Spring 2006

NCSU Seal North Carolina ClimateSCO Seal

A Newsletter of the State Climate Office of North Carolina

A Public Service Center for
Climate-Environment Interactions

Spring 2006

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In This Issue...

Guest Contributor...

Bob Holman
Environmental Operations Engineer, North Carolina Department of Transportation

A Multi-sensor Precipitation Estimate (MPE) Website was developed by the State Climate Office for the North Carolina Department of Transportation's (NCDOT) Highway Stormwater Program. This effort is in response to a general requirement in the North Carolina Stormwater NPDES Permit for rainfall monitoring. We are concerned with maintaining erosion control best management practices after a 1/2 inch or greater rainfall event. The monitoring of these rainfall events can easily be handled at large road construction sites with rain gages that staff and contractors can check daily because of the number of individuals on-site. However, with smaller construction projects, such as secondary road box culvert replacement, staff and contractors would not be on-site daily. Therefore checking rain gages would become a logistical problem with the large number of small active projects across the State.

The NCDOT Roadside Environmental Field Operations Engineers will utilize the new website daily. These engineers monitor all NCDOT's erosion control devices to ensure they are constructed and maintained properly during the life of a road project. The website will help them schedule which sites need visiting based on automated email messages alerting them to recent rainfall events. In addition, the Resident Engineers will use this website to direct staff and contractors to construction sites that need visiting after a 1/2 inch rainfall event to determine if the erosion control practices are still functioning properly. The website can also be used by the Resident Engineer to check the forecast for a certain construction site and determine if additional erosion control measures are needed before a predicted heavy rainfall event occurs.

NCDOT will utilize the MPE Website to: review past rainfall amounts over a certain period of time in order to resolve weather related delay claims by contractors; monitor multiple sites on very large projects that are several miles long; follow large weather fronts in order to prepare the construction site for adverse weather conditions that are forecasted; track rainfall data in remote locations where staff is not continuously on-site; and alert water quality monitoring crews and researchers of rainfall amounts at certain project locations. The website also serves as a means of obtaining and keeping accurate rainfall data, as well as a means of receiving email alerts when a particular site has reached a pre-defined rainfall threshold.

From the State Climatologist

Sethu Raman In this newsletter, we provide information on many research and outreach projects in progress at the SCO. They include NC climate variation, current drought conditions in the state, update on weather-based crop management tool development, deployment of a new ECONet station at NC A&T university, Greensboro, water resources data base, MPE (multisensor precipitation estimate) data base, and data quality control. We continued the CCMS ( Centennial School Middle School ) internship program for the fourth year. Four students, Brad Stackhouse and Alex Vail of 7 th grade and Rob Collis and Melissa Gregory of 8 th grade participated.

Several graduate students in the SCO expect to graduate this spring and summer. They are Matthew Simpson and Ryan Boyles with Ph.D. and Matthew Borkowski with M.S. degree. Undergraduate students Kate Horgan, Michael Diaz, Brandon Inge, Jenna Schlobohm, and Jared Vander Duim worked in the SCO this semester.

We welcome Douglas Hoell Jr., Director, NC Emergency Management Division to the SCO Advisory Committee. The annual board meeting is scheduled for May 19, 2006.

It has been a great experience working with my young colleagues and (30 undergraduate and 20 graduate) students in the State Climate Office of NC for the past 10 years. Their enthusiasm for public service and tireless work are the reasons that made this State Climate Office to become one of the best in the nation.

At the service of North Carolina,
Signature of Sethu Raman
Sethu Raman
State Climatologist and Director

NC Climate Change
Contributed by Ashley Frazier, Staff Meteorologist

Ashley Frazier Global warming has been a big topic of debate over the past decade. Has human activity, specifically the production of carbon dioxide, contributed to the rise in temperatures over the past century? Or is the earth's recent warming simply a part of a natural cycle? With so much hype involving this global warming controversy, we're left with one inevitable question: how has North Carolina 's climate changed over the past 100 years?

To research this issue, temperature as well as precipitation data were used from nine National Weather Service Cooperative stations across the state. These stations are part of the U.S. Historical Climate Network, as they have relatively complete datasets, and fairly extensive periods of record (of the order of 100 years). In addition, they were chosen to represent the three main climate regions of North Carolina : mountains, piedmont, and coast.

Graphs of Temperature and Precipitation One of the most noteworthy temperature trends was seen in the coastal station, Elizabeth City , which showed an overall increase in temperatures of about 3.17 degrees Fahrenheit from 1911 through 2002. (See graph 1). In fact, temperatures seemed to increase significantly across the board in the coastal and piedmont regions. However, the mountain stations showed only slightly increasing, and some even decreasing trends.

The greatest precipitation change was observed at the piedmont station in Chapel Hill. From 1893 through 2002, this station showed a decrease in precipitation of about 4.1 inches (See graph 2).

Annual rainfall amounts for the other piedmont stations also decreased, with the largest decreases seen in central and north central NC. Coastal stations also exhibited this precipitation decrease. However, mountain precipitation seemed to increase over each station's period of record.

These results suggest the coastal and piedmont regions of North Carolina are warming and drying out, while the mountain region is becoming cooler and wetter. However, more analysis is needed to determine if these observed trends accurately depict overall climate change in NC, or simply show local climate changes. Increasing station density in North Carolina is one way to further monitor atmospheric conditions, and get a better idea of weather and climate changes across the state. The North Carolina Environment and Climate Observing Network (NC ECONet) in its full development will help to establish such station density by providing at least one station in each county across NC.

