Fall 1999

NCSU Seal North Carolina ClimateSCO Seal

A Newsletter of the State Climate Office of North Carolina

A Public Service Center for
Climate-Environment Interactions
Ryan Boyles, Editor

Volume 3 | Number 3 | Fall 1999

In This Issue...

From the State Climatologist...

It was a busy summer at the State Climate Office. First, we had a drought in June, July, and August across North Carolina with a declaration of drought in each of the 100 counties. Then came Hurricane Dennis and Hurricane Floyd, both making landfall on the North Carolina coast, causing extensive flooding and damage in eastern North Carolina. Many locations registered record rainfall. Ironically, western North Carolina is still experiencing drought conditions with rainfall amounts well below normal.

During Hurricanes Dennis, Floyd, and Irene SCO staff and graduate students assisted the NC Division of Emergency Management with meteorological support and by providing real-time data from the Agricultural Network (AgNet) stations for their operations. I had an opportunity to brief Governor Hunt on the real-time operation of the AgNet and the information that it could provide to help operations in the Division of Emergency Management. Secretary Moore of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, and Eric Tolbert, Director of Emergency Management Division, also acknowledged the value of AgNet data for their operations. We continued to provide real-time information for rescue operations by US Air Force Helicopters and for spraying operations to help curb the mosquito population in eastern NC. We all felt that the NC ECO Net, with at least one automated weather station in each of the 100 counties of NC, would have provided more detailed information for NC state agencies during such emergencies - floods in the east and drought in the west.

The volume of data requests has significantly increased recently at the SCO, and our staff is doing an excellent job in keeping up with the sharp increase in workload. During these difficult times of natural hazards, our thoughts are with the citizens of eastern NC and we will do whatever we can to help. The SCO is developing the weather and climate information network (NC ECO Net) to help local, state, and federal agencies to better manage emergency situations.

Several new graduate students have joined the SCO. They are Robert Gilliam, Jennifer Kehoe, and Aaron Sims, and each is already making valuable contributions to SCO operations.

Again, I would like to thank Dr. Jerry Whitten, Dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, for all the assistance he provided during the past two years to transform the SCO into a dynamic organization. SCO staff and students join me in wishing him success as he returns to full-time teaching and research in our college. The SCO welcomes Dr. Richard Patty as the new Head of the Department of MEAS. We are grateful for the enthusiasm and support he has shown for the activities in the State Climate Office. We hope to work with him and the department closely to develop programs that will benefit North Carolina.

At the service of North Carolina,

Sethu Raman's Signature
Sethu Raman
State Climatologist of North Carolina
Professor of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

Inter-Institutional Climate Connections
Contributed by Dr. Peter Robinson
NC Climate Program Coordinator
Professor of Geography, UNC-CH

Peter Robinson The State Climate Office at NCSU is the prime source of data and information about the climate of North Carolina. It has more data, and a more detailed knowledge, about our state's climate than anyone else. Nevertheless, it is part of a larger system which is being developed to create a 'National Climate Service' to provide information on a variety of scales for everyone in the nation. Each state has a State Climatologist, providing a service similar to the SCO. States with similar climate information needs are grouped together into one of six Regional Climate Centers. Our own Center, for the Southeast, covers the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, and is currently located in the South Carolina Water Resources Commission. The common needs of the Southeast, of course, range from hurricane preparedness and response, to assessment of the health impacts of heat and humidity, to information supporting cotton growing and forestry. The Regional Center has a database, which partly overlaps with our own, but is designed to solve regional problems, or look at climate and its impact in a regional way. Finally, there is a National Climate Data Center located, conveniently for us, in Asheville NC. This center deals mostly with data for nation-wide needs, but also has information about North Carolina data. Our home page links to both the Regional and the National Centers, providing a range of data in a variety of formats, giving a wealth of information about the climate of our State. This National Center has lead responsibility for the whole Climate Service, and has just initiated a system for officially accrediting all of the State Climate Programs. We are among the first to apply, and look forward to being accredited in the next few weeks.

In addition to out-of-state connections, the State Climate Office has many in-state links. As a Public Service Center for the University of North Carolina system, we plan to develop links on various campuses to ensure that all parts of the state have access to climate information. My own connection is with the Chapel Hill campus, and we hope that this long-established link is but the first of many. Each campus has expertise, whether about climate itself or about the impacts of climate, which can be of value to the whole state. As the number and range of demands on the Office expand, these inter-institutional connections will help ensure that we have the skills to meet all the demands.

