Lake Junaluska

Winter 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 1 | Winter 1999

In This Issue...

A Message from Dean Whitten

College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, NCSU

Jerry Whitten Professor Sethu Raman was appointed as the State Climatologist of North Carolina by the UNC System President C.D. Spangler on September 1, 1996. Building on the work of previous state climatologists, Professors Peter Robinson of UNC-CH and Professor Jerry Davis of NC State, and with seed funding from the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Dr. Raman and his colleagues have led the SCO through several years of spectacular growth and impact. Organized as a Public Service Center in October 1998, its extension mission is to furnish climate data to the public and private sector. Since the analysis of long term weather patterns and the impact of climate are important throughout our society, and since the interpretation of these data require expert analysis, it is perhaps not surprising that the client base of the SCO has increased so rapidly.

To handle the large volume of information, now numbering hundreds of requests per month, advances in technology associated with the acquisition and archival of data are required. This has been a major focus of personnel in the SCO. The SCO operates AgNet in collaboration with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and, in fact, it was support from this collaboration that was instrumental in getting the SCO off to a fast start in its expanded phase of operation. Now the SCO is actively working with the State Government on plans to create the statewide North Carolina Environmental and Climate Observing Network (NC ECO Net) of monitoring stations that will add to the AgNet. Credit for the success of this enterprise goes to the people of the State Climate Office: Dr. Raman, State Climatologist and the Director of the State Climate Office, of course, but equally to Devdutta Niyogi and Ryan Boyles, Assistant Climatologists, Bic Fort, Assistant to the Director, graduate and undergraduate students, and other staff who each play extremely important roles. The guidance of the Advisory Board chaired by Mr. Stephen Harned, plus contributions from collaborating faculty, have likewise been important in keeping the development on the right track.

Each time I visit the State Climate Office, I am impressed by the enthusiasm of its personnel - their sense of purpose and teamwork. There is no doubt that these are the central reasons for its great success. This center will help bring together disciplines from various departments, colleges, and even universities within the UNC System. We look forward to continuing advances in the years ahead.

Jerry L. Whitten, Dean
College of PAMS

From the State Climatologist...

Sethu Raman I am glad to announce that the State Climate Office of North Carolina has become a Public Service Center for Climate-Environment Interactions effective October 9, 1998 with the approval by the UNC Board of Governors. This gives us a formal administrative structure within the university that will enhance our efforts to serve North Carolina better. Ryan Boyles recently joined as the Assistant State Climatologist (Data Services). He is a valuable addition to the SCO staff. Kettyah Chaak, an undergraduate student from the department of MEAS who has also recently join us, helps in data base development and data dissemination.

We would like to welcome Capitol Broadcasting Company Inc. as our Corporate Partner. The SCO is working with Greg Fishel, WRAL-TV, Steven Koch, MEAS, and John McHenry, North Carolina Supercomputing Center in developing a real-time experimental high resolution weather forecasting model for agricultural applications.

El Niño has faded, but a moderate La Niña event over the Pacific Ocean is affecting the state this winter. More about this topic is in the next column. The SCO is leading an effort to establish a state wide Environmental and Climate Observing network (NC ECO Net). A brief description of this valuable network and the benefits to North Carolina are on pages 3 and 4. We hope to provide enhanced weather and climate information to the citizens of North Carolina with the NC ECO Net in place.

At the service of North Carolina,

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

ROSA Volunteers Collecting Data for North Carolina

For many years, a dedicated network of 28 volunteer weather observers across North Carolina have submitted local daily weather observations to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NCSU. The Remote Observation Station Automation or ROSA network is composed of individuals who volunteer their time and effort on a daily basis to help North Carolina record the weather and climate of our state. Recently, the State Climate Office assumed the responsibility of collecting and archiving these reports from each of the observers.

These individuals observe and record the daily min/max air temperatures and precipitation rates. In addition, many of these sites collect daily soil temperature as well. The records are then transmitted nightly via a telephone network to a National Weather Service network and to our database. Instrumentation is usually situated on their land and maintained by each volunteer.

