Fall 2005

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 2005

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In This Issue...

Guest Contributor...

Barbara Shew
Professor, Department of Plant Pathology, NC State University

Barbara Shew North Carolina is the fourth largest peanut producing state in the country. Peanuts are grown on about 100,000 acres in North Carolina and production was worth more than $77 million in 2004.

Peanut diseases impose significant costs on peanut farmers. Left uncontrolled, they can cause yield losses of 35% to 50% in a typical growing season. To control diseases and reduce losses, growers routinely apply fungicides. When leaf spot fungicides are used according to a calendar-based schedule, six to eight sprays are applied per season at a cost of $7 to $20 per acre sprayed. Sclerotinia blight control is even more expensive, requiring two or three applications of fungicides that cost $30 to $40 per acre.

Weather-based disease advisories take advantage of the close relationships between disease outbreaks and weather by allowing growers to skip or delay fungicide sprays during periods that are unfavorable for disease development. Weather-based disease advisories identify periods when there is little risk of disease because conditions are too dry, hot, or cool for infection.

Depending on the weather during a given year, more than $1 million can be saved annually in North Carolina by use of leaf spot advisories. Eliminating unnecessary fungicide sprays also saves fuel, reduces vine damage, and prevents spider mite problems caused by excess fungicide use.

Peanut disease advisories were first developed in 1981 by Dr. Jack Bailey in the Department of Plant Pathology at NC State. Early versions depended on hygrothermographs placed in individual growers' fields for weather data. Disease advisory models, monitoring hardware, and computer software improved over the years, but maintaining and upgrading these systems was a continual challenge. The need for an advisory system that is accurate, relatively inexpensive, sustainable, and easy to use was clear.

To address this challenge, we turned to the State Climate Office of North Carolina. The Climate Office's web site provides internet access to real-time, hourly data from a network of over 200 weather stations throughout North Carolina . In the summers of 2003 and 2004, we began to issue disease advisories based observations from AgNet stations located in Rocky Mount, Lewiston, Whiteville, Plymouth, Williamston, and Kinston. Data were downloaded daily into spreadsheets, disease models were applied, and advisories were delivered to county agents via email.

In the summer of 2005, we began to work closely with Mark Brooks, Aaron Sims, Ryan Boyles, Adam Baker and Sethu Raman at the State Climate Office to extend the delivery of disease advisories to all peanut growing areas of North Carolina . They programmed weather data downloads, disease advisory algorithms, and automated advisory delivery by e-mail. These disease advisories also include growing degree days, interpretive information, and statistics that help the user verify the accuracy and timeliness of advisories. Since real-time reporting of weather data is critical for accurate disease advisories, the State Climate Office staff upgraded their systems to minimize data interruptions, providing timely advisories throughout the summer.

Through the efforts of the staff at the State Climate Office, peanut disease advisories were available for 13 locations in 2005. The leaf spot advisory saved one or two fungicide sprays in most locations.

In the future, the State Climate Office hopes to include more locations and to make advisories accessible on their web site. In addition, our cooperation with the State Climate Office has provided a foundation for developing similar advisory delivery systems for apples, grapes and many other economically important crops. As seen from our experience with peanut disease advisories, the cooperative spirit and expertise of the State Climate Office personnel, and the network of weather stations they maintain, is an outstanding resource for agriculture in North Carolina.

From the State Climatologist...

We had one of the busiest research and outreach activities this summer. The SCO hosted six undergraduate students, three meteorologists (students who graduated in May 2005), and five graduate students. Participating graduate students were: Mathew Simpson (air quality), Maggie Puryear (evapotranspiration), Becky Eager (sea breeze circulations), Aneela Qureshi (convection initiation) and Mathew Borkowski (winter storms). Undergraduate students were: Suzanne Schwab and Sherry Pugh (MPE data analysis), Josh Hemperly and Trey Emmons (climate data analysis), Robb Ellis (database development), and Adam Baker (web development). Meteorologists: Chris Holder (climate data analysis), Ashley Queen (Sandhills convection), Ashley Frazier (model evaluation). We welcome undergraduate students working in the SCO this semester: Robb Ellis, Kate Horgan, Suzanne Schwab, Michael Diaz, Jenna Schlobohm, Brandon Inge, and Trey Emmons.

