Fall 1998

NCSU Seal North Carolina ClimateSCO Seal

A Newsletter of the State Climate Office of North Carolina

Ryan Boyles, Editor

Volume 2 | Number 3 | Fall 1998

In This Issue...

From the State Climatologist...

Sethu Raman The summer started off with dry conditions across North Carolina as the El Niño event dissipated. This follows the prediction made last November by the SCO statistical model. Eastern North Carolina had large rainfall as the hurricane season got going with the end of El Niño and as the La Niña phase began to emerge. However, western North Carolina is feeling the effects of very dry conditions, affecting crops and other activities. The SCO is now providing information to the NC Drought Monitoring Council and participating in the discussions as a member institution. More on statewide precipitation is addressed in the following pages.

Hurricane Bonnie made landfall over North Carolina on August 26,1998, bringing with it heavy rainfall and strong winds. State Climate Office staff worked with the meteorologists at the North Carolina division of Emergency Management during and immediately after the passage of the storm. They assisted with information updates, reports to the Governor and his staff, and provided hourly updates of wind and rainfall data from the AgNet stations as Bonnie moved up the coast. It was a good experience and is a service we would like to continue to provide in the future.

AgNet modernization is in progress. Meteorological towers (10m) have been installed in three stations so far and we are in the process of instrumenting them. We hope to soon have our own calibration, testing and rigging facility from which many of these operations can be staged. SCO Database development is also in progress. A brief description of this system is given in this newsletter. This database is expected to meet the needs of the SCO and should assist our operations immensely once it is in place.

Three undergraduate students worked in the SCO this summer: Wendy Sellers in data dissemination, Aaron Sims in the AgNet data update project, and Frank Murray in the development of a storm database for North Carolina. They all have made excellent contributions, and brief descriptions of their experiences are included in this newsletter. Michelle Hein, Program Assistant, left the SCO on September 1 to become a full-time employee with the Center for Research in Scientific Computation. I would like to thank Michelle for her contributions in setting up the administrative structure of the SCO. Everyone in the SCO welcomes Bic Fort, who has joined as the new Program Assistant effective September 1.

We are glad to have our new Chancellor, Dr. Marye Anne Fox, leading NCSU as of August 1. The State Climate Office staff wants to assure our Chancellor and the public that we start each day with a resolve to improve and enhance our services to the citizens of North Carolina. At the service of North Carolina,

Sethu Raman's Signature
Sethu Raman
State Climatologist of North Carolina

El Niño is Over -- Is La Niña Next?

The summer of '98 has seen the final demise of arguably one of the strongest El Niño events ever recorded. In May of this year, the tropical Pacific sea-surface temperatures (SST) returned to near normal for the first time since spring of 1997. An unprecedented amount of data was collected during this event and will keep scientists and researchers busy for years to come.

Pacific sea surface temperatures continue to cool and are now below normal. These observations, along with other factors, strongly suggest the area is now experiencing a mild La Niña. In fact, recent measurements show a very large pool of cold water (up to 8° C below normal) just below the surface of the ocean. This cool water is expected to eventually rise, producing a moderate to strong La Niña, persisting through the spring of 1999. Generally speaking, impacts from La NiƱa are not as widely felt as El Niño. In recent years, there have not been as many La Niña events as El Niño episodes. Still, there is enough historical data to conclude that the tendency in North Carolina is toward drier conditions during winter La Niña episodes.

Provided by Brian Potter

Database Development in Progress!

The State Climate Office of North Carolina deals with the reporting and analysis of hourly climate-related data from the 17 agricultural weather monitoring stations (AgNet) located across the state. It also receives data daily from 26 other sites spread over the state. Whenever data is requested for clients or research purposes, the large volumes of AgNet data are searched manually. These manual searches are time consuming and prone to errors. To enhance data dissemination services, the SCO has begun development of a database management system that will facilitate efficient storage and retrieval of climate-related data. The database is structured for optimal querying according to the needs of the client and possesses versatility for adding more climate information when required.


All stations report the following data:

  • Station ID
  • Date
  • Maximum Air Temperature
  • Minimum Air Temperature
  • Precipitation

These stations include the 17 observer stations as well as the other cooperative observation stations. These are referred to as the Basic Parameters. In addition to the Basic Parameters the 17 observer stations also report the following parameters, henceforth referred to as Extended Parameters:

  • Maximum Soil Temperature
  • Minimum Soil Temperature
  • Average Wind Speed
  • Maximum Wind Speed
  • Average Wind Direction
  • Total Solar Radiation
  • Average Barometric Pressure
  • Photosynthetically Active Radiation

AgNet stations record the above Basic and Extended Parameters on an hourly basis, while other observer stations report the Basic Parameters on a daily basis. All this information has been stored in tables that have been given structured relations to each other, thus creating the framework for a relational database.

