus integrating it within NC ECONet.)

A number of recurrent themes on the tremendous value of the State Climate Office operations and the educational activities to state agencies, federal agencies, private institutions, and businesses in North Carolina were reiterated. The need to provide sustained support for SCO operations including NC ECONet development, upkeep, and applications was also highlighted. These sessions compiled several recommendations from the participants. It was decided that these recommendations be circulated and additional comments and specific examples of partnerships or collaborations added.

The meeting concluded with a discussion session on main recommendations moderated by Sethu Raman and Peter Robinson.

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