1999 Drought in North Carolina

This past summer, the common item of discussion was a drought that affected almost every community in North Carolina. What had been a relatively normal winter and early spring quickly became a concern when almost no rain fell across North Carolina in May. This was compounded by little precipitation in June, July, and August. In mid-August, the entire state was in a moderate to severe drought, with some areas experiencing extreme conditions. While relief came to eastern North Carolina with Hurricane Dennis, the rain fell too late in the season to help many farmers. Meanwhile, the western part of the state received little precipitation and through October still experienced a mild to moderate drought.

Typically, North Carolina summer weather is dominated by the Bermuda High, which sits off the southeastern United States and pumps warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. However, the weather pattern this past summer was dominated by a series of strong high-pressure systems over the Midwestern US that transported warm, dry air from the continent into the Atlantic seaboard. This weather pattern caused severe drought from the southern US all the way into New England.

Recent cold fronts have brought some relief to the communities of western North Carolina, but the State Climate Office, in conjunction with the NC Drought Monitoring Council, continue to be mindful of dry conditions as winter weather approaches.

State Climate Office "Steps into the Future" in Asheville

On September 23, 1999 NC State University Chancellor Marye Anne Fox sponsored an exposition in downtown Asheville called "Step nto the Future with NC State". The State Climate Office was an exciting part of that exposition. Dr. Raman and staff were present to discuss with the citizens of Asheville and western North Carolina issues such as drought, the recent hurricanes, and other topics of weather and climate. Visitors were able to see a hands-on, real-time weather observing system, follow the paths of recent and famous hurricanes, and learn about NC weather and climate through our web site.

The SCO exhibit was very popular, and Dr. Raman met many citizens who were interested in the proposed NC ECO Net and the benefits it would bring for drought and emergency management. Additionally, many of the visitors were educators who saw the potential uses of the NC ECO Net for educational benefits in the new Earth System Science curriculum. The State Climate Office plans to be a part of the next exposition, which is currently planned for the Piedmont area sometime in the spring of 2000.

North Carolina Devastated by Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd

During the past few months, North Carolina has seen the worst of both worlds. For most of the summer, severe drought forced water restrictions, and citizens across the state were hoping for rain. In September, much of eastern North Carolina was suffering from severe flooding caused by Hurricane Dennis in early September and Hurricane Floyd in mid-September. Precipitation from both storms is shown below.

Hurricane Dennis Rainfall Totals Hurricane Floyd Rainfall Totals
The combined effects from Dennis and Floyd led to record levels of precipitation and flooding throughout eastern North Carolina. For many observing stations, 1999 had the wettest September on record. The precipitation anomaly, shown below, shows the extreme precipitation that many areas received. n some locations, over 30 inches of rain fell in just three weeks. September 1999 Rainfall Totals

AgNet Provides Valuable Service during Recent Emergencies
Contributed by Devdutta S. Niyogi
Assistant State Climatologist (AgNet)
Meteorologist, Department of Horticultural Science

Ameen Syed at the Fletcher Station As Hurricane Floyd approached North Carolina, its path and intensity were of significant concern for several reasons. It was approaching the land as a Category 4 storm, which had the potential to do severe damage. Also, the state was still busy providing assistance to the regions affected by Hurricane Dennis, which made landfall during the first week of September. Since the occurrence of Hurricane Bonnie in August 1998, SCO had been providing meteorological support to the NC Emergency Management Division. There was a quick realization that availability of reliable and continuous real-time weather information was crucial for emergency operations. Many were concerned that since eastern North Carolina was already soaked with 6 to 8 inches of rain from Hurricane Dennis, any additional rainfall might lead to severe flooding. Hence the path of the storm and immediate access to the information on winds and rainfall as the hurricane approached North Carolina was critical for the emergency operations. The AgNet operations team at the State Climate Office took this challenge of providing real time information on weather parameters to the state and county emergency officials and successfully delivered the data from the Agricultural Weather Network (AgNet).