Neil Jacobs (winter storm climatology) graduated with PhD degree in May. Becky Eager and Maggie Puryear graduated with M.S. degrees in the summer. Twelve scientific papers were presented by the students and staff at the American Meteorological Society Conferences on Applied Meteorology and Instrumentation in Savannah, GA, in June.

Using the North Carolina Climate Retrieval and Observation Network of the Southeast (NC CRONOS) Database, we have developed weather-based crop management tools for use by North Carolina farmers for peanut crop. We are now developing such tools for other crops. A high resolution real time experimental weather forecasting model developed by the SCO makes this tool available in a forecast mode up to 72 hours. SCO staff helped the NC Emergency management division during Hurricane Ophelia event. One more automated weather station was installed this month in Boone in collaboration with Appalachian State University bringing the total NC ECONet stations to 28. SCO continues to partner with the North Carolina Division of Water Resources, Division of Air Quality, and Department of Transportation on several projects critical for the state. More on these projects in the Spring Newsletter.

At the service of North Carolina,

Signature of Sethu Raman
Sethu Raman
State Climatologist and Director

Decision Support Tools for Crop Management
Contributed by Mark Brooks and Aaron Sims

Crops Agriculture is one of the top ten revenue-producing industries in North Carolina accounting for 22 percent of the state's income and employing over 18 percent of the workforce.

Using the ECONet (a weather monitoring network maintained by the SCO) combined with modeling capabilities, the State Climate Office of North Carolina is developing decision-support tools for the agricultural community.

Disease prevention is an integral part of crop management. Appropriately timed chemical applications can mitigate yield losses by preventing disease onset, but should only be used when environmental conditions favor disease development. Over-application can exacerbate non-target problems.

Other Crops This summer, we began working closely with Dr. Barbara Shew (NCSU Department of Plant Pathology and our guest contributor in this newsletter). The goal is to identify periods of time when fungicide protection is needed for peanut crops based on recent weather conditions, which are collected by the NC ECONet stations and are available through the NC CRONOS Database at the State Climate Office of North Carolina. Based on published algorithms, daily advisories for multiple sites are calculated and distributed to growers.

Model Images of Peanut Leaf Spot Additional tools include use of high resolution numerical weather forecast models. Forecasts from these models will blend with existing data from ECONet stations to provide information in locations where observations are not available. We also plan to launch a comprehensive website focused on weather-based tools for North Carolina agriculture using our NC CRONOS Database. This new site will offer interdisciplinary products such as the peanut disease advisories.

With extension being a focal point in the State Climate Office mission, innovative products valuable to the agricultural community are being developed. We are looking forward to working with researchers, growers and county extension agents. Please contact our office if you're interested in collaborating with us.

NC ECONet Update

BOON ECONet station One new station has been added to the Environmental and Climate Observing Network (ECONet). The new station was deployed in Boone , NC , in September in collaboration with Appalachian State University. Data from this new station is now available online via the NC CRONOS Database. Shown to the right are Ameenulla Syed and Aaron Sims completing the installation of sensors. The inset photo is the entire tower fully deployed.

All eighteen AgNet stations have been upgraded with evapotranspiration (ET) sensors. ET is a measure of the loss of water through evaporation from the soil and plant transpiration.

Ameenulla Syed, the SCO's Instrumentation Meteorologist, developed a prototype of a rain-gauge cleaning device. At predefined intervals throughout a week, the device rapidly oscillates inside the funnel of the rain-gauge to remove clogging debris. The "AutoClean" is installed at four stations and has been functioning well. Pending more testing, plans will be made to install it at additional stations.

