Fall 2003

NCSU Seal North Carolina ClimateSCO Seal

A Newsletter of the State Climate Office of North Carolina

A Public Service Center for
Climate-Environment Interactions

Fall 2003

In This Issue...

NC CRONOS Database Released!

JET Preview: Stations On September 12, 2003, the SCO officially released the NC CRONOS Database. CRONOS stands for Climate Retrieval and Observations Network Of the Southeast.

The CRONOS database provides for the first time a single point-and-click Internet resource that provides comprehensive, real-time access to weather observations from 90 automated stations across the state, including offshore buoys, and 110 additional stations in surrounding states. Each of these monitoring stations, including the SCO's own ECONet, meets international standards for accuracy, siting, and maintenance. The CRONOS Database incorporates climate information gathered by the SCO, the National Weather Service, the N.C. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Data Buoy Center.

The CRONOS database and its website were inaugurated by Dr. Johnny Wynne, Interim Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Dr. Daniel Solomon, Dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. The special guest for this event was Mr. Steven Harned, Meteorologist-in-Charge of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Raleigh and Chair of the SCO Advisory Committee. Dr. Wynne pointed out the many benefits of such a resource to farmers and agricultural businesses in NC, while Mr. Harned mentioned how the CRONOS database helps fulfill NWS's mission to save lives and property.

JET Preview: Winds The online resource provides a point and click map so users can view observations for a single station or current conditions over the entire region. Users can view historical observations and plot charts for each measurement at any monitoring station.

The CRONOS database is the result of several years of work by SCO staff and students. Robb Ellis and Mark Brooks have been the principal developers of the web interface over the past year. Colorful maps and numerous features were designed to make navigating the web site easy. The development team of staff and students spent a lot of time considering the needs of likely users, from parents planning a weekend trip to construction firms scheduling work. The maps and tables allow users to glance at current conditions across the state or, for those who need greater detail, enable users to scale down to multiple layers of information.

An effort was made to collect and archive the most accurate and reliable weather information available. Such data is essential for farmers, electric utilities, transportation firms, airlines, the tourist industry, military and crisis planners, public health officials - the entire spectrum of citizens, governments and businesses. The SCO's focus is that environmental observations must be of the highest quality, or they are not useful for decision-making purposes. While many weather monitoring systems are available, most are not sited and maintained to international standards. The SCO strives to archive and disseminate only the highest quality weather observations.

Visit the NC CRONOS Database online: http://climate.ncsu.edu/cronos/

Inauguration of Database and Website Highlights Service, Outreach Mission of SCO

Remarks by Daniel Solomon, Dean
College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, NCSU
September 12, 2003

Inauguration with Dean Solomon and Sethu Raman "The State Climate Office is an arm of NC State University's College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences in collaboration with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The Climate Office is a powerful expression of our vision for the modern research university - one not clustered in ivory towers but rather one actively engaged with society, integrating research and education with public service, and bringing the expertise of its faculty, staff and students to bear on critical human and environmental problems.

"The CRONOS database that we’re inaugurating today is an example of that integration. This comprehensive, real-time database will provide educational benefits from K-12 to undergraduate and graduate students of North Carolina and the world. It will provide unique opportunities for research on weather, air quality, water quality, hydrology and agriculture. And it will provide information that government agencies and the public can use daily with applications ranging from recreation to emergency preparedness and response. The State Climate office is an example of how science can serve the people."

A Note From the State Climatologist...

We have much news to share since our last newsletter. Summer research and outreach activities were busy as always. Participating graduate students were: Mathew Simpson (air quality), Neil Jacobs (winter storm climatology), Peter Childs (mesoscale numerical modeling of New York City), Trisha Palmer (flash flood forecasting), Maggie Puryear (ground water recharge). Undergraduate students were: Chris Holder (historical climate data) from NC State and Chris Fuhrmann (climatology of frozen precipitation), a student of Professor Chip Conrad from UNC Chapel Hill. Mark Brooks, a meteorologist and a recent NCSU graduate joined the SCO in summer as a full time staff. Mathew Simpson and Peter Childs graduated with M.S. degrees. We welcome the new graduate students: Maggie Puryear, and Becky Eager, and undergraduate students, Desmond Jennings, Michael Diaz, and Leela Rao. Mathew Simpson is continuing as a graduate student pursuing his Ph.D. Peter Childs was appointed as Agricultural Meteorologist effective August 1. Other personnel changes include Ameenulla Syed as the NC ECONet manager and Ryan Boyles as the SCO Operations Coordinator.

