Winter 1998

NCSU Seal North Carolina ClimateSCO Seal

A Newsletter of the State Climate Office of North Carolina

Volume 2 | Number 1 | Winter 1998

In This Issue...

From the State Climatologist...

Sethu Raman Winter is here and started with below normal temperatures in November and December. We had above normal precipitation in January due to El Niño, as predicted by the State Climate Office in November 1997. In September of 1997, an El Niño Research Group was established in the SCO to investigate the possible effects of El Niño on NC winter weather. More on our El Niño research is given on the second page of this newsletter.

Over the past several months the SCO has assumed operation of the North Carolina Agricultural Weather Network (AgNet) and operates it in cooperation with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). Support of the AgNet is funded by CALS, and we work closely with Dr. Katie Perry in the Department of Horticulture Science in the operation and maintenance of this network. Daily data from the network are now available on the SCO web page. More on this network will be featured in our next newsletter to be published in May.

In November the SCO established a real-time data link with the National Weather Service's Doppler Radar in Clayton, NC. This data will be used for education, extension, and archival purposes. This display and archiving system is the product of several years of diligent work by the faculty of the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospherics Sciences (MEAS). Installation and operation of this radar system is funded by MEAS.

The State Climate Office has now become an organizational unit under the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. The SCO continues to work closely with the faculty from the Department of MEAS in developing programs.

The State Climate Office is dynamically evolving. Since our last newsletter, we have had several additions to our staff. I would like to welcome Mr. Devdutta S. Niyogi, Assistant State Climatologist, Dr. Yihua Wu, Research Associate, Ms. Michelle Hein, Program Assistant, Ms. Sonali Aditya, graduate student from Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and our new affiliated faculty, Dr. Jerry Davis, from MEAS.

As we go through the final stages of the current major El Niño event, the State Climate Office will be closely watching for the soon-to-follow La Niña (cooling of the Pacific Ocean) and its effects on North Carolina climate.

At the service of North Carolina,

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

Soaking Rains of El Niño Predicted by SCO

Anyone who listens to the news has heard numerous reports regarding El Niño. This phenomenon is receiving worldwide attention, and rightfully so as this year's episode is shaping up as one of the strongest ever. Serious attention to El Niño began about 30 years ago, escalating in 1982 when the event that year became the most powerful ever observed. Since then, scientists and researchers around the world have been striving to understand more about the global teleconnections of El Niño and its influence on weather and climate.

In response to concerns of El Niño's impact on North Carolina, the SCO formed an El Niño Research Team to study the effects on our weather. In September 1997, Ryan Boyles, Devdutta S. Niyogi, Brian Potter, and Orbita Roswintiarti combined their efforts as a research team led by Dr. Sethu Raman. The data used for this study comes from 101 years of precipitation and temperature records gathered from across North Carolina. Several approaches were investigated to measure the correlation of El Niño to temperature and precipitation patterns. This study indicated that El Niño's largest impact will be felt during the winter season. Statistical results suggested that North Carolina would experience above normal precipitation and below normal temperatures during the winter season.

Precipitation Changes During El Nino Figure 1 shows the SCO's predicted precipitation anomalies. The coastal region was forecasted to be the most affected area. Findings suggested that anomalies decreased northward and inland. Observed precipitation patterns for November, December, and January are shown in Figures 2 through 4. There is good agreement with the predicted trends. For example, November's precipitation in the southern coastal region was more than two inches above normal. This trend has continued throughout the winter so far. In fact, January precipitation at Raleigh-Durham was more than 100% above normal. In addition to precipitation, November and December temperature anomalies agree with the initial forecasts; however, January temperatures were above normal.

What makes El Niño such a challenging topic is its wide variation from one event to the next. Although southern California and the Gulf Coast States have received the greatest attention, our observations indicate that the east coast is also significantly affected. The variability and complexity of this phenomenon demands new tools and knowledge so that we can gain better understanding and predictive skills. The SCO is intensifying its efforts to understand the physical processes that relate the effects of El Niño on North Carolina's weather and climate. For more information on El Niño, look at the SCO's official website:

November 1997 Precipitation Departures from Normal
Fig. 2. Precipitation anomalies (departure from normal) for November 1997. Largest anomalies are near the southern coast.