Additional upgrades to existing stations are being considered. Such upgrades would include second level winds, temperature, relative humidity, and multi-level soil moisture measurements. These valuable improvements will provide enhanced data at the stations and will be implemented when funds are identified.

Boone AgNet station (direct link to data retrieval)

Hurricane Ophelia
Contributed by Kate Horgan

Hurricane Ophelia On the 6th of September 2005, the 15th named storm of the year, Tropical Storm Ophelia, formed near Grand Bahama Island. Two days later, it was upgraded to a Category 1 Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with winds near 75 mph and a central pressure of 985 mb. The Saffir-Simpson Scale measures hurricane intensity by the highest sustained wind speed, and is used to give an estimate of potential flooding and damage. Category 1 hurricanes are characterized with winds of 74-95 mph. Hurricane Ophelia drifted northward off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina for the next week.

On Tuesday, September 13th, Ophelia seemed to be heading straight for a landfall between Wilmington and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Mandatory evacuations were issued for several counties in North Carolina and all tourists were ordered to leave.

On September 14th, Hurricane Ophelia brushed the North Carolina coast with sustained winds around 90 mph. The highest gust reported from Ophelia was 84 mph at Bald Head Island . Although winds were strong, the primary concern was from flooding as it looked as though the eye of Ophelia would remain offshore. Ophelia produced 8 to 18 inches of rainfall in Wilmington and surrounding areas. The storm meandered off the coast for a couple of days before lifting off to the northeast after being downgraded to a tropical storm.

Preliminary damage estimates range from $19 to $34 million in the coastal counties of North Carolina . With Ophelia's heavy rains and persistent winds, North Carolina 's crops seem to have been hardest hit. Crop damage estimates across Eastern North Carolina are estimated at $19 million alone. Hundreds of businesses and homes also took a heavy hit, especially in Onslow , New Brunswick , and New Hanover counties. Topsail beach also saw heavy erosion due to Hurricane Ophelia. Although this hurricane season has seen multiple major hurricanes (Category 3 and above), North Carolina has escaped thus far with minimal damage as compared to the Gulf Coast region, which has been devastated by both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

As before, SCO staff provided assistance to the NC Division of Emergency Management during this storm event.

2005 Hurricane Season - A Look at the Numbers

In May, the Climate Prediction Center (part of NOAA) issued their Atlantic hurricane outlook. A 70% chance of an above-normal hurricane season was expected. The outlook called for 12-15 name storms; 7-9 of which becoming hurricanes and 3-5 of these becoming major hurricanes. This was a continuation of above-normal activity that began in 1995. This outlook reflected an expected continuation of warm sea surface temperatures and ENSO-neutral conditions during the peak hurricane season months (August-October).

In August, this outlook was revised to include 18-21 tropical storms (the mean is 10), with 9-11 becoming hurricanes (mean is 6) and 5-7 of these becoming major hurricanes (mean is 2-3). Historically, seasons with above-normal levels of overall activity have averaged 2-3 U.S. hurricane landfalls and 1-2 landfalls in the region around the Caribbean Sea during August-November.

Recent Climatological Conditions (May 1 - Aug 31)


Average Daily Mean Temperature (F) Departure from Normal of Daily Mean Temperature (F) Total Precipitation Reported (in) Departure from Normal Precipitation (in) Percent of Normal Precipitation
Asheville Airport 69.6 0.6 27.71 10.74 163
Boone 65.5 1.9 20.70 1.73 109
Cape Hatteras 75.2 0.2 32.83 13.58 171
Charlotte Airport 74.6 -1.6 15.67 1.08 107
Clayton 74.0 -0.9 17.05 0.41 102
Elizabeth City 74.1 -0.7 20.26 2.55 114
Fletcher 69.0 0.9 30.63 11.70 162
Greensboro Airport 74.4 1.0 12.92 -2.71 83
Kinston 75.2 0.4 18.34 -1.90 91
Lincolnton 73.1 -0.6 21.17 4.86 130
Morganton 72.3 0.0 19.39 2.51 115
New Bern Airport 75.6 -0.1 19.57 -2.74 88
Raleigh/Durham Airport 75.9 1.5 15.11 -0.17 99
Salisbury 72.0 -1.0 15.18 1.28 109
Tarboro 75.1 1.1 14.95 -1.77 89
Waynesville 67.5 1.2 21.58 5.42 134
Whiteville 76.8 0.0 13.12 -7.40 64
Wilmington Airport 76.7 -0.3 27.14 2.45 110