This work is a vital component of the overall weather observations network composed of local, state, and federal agencies. Some of these volunteers have been submitting reports for over 18 years! Without their help, North Carolina would not have the advantage of some long-term records that are so important in understanding the weather and climate of our state.

Rain or Drought? What is happening to North Carolina during El Niño and La Niña?

Over the last two years, North Carolina's weather and climate has experienced the effects of a record El Niño and more recently, a moderately strong La Niña. During this period, record rainfall occurred during the 1997-98 winter, followed by drought conditions this past summer and fall. So what role does El Niño and La Niña play in North Carolina's weather and climate?

The 1997-98 El Niño was arguably the strongest event ever recorded. The 1997 SCO outlook issued for the period Fall 97 through Summer 98 correctly predicted above normal precipitation during the winter and the transition to below normal rainfall for the following Spring and summer. In addition, our statistical analyses also indicated continuation of drought conditions through the fall as the emerging La Niña gained strength. To examine how these conditions occurred, le look at the role of the jet stream and storm systems during El Niño and La Niña events.

Due to prominent changes in atmospheric flow over the United States during strong El Niño winters, the normal undulation of the jet stream flattens and becomes oriented from west to east. In conjunction with this, there is a corresponding increase in the number of low-pressure storm systems that originate from the Gulf of Mexico and track along the jet stream. This usually produces increased precipitation over much of the southern United States, including North Carolina.

During periods of La Niña however, the jet stream pattern reverses and the normal wave-like pattern becomes more pronounced with winds occurring in an exaggerated north-south direction. When this jet stream pattern becomes stationary, a semi-permanent high-pressure area over the southeast can form and suppress cloud formation and rainfall. At the same time, the Midwest may experience a dominant low-pressure system, resulting in a very active storm pattern.

The SCO is interested in the impact of this phenomenon to North Carolina's weather and climate. Graduate students are currently conducting further research.

North Carolina Environment & Climate Observing Network (NC ECO Net)

The North Carolina Environment & Climate Observing Network (NC ECO Net) is a proposed network that will combine existing weather and environmental observing networks in North Carolina to produce enhanced products and analysis provided by continuous surface monitoring. The NC ECO Net will have at least one weather observation station in every North Carolina county providing continuous weather and climate information. Data from the NC ECO Net will save lives, as well as save millions of dollars every year for North Carolina taxpayers, farmers, and businesses. It will help us to manage our natural resources, protect our environment, reduce energy consumption, educate the future generation of citizens, and provide valuable contribution to a variety of applications involving fields ranging from agriculture to public health to severe weather.

In its full capacity, the proposed NC ECO Net would be a state-of-the-art network of more than 100 weather and environmental observing stations across North Carolina with a minimum of one in each county. This network will use the North Carolina Information Highway to provide maximum benefits o the educational institutions of North Carolina as well. This will be achieved by integrating and upgrading the 85 existing observation sites (17 through the State Climate Office / NCSU, 25 from the National Weather Service, 25 from NC Division of Aviation, and 18 from the Forest Services). To complete the network, the State Climate Office proposes to establish observation stations in the 39 counties that currently do not have an automated weather station. Through NC ECO Net, the State of North Carolina will achieve its objective of a weather station in each and every county.

Citizens of North Carolina will realize enormous benefits thanks to the NC ECO Net. In addition to providing real-time information to everyone on wind, temperature, humidity, precipitation, and soil moisture, NC ECO Net will provide valuable assistance as shown below.

Application How will ECONet help? Money NC ECO Net Will Save
Crop Management Continuous and accurate monitoring of rainfall, soil moisture, and surface weather conditions. $4 million per year
Pest Management Reliable, county-scale information on weather and climate for industrial establishment and/or relocation. $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 in new tax revenue 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 Save 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

Additionally, the NC ECO Net will assist various state departments by providing a continuous, dedicated, and accurate means for: Data Warehousing, 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. Greater efficiency and accuracy in these areas could save the state at least $25 million per year.