December 1997 Precipitation Departures from Normal
Fig. 3. Precipitation anomalies (departure from normal) for December 1997. Largest anomalies are near the central coast.

January 1998 Precipitation Departures from Normal
Fig. 4. Precipitation anomalies (departure from normal) for January 1998. Largest anomalies are near the southern coast.

New Climate Office Staff

Yihua Wu Dr. Yihua Wu is one of the recent additions to the Climate Office staff. He has extensive experience with weather and climate, having worked for the State Meteorological Administration in Beijing, China from 1982 to 1991. Dr. Wu came to NC State University in 1992, where he worked with Dr. Katie Perry, and in 1993 received his Master of Science degree in Horticulture Science. He then continued at NC State, working towards his Ph.D. with Dr. Sethu Raman. He recently received his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science, and has joined the Climate Office as a Research Associate.

Dr. Wu is working with Dr. Raman and Dr. Charlie Main to develop numerical models for use in North Carolina, including a monthly/seasonal climate model that is centered over North Carolina and one to simulate how Blue Mold spores are transported in the Appalachian Mountain region. He is using a model that was co-developed by Naval Research Laboratory and NC State University.

Michelle Hein Another valuable addition to our staff is Program Assistant Michelle Hein. Michelle came to NC seven years ago from Connecticut. She joined the SCO in November 1997 to help manage our correspondence, finances, and travel. She also assists with daily operations and project development. We are extremely glad to have Michelle as a part of the team.

New Address & Fax

The SCO has not moved, but it has received a new box number and an independent fax line.

State Climate Office of North Carolina
College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences
1005 Capability Dr., Centennial Campus
Suite 112, Research III Building
Box 7236, NC State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7236
Administration: 919.515.1667
Data Services: 919.515.3056
Facsimile: 919.515.1441
Office Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm Monday-Friday

SCO Extension

Requests for climate data are at an all time high. Increased public awareness in environmental and climate issues, combined with recent interest in El Niño and publicity of the SCO led to over 1000 requests for 1997. This is more than twice the yearly total for the previous six years!

Data Request Totals

Increase in Coastal Storms Predicted

Last November, the State Climate Office released information concerning the potential of increased winter storms over North Carolina this winter. The research results were conveyed to the general public through a series of TV interviews and newspaper articles. In an interview with WNCN TV-17 News (Raleigh), Dr. Raman stated that findings indicate above normal precipitation will occur across the state with largest increases along the coast. This prediction of enhanced precipitation is attributed to an increased frequency of noreasters and coastal storms. This forecast has turned out to be accurate. Elevated frequency of winter storms is a major concern with regard to coastal erosion, property damage, and flooding. The SCO is expanding its investigation into this effect due to El Niño.

SCO Activities

  • INDOEX Planning Meeting, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, September 8-11, 1997: Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi
  • White House Conference on Global Warming, Raleigh, NC, October 6, 1997. Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi, Brian Potter, Ryan Boyles
  • NCSU Board of Visitors Meeting, Raleigh, NC, October 17,1997: Dr. Sethu Raman
  • 10th Conference on Applied Climatology, American Meteorological Society, Reno, NV, 19-23 October 1997: Devdutta S. Niyogi
  • International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), October 21-24, 1997 and January 8-9, 1998: Dr. Sethu Raman
  • Frost Protection Workshop for County Extension Agents, Raleigh, NC, November 18, 1997: Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi
  • Presentation on El Niño, American Meteorological Society, Central NC Chapter, Research Triangle Park, NC, December 11, 1997: Dr. Sethu Raman
  • Integrated Pest Management Symposium, Raleigh, NC, December 12, 1997: Devdutta S. Niyogi, Brian Potter
  • 78th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, Phoenix, AZ, January 11-16, 1998: Dr. Yihua Wu, Devdutta S. Niyogi
  • WTVD Channel 11 "Ask the Expert", Durham, NC, February 3, 1998: Brian Potter
  • NC Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers Meeting, Raleigh, NC, February 12, 1998: Dr. Sethu Raman

1997 Year in Review

Below are maps that depicted the smothed temperature and precipitation anomalies for 1997.

1997 Mean Temperature Departures from Normal

1997 Precipitation Departures from Normal

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