Winter Climate Outlook

Provided by National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center

Temperature Outlook

December 2005 through February 2006 Temperature Outlook

December 2005 - February 2006 Temperature Outlook
Precipitation Outlook

December 2005 through February 2006 Precipitation Outlook

December 2005 - February 2006 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

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center's outlook for the upcoming winter provides little guidance for temperature and precipitation amounts. For North Carolina, there are equal chances of above-normal, normal, and below-normal conditions. CPC uses a combination of statistical and dynamical models to produce seasonal climate outlooks. Current observations indicate that neutral ENSO conditions will prevail through Spring 2006.

Recent Activities and Visitors

Select Activities

  • NOAA Data Users Workshop, May 11-13, Asheville, NC, Ryan Boyles, Peter Robinson
  • SCO Advisory Board Meeting, May 18, Raleigh
  • Centennial Campus Middle School Awards Ceremony, May 26, Raleigh , Ryan Boyles
  • 15th AMS Conference on Applied Meteorology and 11th AMS Symposium on Meteorological Observations and Instrumentation, June 20-23, Savannah, GA, Matt Simpson, Becky Eager, Aneela Qureshi, Maggie Puryear, Chris Holder, Suzanne Schwab, Robb Ellis, Mark Brooks, Aaron Sims, Ameenulla Syed, Ryan Boyles, Sethu Raman
  • Annual Meeting of the American Association of State Climatologists, Savannah, GA, June 23-24, Aaron Sims, Ryan Boyles, Sethu Raman
  • MSNBC-TV interview on Hurricane Dennis, July 10, Sethu Raman
  • Presentation on Climate Change and Hurricanes to DENR Library, Raleigh , July 12, Ryan Boyles
  • GMU Conference on Atmospheric Tropics and Diffusion, GMU , VA , July 18-19, Becky Eager, Matt Simpson, Sethu Raman
  • Agriculture Research Station annual meeting, Asheville , July 20-22, Mark Brooks, Aaron Sims, Ameenulla Syed, Sethu Raman
  • Presentation on Climate Change and Hurricanes, Cameron Village Library, Raleigh, July 20, Ryan Boyles
  • NBC-17 News panel on Climate Change, July 24, Ryan Boyles
  • Fire Weather meeting for DENR Forest Resources, Kinston , July 28, Ryan Boyles
  • Annual student presentations to PAMS Deans, July 29
  • Interviews for WUNC's "Exploring NC", August 4, Ryan Boyles
  • WUNC-TV interview on Hurricane Ophelia, September 13, Sethu Raman
  • Installation of ECONet station at Boone , NC , September 16, Ameenulla Syed, Aaron Sims
  • FoxNews TV interview on Hurricanes and Global Climate Change, September 22, Sethu Raman
  • Open/NET live TV panel on drought in NC, Raleigh , September 27, Ryan Boyles


  • Dr. Barabara Shew, NCSU Plant Pathology, May 20
  • Rob Gilliam, EPA/NOAA, May 26
  • CESE Science Camp, June 9
  • EnviroTech Science Camp, June 28
  • Marty Zaluski, NCDA Emergency Programs, July 1
  • Tom Fransen & Charles Theobald, DENR Water Resources, July 13
  • Margit Bucher, Nature Conservancy, August 22
  • Stephanie Fauver, NOAA Coastal Services Center , August 25
  • Dr. Ted Yamada, YSI, September 21
  • Steven Berkowitz and Tim Crissman, DENR Environmental Health, September 21
  • David Winwood, Director of Centennial Campus Development

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