Current and Proposed Monitoring Sites

Map of AgNet Station Currently Operated by SCO
Stations currently operated by the State Climate Office as part of the Agricultural Weather Network (AgNet).

Map of Stations Operated by AgNet and Other Agencies
Phase I: Integrate data from stations operated by other state and federal agencies, such as Forest Services, National Weather Service, and the NC Division of Aviation.

Map of Proposed Stations, and Those Operated by Agnet and Other Agencies
Phase II: In counties without monitoring sites, place new stations to fill gaps and ensure at least one station per county.

Precipitation and Temperature Summaries

Departure from 30-Year Average
Based on Preliminiary Data

Click on any image to view full size map

(in inches)

September 1998 Precipitation Departures from Normal
September 1998

October 1998 Precipitation Departures from Normal
October 1998

November 1998 Precipitation Departures from Normal
November 1998

December 1998 Precipitation Departures from Normal
December 1998

January 1999 Precipitation Departures from Normal
January 1999
(in degrees F)

September 1998 Temperature Departures from Normal
September 1998

October 1998 Temperature Departures from Normal
October 1998

November 1998 Temperature Departures from Normal
November 1998

December 1998 Temperature Departures from Normal
December 1998

January 1999 Temperature Departures from Normal
January 1999

Recent Activities


  • Honors Geography Class from Webb High School, Oxford, NC, November 2, 1998
  • AMS DataStreme Project Group, December 5, 1999
  • Student from Fayetteville, NC interested in Science and Engineering, January 28, 1999


  • National Weather Association Annual Meeting, October 1998, Oklahoma City, OK, Doug Schneider
  • Drought Monitoring Council Meeting, October 23, 1998, Raleigh, NC, Dr. Sethu Raman
  • 23rd American Meteorological Society Conference on Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, November 2-6,1998, Albuquerque, NM, Devdutta S. Niyogi
  • NESDIS Remote Sensing Workshop for Educators, November 13-14, 1998, Science House, Raleigh, NC, Dr. Sethu Raman, Ryan Boyles
  • NC State University Extension Showcase of Excellence, November 18, 1998, McKimmon Center, Raleigh, NC, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi, Ryan Boyles, Vinayak Parameshwara, Brian Potter
  • Visit to Cape Fear High School, Fayetteville, NC, November 19, 1998, Ryan Boyles
  • Presentation to SCO Advisory Panel, November 30, 1998, Raleigh, NC, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi, Ryan Boyles
  • Presentation to Mast Charter School, Southern Pines, NC, December 2, 1998, Ryan Boyles, Jamie Rhome
  • Centennial Campus Address by Dr. Marye Anne Fox, Chancellor, December 4, 1998, Raleigh, NC
  • Presentation to AMS DataStreme Project Group, December 5, 1998, Raleigh, NC, Ryan Boyles
  • Presentation of NC ECO Net Concepts to the State Agencies, Dec 7,1998, GovernorÂ’s Office, Raleigh, NC, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi, Ryan Boyles
  • 1st International Conference on Fluid Mechanics and Fluid Power, Indian Institute of Technology, December 15-17, 1998, Delhi, India, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi
  • Drought Monitoring Council Meeting, December 17, 1998, Raleigh, NC, Ryan Boyles
  • Center for Atmospheric Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S. Niyogi
  • Center for Development of Advanced Computing, University of Poona, Pune, India, December 22-23, 1998, Devdutta S. Niyogi, Sonali Aditya
  • Workshop on Operational Agricultural Meteorology, National Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, New Delhi, India, January 5, 1999, Dr. Sethu Raman
  • 79th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society, January 10-15, 1999, Dallas, TX, Devdutta S. Niyogi, Doug Schneider
  • Presentation to NC Farm Bureau Annual Workshop, January 30, 1999, Greensboro, NC, Ryan Boyles

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