Queries can be made of the following types:

  1. Finding any Extended Parameter(s) for a station on a particular day (Ex. Find the minimum soil temperature for Raleigh on 4/1/98).
  2. Calculating the Growing Degree Days (GDD) for a station for a given base temperature during a given period (Ex. Find the GDD for Goldsboro with a base temperature of 65F between 4/1/98 and 4/4/98).
  3. Select a parameter greater or less than a threshold value for a particular station within a given period (Ex. Select minimum temperature for Charlotte greater than 20F between 4/1/98 and 4/4/98).
  4. Find the average for a particular parameter over a certain time window (Ex. Find the average minimum temperature for Boone in January between 1961-1990).

Security Aspects

The primary security requirement is that the application should allow two kinds of users, the administrator who is allowed to query, insert, delete and update the data and the ordinary user who is only allowed to query the data.

Future Areas of Development

This database has been developed with the goal of making it usable over a wide range of applications. The primary disadvantage of most existing database management systems is the inability to add new sources of information to the existing structure. Efforts to overcome this disadvantage and allow the inclusion of newer sources of information, such as storm data and air quality data are the next features to be added. In addition, a graphing package to allow plotting is planned for the near future. This will be modeled as a client server application so that the data may be stored at a remote location and accessed by a separate computer.

Provided by Sonali Aditya

Anomalies for May, June, July, and August

Based on Preliminiary Data

Click on any image to view full size map


May 1998 Precipitation Departures from Normal

June 1998 Precipitation Departures from Normal

July 1998 Precipitation Departures from Normal

August 1998 Precipitation Departures from Normal

May 1998 Temperature Departures from Normal

June 1998 Temperature Departures from Normal

Julu 1998 Temperature Departures from Normal

August 1998 Temperature Departures from Normal

Maps generated by Brian Potter

Dry Summer in Mountains of North Carolina

The mountains of NC have seen an unusually dry summer in 1998, with many locations receiving only a third of their normal amount. While the region received above normal precipitation during the winter and spring, the last 3 months have been well below normal. It is hoped that the dry summer will produce more brilliant colors in the autumn and consequently attract more visitors to the region.

1998 July-Sept* Normal July-Sept
Murphy 5.62 in. 14.09 in.
Waynesville 3.12 in. 11.52 in.
Asheville 4.40 in. 12.72 in.
Mt. Mitchell 5.20 in. 26.52 in.
Boone 7.49 in. 12.06 in.

*Based on preliminary data through September 21, 1998

Bonnie Lingers on North Carolina's Coast

Hurricane Bonnie Hurricane Bonnie was the third hurricane to make direct landfall in North Carolina in the past three years, and was the second major hurricane (category three or higher) to enter the state over the same period. Bonnie ranks among the most powerful hurricanes to hit North Carolina, along with Hazel (1954) and Fran (1996).

Hurricane Bonnie began its life as an ordinary tropical wave that developed off the west coast of Africa. As it moved west across the Atlantic Ocean, it intensified into a tropical depression, then quickly became a tropical depression, then a tropical storm. Bonnie moved just north of the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico, then tracked to the northwest, parallel to the Bahamas. This put Bonnie on a course straight for North Carolina. Bonnie slowed dramatically, giving plenty of time for the Carolinas to prepare for the worst. Bonnie continued to move northwest, confounding forecasters with slow and erratic movement. With a track forecast to cross the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, storm surge in the sounds and along the beaches was a major concern for people in the coastal counties.

Bonnie made landfall on the evening of August 26 at Cape Fear, the same location that Fran and Bertha made landfall two years earlier. Shortly after landfall, Bonnie began to curve to the northeast, crossing Jacksonville, New Bern, and Manteo. Wind gusts of over 90mph were recorded near the point of landfall. Rain bands caused flooding problems as far away as Wilson. Many areas along the path of the storm reported rainfall amounts of 8 to 10 inches. Preliminary damage estimates put the cost of Bonnie ($1 to $2 billion) well below the cost of Hurricane Fran ($4 billion), even though both were classified as category three hurricanes at landfall. This is most likely due to the northeastward track of Bonnie through a less populated area than Hurricane Fran, which crossed through the Raleigh-Durham area. Additionally, the increased awareness of hurricanes after Fran and Bertha, combined with the slow movement of Bonnie, allowed plenty of time for adequate preparations before the storm hit.

Staff from the State Climate Office were able to directly assist the Division of Emergency Management (DEM) by providing meteorological expertise, sending hourly data updates, assisting with updates to the Governor, and even answering questions at the DEM Raleigh headquarters during the early morning hours. In the coming months, the State Climate Office will collect and analyze data from Hurricane Bonnie. The data will be used in research to improve forecasts of hurricane structure and intensity at landfall.

Provided by Doug Schneider

New Climate Office Personnel

Program Assistant

Our new program assistant is Bic Fort, who joined us on September 1, 1998. He has been a valuable addition, and shows great enthusiasm. Bic was employed as a paralegal before coming to NCSU, and has recently completed his undergraduate program in Business Administration. We look forward to working with Bic, and hope that his wide experiences will aid the SCO in its future efforts.