The North Carolina Climate Retrieval and Observing Network of the Southeast (NC CRONOS / ECONet) Database was officially inaugurated on September 12, 2003 by Dr. Dan Solomon, Dean, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and Dr. Johnny Wynne, Interim Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. This database brings together observations from 200 automated weather stations in the region including our own NC ECONet. More information on this database is provided on the front page of this newsletter. This database was of great use for NC Emergency Management Division when Hurricane Isabel tracked through North Carolina on September 18, a week after the inauguration of NC CRONOS. Mark Brooks, Robb Ellis, Mathew Simpson, and Kelly Mahoney assisted the NC Emergency management staff round the clock during this event. More on Hurricane Isabel is on page 3 of this newsletter. SCO continues to serve NC through other state agencies as well. Recently, the NC Drought Management Advisory Council was established as a permanent replacement for the temporary Drought Monitoring Council. SCO is a core member of this important organization and Ryan Boyles represents SCO in this council.

The NC ECONet with 25 automated weather stations now has better soil moisture and new evapotranspiration sensors in many stations. The goal is to deploy at least one ECONet station in each county of the state. We are excited about the real time NC CRONOS database access available through our website and hope this vastly enhanced information on NC weather and climate will foster education and research activities across North Carolina in addition to its potential use for farmers, industries, and state and federal agencies.

At the service of North Carolina,

Signature of Sethu Raman
Sethu Raman
State Climatologist and Director

Hurricane Isabel Sweeps Through NC

Hurricane Isabel Hurricane Isabel was a classic Cape Verde hurricane that developed in the far eastern Atlantic and was the first one to become a Category 5 hurricane since Hurricane Mitch achieved this intensity in 1998. It made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 105 mph on September 18, 2003. Isabel was the first tropical system to attain hurricane intensity east of 40° W and hit the United States coastline since Hurricane Donna made landfall in Florida in 1960.

The State Climate Office of North Carolina began tracking Hurricane Isabel on Friday, September 12. By Monday morning, the media started to cover Isabel more closely. Numerous media agencies began to call the Climate Office requesting information on the latest path and intensity forecasts for Isabel. During the week prior to landfall, SCO staff provided dozens of interviews to local, state, and national media on the climatology of NC hurricanes and on Hurricane Isabel.

Hurricane Isabel produced record setting storm surge flooding across parts of eastern North Carolina and Virginia. Across the Outer Banks, the winds gusted to greater than 105 mph, and a new inlet was created between Hatteras Village and Frisco. Extensive structural damage was reported across much of eastern NC, where damage estimates may approach 1 billion dollars according to media reports. Thirty-eight deaths have also been attributed to Isabel from North Carolina to New York State. Research on tropical cyclones is continuing in the SCO and in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences at NCSU.

Students Assist NC Emergency Management, Gain Valuable Experience

During Hurricane Isabel's landfall, several staff and students from the SCO and MEAS provided operational weather support to NC Emergency Management. Below are some of their personal experiences.

Kelly Mahoney, Graduate Student, NCSU Dept of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences (MEAS)
"On September 18, 2003, the afternoon of landfall I had the opportunity to observe the state emergency response to Hurricane Isabel. We were in the NC Emergency Operation Center for the 5pm briefing for which we aided emergency management officials in displaying the latest observations and bringing up images to be used during the meeting. It was extremely interesting to see how those in the emergency management deal with the impact that we as meteorologists find so scientifically fascinating. It definitely instilled a huge appreciation in me for the job that these groups do and the collaboration that must take place between the weather sector and the response sector."

Mark Brooks, Meteorologist, SCO and recent graduate, NCSU Dept. of MEAS
"I was there from 8am to 5pm on September 18, 2003 when the hurricane made landfall in North Carolina. I had the NC CRONOS Database on my computer at all times and projected the data on one of three large screens in the room. The Emergency Operation Center meteorologists asked me from time to time what the highest wind speed gusts were according to NC CRONOS. At one point, a three-star Army General approached me for an impromptu weather briefing. At an earlier time, an Army Colonel asked for an impromptu briefing as well. After the storm made landfall, the Governor arrived to thank everyone for their help. Senator Elizabeth Dole, Congressman Etheridge, the NC Treasurer Richard Moore, and the NC Secretary of Public Safety Bryan Beatty also came around at different times for briefings throughout the day. Being a part of the North Carolina Emergency Management Center's activities was very rewarding. I'm glad I could be there and represent the State Climate Office."