Until 1997, AgNet data were updated on the web site on a monthly basis. Last year (1998) the data were made available on a daily basis. The central computer in the State Climate Office called each of the stations and downloaded the data for the previous day. A real-time data access capability was essential to provide the latest data. A system was designed, protocols were created, tested, validated, quality-assured, and successfully implemented in September 1999 as Floyd approached North Carolina. With the new communication system implemented within AgNet, the automated weather stations were called every hour and the data posted on the web immediately. This information was delivered continuously to various emergency management officials through email and web updates. State Climate Office staff worked round the clock to make sure the data was available without interruption. Director of Emergency Operations, Mr. Eric Tolbert considered the AgNet data availability as an emerging technology that emergency management is using for its disaster management activities. The State Climatologist, Dr. Sethu Raman, briefed Governor Hunt, Secretary Moore, members of the media, and the EOC team on the AgNet technology and demonstrated it as a new product the state has at its disposal. Indeed, in addition to the assistance in planning the emergency operations, AgNet was again operated in real-time to provide information for operations such as helicopter rescues by the US Air Force near Tarboro, and Division of Air Quality and Air Force mosquito spray operations.

The AgNet is providing vital information for the disaster management and recovery operations within North Carolina. Recognizing the advantages various emergency operations can have by making AgNet data available in real-time, the State Climate Office is closely working with the State Highway atrol and the Division of Air Quality in setting up additional meteorological towers and developing improved communication protocols. In addition to the real-time data transfer, AgNet staff are working towards development of data plotting and graphics packages over the web which will assist data interpretation. Activities are underway by which data related to the hurricane and subsequent operations can be made easily available for anyone desiring this information. We at the SCO are glad to be of service to North Carolina through the developments that we could initiate regarding AgNet. armers, agribusinesses, and other communities in eastern North Carolina have been appreciative of the information the AgNet could provide for routine crop operations and for disaster and public safety service. Towards these efforts, I would like to recognize the dedicated skills and unstinted enthusiasm of the AgNet operations group, which comprises of Vinayak Parameshwara, Ameenulla Syed, Aaron Sims, Dhaval Thaker and various other members of the State Climate Office, under the leadership of Dr Raman. We are at the service of North Carolina and hope our operations will continue to benefit every citizen of North Carolina. We look forward to continuing our efforts and make AgNet the backbone of the proposed NC ECO Net (North Carolina Climate and Environmental Observation Network), a planned premier automated network with at least one station per county.

Precipitation and Temperature

Departure from 30-Year Average
Based on Preliminiary Data

Click on any image to view full size map

Precipitation Departure
(in inches)

May 1999 Precipitation Departures from Normal

June 1999 Precipitation Departures from Normal

July 1999 Precipitation Departures from Normal

August 1999 Precipitation Departures from Normal
Temperature Departure
(in ° Fahrenheit)

May 1999 Temperature Departures from Normal

June 1999 Temperature Departures from Normal

Julu 1999 Temperature Departures from Normal

August 1999 Temperature Departures from Normal

Recent Activities


  • Presentation to NC Fire Danger Working Team, June 2, 1999, Raleigh, Ryan Boyles
  • Discussion on climate change, WUNC Radio, Chapel Hill, Dr. Sethu Raman
  • State Climatologist Exchange Program, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC, July 1999, Dr. Sethu Raman
  • Annual Meeting of American Association of State Climatologists, Charleston, SC, July 26-28, 1999, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi, Ryan Boyles
  • Agricultural Research Stations Summer Meeting, Banner Elk, NC, July 28-30, 1999, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi, Vinayak Parameshwara, Ameenulla Syed
  • Development of Weather and Environment Theme, 2007 PanAm Games Bid, Raleigh, August-September 1999, Dr. Sethu Raman, Ryan Boyles
  • Drought Monitoring Council, August-September 1999, Ryan Boyles
  • Peanut Day, Peanut Belt Research Station, Lewiston-Woodville, NC, September 9, 1999, Devdutta S. Niyogi, Ameenulla Syed
  • Presentation to Forest Service Operators & National Weather Service, Raleigh, October 6, 1999, Ryan Boyles


  • Ray Fornes, Associate Dean, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, May 12, 1999
  • Robert Goodell, Virtual Knowledge Center, May 17, 1999
  • Connie Tucker, Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, June 17, 1999
  • Dr. Tom Monaco, Head, Department of Horticultural Science, June 22, 1999
  • Jon Ort, Director, Cooperative Extension Service, Associate Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, July 13, 1999
  • Girl Scout Summer Science Camps, each week during July 1999
  • Jon Arnold, WUNC-TV, August 27, 1999
  • Dr. Richard Patty, Head, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, NCSU, October 6, 1999
  • Amanda Clarke, Southeast Regional Climate Center, October 14, 1999
  • Dr. Robert Morrison, Executive Officer, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, NCSU, October 22, 1999

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