Graduate Assistant

Jamie Rhome Jamie Rhome is a new graduate student who joined the SCO staff to assist with data operations and climate research. Jamie, who is originally from Roanoke Rapids, NC, received his B.S. in Meteorology from NC State in 1998. He has spent the past two summers working at the Environmental Protection Agency with Dr. Ellen Cooter, and continues to work there two days a week. We are excited and thankful to have Jamie as a part of the group.


Aaron Sims Aaron Sims is a senior undergraduate in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, and is currently working toward his and his B.S. in Meteorology with a specialization in Marine Meteorology. He is originally from Garner, NC, and spent the summer retrieving archived AgNet data and assisting with daily operations and data dissemination. He helped prepare archived data files for assimilation into the new database being created at the State Climate Office. His tasks included downloading data, organization of data availability, and scanning hard copies of data in order to cover the breaks in the period of records. He was also able to visit several AgNet sites and become more familiar with the instruments and data logging procedures needed to successfully run an automated station. Aaron explains, "My experience at the State Climate Office this summer has proven to be very beneficial. I was able to obtain practical on-the-job experience and learned new techniques for analyzing data. I feel more prepared for the fall semester and future opportunities". Aaron is being supported by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State, and is continuing his work with the SCO.

Wendy Sellers Wendy Sellers is a second-year undergraduate at NC State who is working toward her B.S. in Meteorology. Originally from Hampton, VA, she has been with the State Climate Office since April 1998 and assists with daily operations and data dissemination. She enjoys this work since it allows her to be "directly involved in SCO operations while at the same time gaining experience working with my major and dealing with the general public". She has had the opportunity to assist such organizations as the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, The News and Observer, Walnut Creek Amphitheater, Raleigh chamber of Commerce, and numerous other industries, researchers, universities, and private citizens. Wendy feels that the experience she is gaining with the SCO will give her a head start into her career. She says that most importantly, she has "been able to understand the everyday application of climate and weather information and how this information impacts the citizens of North Carolina."

Frank Murray Frank Murray is a second-year undergraduate from Rocky Mount, NC. He spent the summer helping to fill requests for historical weather data. In that respect, Frank worked with a "wide range of people, such as avid gardeners planning to move into the state, lawyers needing pertinent information for legal cases, and several newspapers concerned about various recent severe weather phenomena, especially the drought conditions prevalent in western NC this summer. Being able to help these different groups of people was a very interesting and fun experience." Frank also has been instrumental in the creation of a comprehensive storm database, which electronically stores all major weather activities in the state of North Carolina. His work to develop the database "has been challenging to say the least." However, Frank feels "it will definitely be worth the effort when the database is finally complete and usable both by clients needing data for personal or business reasons and for faculty needing research information." Frank has been supported this summer by the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences.


  • Ben Waters, Greg Fishel, Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc., June 10
  • Dr. Jerry L. Whitten, Dean, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (PAMS), July 20
  • Goals 2000 Group, Four high school students from Tennessee interested in weather networks, July 21
  • Dr. J. C. Lu, Head of Industrial Statistics, August 19
  • Dr. Len Pietrafesa, Head, Dept. of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, August 12
  • Dr. Tom Banks, Center for Research in Scientific Computation, August 12
  • Ms. Anita Stallings, Director of PAMS Foundation, August 12
  • Dr. Robert Martin, Head, Department of Mathematics, August 12


  • Information Super Highway Policy Meeting, Chapel Hill, NC, June 4, Dr. Sethu Raman
  • Inter-Agency Fire Initiative, Kinston, NC, June 11, Dr. Sethu Raman
  • Presentation to Board of Science and Technology, Figure Eight Island, NC, June 16, Dr. Sethu Raman
  • La Niña Workshop, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, July 15-17, Brian Potter
  • Colloquium on Statistics for Understanding the Atmosphere and Ocean, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, July 18-24, Brian Potter
  • Colloquium on Hurricanes at Landfall, Boulder, CO, Miami, FL, July 13-24, Doug Schneider
  • Extension & Research Stations Annual Meeting, Pinehurst, NC, July 22-24, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi
  • WTVD-TV Interview on Hurricane Bonnie, Raleigh, NC, August 23, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi, Brian Potter
  • Live Interview on Hurricane Bonnie, WPTF 680 AM Radio, Raleigh, NC, August 25, Dr. Sethu Raman
  • WUNC-TV Interview on Hurricane Bonnie, Chapel Hill, NC, August 25, Dr. Sethu Raman
  • Live Interview on Hurricane Bonnie, WUNC 91.5 FM WUNC Radio, August 27, Doug Schneider
  • Emergency Management for Hurricane Bonnie, August 25-27, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi, Ryan Boyles, Brian Potter, Doug Schneider, Vinayak Parameshwara
  • Inauguration of Center for Plant Health, Science, and Technology, Raleigh, NC, September 9, Devdutta S. Niyogi
  • Annual Meeting of State Climatologists, Duluth, MN, August 5-8, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi
  • Visit to New Jersey Climate Office, September 11, Dr. Sethu Raman
  • Drought Monitoring Council Meeting, Raleigh, NC, September 16, Dr. Sethu Raman

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