Robb Ellis, Climate Services Assistant, SCO
"During the evening, the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) was buzzing with the few that had stayed to prepare for the early morning update. At 5am, the latest information was gathered and a morning briefing held. I managed to listen in on a county-by-county check of which counties had set up their own EOC and were reporting in. By this time seas along the coast were increasing and the EOC used our data services (through our website) to keep track of current conditions inland and along the coast. The SCO offered another avenue of information for the coordinators at the EOC."

SCO Welcomes New Staff and Students

Peter Childs Mr. Peter Childs was hired as the Agricultural Meteorologist in August 2003. A recent recipient of an M.S. degree from NCSU Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, Peter is working to implement real-time environmental models for use in agriculture and environmental applications. His experience in numerical weather prediction and modeling applications has already proven valuable to the service, research, and education mission of the SCO. During the landfall of Hurricane Isabel, Peter was regularly heard on National Public Radio and other media venues as a source of local hurricane expertise.

Mark Brooks Mr. Mark Brooks began working full-time in the SCO this past summer. He has been a primary web site designer and developer of the NC CRONOS database. Originally from Albemarle, NC, Mark graduated in May 2003 with a B.S. in Meteorology from NCSU's Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences. Mark has been heavily involved with CRONOS database ingest, retrieval, and processing software development. Using state of the art technology, Mark completely reworked the code that compiles observations from the database and generates web pages.

Becky Eager Ms. Becky Eager has joined the SCO as a new graduate student. A recent graduate of Valparaiso University, Becky is interested in air quality modeling. Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, we welcome her to the SCO and North Carolina.

Maggie Puryear Mrs. Maggie Puryear from Shelby, NC joined the SCO this summer as a new graduate student. Maggie is a recent graduate of NCSU's Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences with a B.S. in Meteorology. Maggie worked in SCO this summer on research looking at the rate of groundwater recharge in NC over the past year as the drought ended and the wet winter and spring of 2003 dramatically affected groundwater levels. Maggie is currently performing research on the effect of land surface hydrology on NC weather.

Desmond Jennings Mr. Desmond Jennings began working in the SCO recently as an undergraduate assistant. He is originally from Gary, Indiana, and is a first year student in Meteorology at NC State University.

Michael Diaz Mr. Michael Diaz has also recently joined the SCO as an undergraduate assistant. From Norfolk, Virginia, Michael is also a first year student in Meteorology in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences.

Leela Rao Ms. Leela Rao is a first year student working in the SCO. She is originally from Albany, New York, and is looking at several areas to pursue her undergraduate education including marine biology.

New Soil Moisture, Evapotranspiration Gages Deployed at ECONet Stations

This past summer, the SCO deployed new soil moisture sensors at all ECONet stations. These sensors report observations based on the principle of Dielectric Constant measurements. The new soil moisture sensors were tested extensively in the year prior to deployment and have performed well over the past several months. The SCO hopes these new sensors will greatly improve the reliability of our soil moisture measurements.

For the first time, the SCO has also deployed into the field a sensor to measure evapotranspiration (ET). The sensor allows distilled water to evaporate through a porous, yet waterproof surface, simulating evapotranspiration of a ground cover or crop. These ET sensors were deployed this year at 7 locations of the NC ECONet: Aurora, Castle Hayne, Lewiston, Lake Wheeler Rd. in Raleigh, Jackson Springs, Salisbury, and Waynesville. The SCO will deploy an additional 6 gages next year. These sensors require rigorous maintenance. Ameenulla Syed, Instrumentation Meteorologist and NC ECONet manager is coordinating the installation and operation of the sensors.

Recent Conditions

Map of Temperature Departures from Normal
April 2003 - September 2003 Temperature Departures
Map of Precipitation Departures from Normal
April 2003 - September 2003 Precipitation Departures

The summer of 2003 was cool and wet - a stark change from the previous two summers when drought was widespread across North Carolina. A pattern typical of El Niño winters persisted through the spring, providing much above-normal precipitation for most of the state. Through the spring and summer, the El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean waned, and sea surface temperature are currently near-neutral. With adequate moisture supplies available in the soil and from the Gulf of Mexico, showers and thunderstorms typical of summer in North Carolina were commonly seen.

Winter Climate Outlook

Provided by National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center

Temperature Outlook

Dec 2003 through Feb 2004 Temperature Outlook

Dec 2003 - Feb 2004 Temperature Outlook
Precipitation Outlook

Dec 2003 through Feb 2004 Precipitation Outlook

Dec 2003 - Feb 2004 Precipitation Outlook

A = Probability Increase of Likelihood of Above Normal Conditions
B = Probability Increase of Likelihood of Below-Normal Conditions
EC = Equal Chances of Above-, Below-, and Near-Normal Conditions

With no El Niño (warm) or La Niña (cool) event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, the forecast for the upcoming winter does not provide much insight for the Carolinas. Outlooks from the NWS Climate Prediction Center depict equal chances of above-normal, near-normal, and below-normal conditions. In situations where the tropical Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures are near-normal, there is little guidance from statistical and dynamical models for seasonal prediction over the eastern seaboard.

Recent Activities and Visitors

Select Activities

  • Presentations for Earth Day Celebrations at Lacy Elementary, Raleigh, NC, April 25, Ryan Boyles and Tiffanee Jones
  • NC State Listens Forum, Kenansville, NC, May 12, Sethu Raman and Ryan Boyles
  • Sponsor for AMS Regional Conference on the Inland effects of Tropical Weather Systems, Raleigh, NC May 12-13, Sethu Raman, Ryan Boyles, Robb Ellis, Peter Childs
  • NC Climate Change Education Cooperative Meeting, Durham, NC, May 13, Ryan Boyles
  • NC Fire Weather workshop, Kinston, NC, May 20-21, Ryan Boyles
  • Drought Monitoring Council, Raleigh, NC, May 22, Ryan Boyles
  • UNC Disaster Institute Workshop, Greenville, NC, May 22, Ryan Boyles, U.C. Mohanty
  • NC Division of Air Quality Data Workshop, Raleigh, NC, May 23, Ryan Boyles
  • Centennial Campus Middle School Awards Ceremony, Raleigh, NC, May 29, Ryan Boyles
  • Presentations to EcoFest at Washington Elementary, Raleigh, NC, May 30, Ryan Boyles
  • Guest presenter, NWS SkyWarn Ham Radio Call-in, Raleigh, NC, June 17, Ryan Boyles
  • NC Emergency Management Natural Hazards Clinic, Chapel Hill, NC, June 19, Ryan Boyles
  • Presentation to American Society of Civil Engineers chapter meeting, RTP, NC, July 17, Ryan Boyles
  • NC Emergency Management Natural Hazards Meeting, Raleigh, NC, July 21, Ryan Boyles
  • Research meetings to determine Chronic Rainfall amounts, Raleigh, NC, July – August, Ryan Boyles, Bill Hunt (Statistics)
  • Annual Agricultural Research Station Superintendents Meeting, Winston-Salem, NC, July 30 – August 1, Sethu Raman, Ryan Boyles, Ameenulla Syed, Peter Childs
  • American Association of State Climatologist Annual Meeting, Portland, OR, August 5-10, Sethu Raman, Ryan Boyles
  • NC Climate Change Education Cooperative Meeting, Raleigh, NC, August 28, Ryan Boyles
  • NC CRONOS Climate Database Inauguration, Raleigh, NC, September 12
  • National Weather Service Eastern Region Climate Services Workshop, Raleigh, NC, September 16-17, Ryan Boyles
  • Media interviews with NPR, NBC, ABC, radio, newspapers, September 14-18, Peter Childs, Ryan Boyles, Robb Ellis, Mark Brooks, Sethu Raman
  • Emergency Operations Center weather support, September 17-18, Matt Simpson, Robb Ellis, Mark Brooks, Kelly Mahoney


  • NCSU SATELLITE participants, May 16
  • NCSU Encore! Continuing Education group, May 19
  • Professor U.C. Mohanty, Center for Atmospheric Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, May-June
  • NCSU Science House EnviroTech student group, June 25
  • Ann Treibert, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, July 1
  • Dr. Steve Leath, Interim Director, NC Agricultural Research Service, July 15
  • NC Museum of Natural Sciences youth science camp, July 16 & 23
  • Dr. Teddy Holt, Naval Research Laboratory, Monterrey, CA, September 15-19

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