In addition to the standard observations of temperature, precipitation, and wind, NC ECONet sites provide unique measurements of soil temperature, soil moisture, solar radiation, and evapotranspiration. Such parameters often result in small scale changes at the surface, which in turn can affect weather at larger scales. Thus, a state-of-the-art network like the NC ECONet is critical to fully understand any climate changes North Carolina may or may not be facing.

NC Water Resource Database to Provide Real-time Water Information
Contributed by Ryan Boyles, Associate State Climatologist

Water Mapserver The State Climate Office is working on a test release of a new water resource database. Supported by the NC DENR Division of Water Resources, this web-based database provides interactive mapping and data lookup of water resource information over the Carolinas using data from the US Geological Survey, the DENR Division of Water Resources, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and others. The database combines historical and real-time stream flow, groundwater, reservoir, and precipitation observations into a common, intuitive interface. This tool will be publicly available to provide users with current and historical data as well as drought and flood monitoring capabilities. The SCO expects a preliminary release of the web-enabled database in late May.

NC ECONet Station
Contributed by Ameenula Syed, Instrumentation Meteorologist / ECONet Manager

Ameen Syed A new station has been added to the Environmental and Climate Observing Network (ECONet). The new station was deployed in Greensboro, NC, at North Carolina A&T University. Data from this new station is available online via the NC CRONOS Database, including multi-level soil moisture and temperature. Shown to the right is the new station. A schematic of the tower components is shown below.

NC ECONet Schematic

A - all season rain gauge
T - tower section
P - PAR & SR
S - solar panel
E - electronics enclosure
R - 2 meter temperature and RH (also at 10 meters)
W - 2 meter winds (also at 10 meters)
G - ET gauge
J - phone jack
L - soil moisture and temperature profilers at six levels

NC A&T station, Greensboro, NC (direct data link)

Centennial Campus Middle School interns help study climate changes in NC

2005-2006 CCMS StudentsAs part of our 4-year collaboration with Centennial Campus Middle School, the State Climate Office once again hosted four students as part of our mission to support education. Rob Collis (8th grade), Brad Stackhouse (7th grade), Alex Vail (7th grade), and Melissa Gregory (8th grade) worked with SCO staff during the 2005-2006 academic year to learn more about changes in temperature and precipitation patterns over NC during the past 100 years. Through their research, they concluded that minimum temperatures had generally increased and that precipitation had increased in some areas. Alex Vail and Melissa Gregory won a First Place award in the CCMS Science Fair, with Rob and Brad as a close runner-up. Details of their studies are available under the Education section of the SCO website.

Pictured above: CCMS students from left to right are Brad Stackhouse (7th grade), Rob Collis (8th grade), Alex Vail (7th grade), and Melissa Gregory (8th grade).

Decision Support for Peanut Growers
Contributed by Mark Brooks, Environmental Meteorologist

Mark Brooks The primary mission of the State Climate Office is Extension, and one objective is to assist other extension scientists by integrating climate data into agricultural and environmental models. Last year, the SCO worked with faculty to develop automated, daily peanut disease advisories. These advisories were then e-mailed to county extension agents and other interested parties. The peanut advisories use data from the ECONet (a weather monitoring network maintained by the SCO) combined with weather modeling capabilities. In May, we will again start disseminating daily peanut disease advisories.

Disease prevention is an integral part of any 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.

The State Climate Office remains committed to developing decision support tools for crop management. We plan to launch a comprehensive agricultural website later this spring. Other crops, such as turf grass, will be highlighted as part of the agricultural weather site.

Quality Control of Surface Weather Observations
Contributed by Aaron Sims, Environmental Meteorologist

Aaron Sims The SCO is employing a multi-faceted approach for developing new and improved quality assurance and quality control (QAQC) procedures for ECONet data and the NC CRONOS database. These techniques will improve monitoring of input data streams and the flagging of suspect data. We plan to implement a new data-range checking algorithm based on the climatology of each station this Spring. Other procedures to follow include a "buddy check", comparing a station's parameters to conditions of other nearby stations, and temporal checks, to show temporal consistency for multiple parameters at each station. Also, a new interactive trouble ticket system being developed will alert, log, and archive routine station service and maintenance procedures as well as address sensor malfunctions and replacement protocols.

Drought Threatens NC Again; Summer Outlook not Hopeful
Contributed by Ryan Boyles, Associate State Climatologist

Ryan Boyles With a dry winter and record low rainfalls during the spring, North Carolina is once again faced with drought conditions. Parts of central NC experienced drought during the late summer and fall of 2005. With cooler temperatures and regular winter rainfalls, conditions moderated during December. However, the upper Neuse River basin did not experience all the needed rainfall, and stayed in moderate drought through the winter.

Since February, conditions across the state have been near record dry conditions for this time of year. Forest and brush fires have occurred at a much higher rate than normal, and water resources have decreased. Streamflow and groundwater levels have dropped during the spring - a time when we normally expect conditions to be at their highest levels for the year. Water inflows to Jordan and Falls Reservoirs approached near record lows in March 2006. Reservoirs are near normal levels for this time of year due to control efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers and other reservoir managers. Water supply managers are gearing up now to conserve as much water as possible to extend water supplies through the summer.

The outlook for summer precipitation is not hopeful. Guidance from the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center suggests equal chances that the southeastern US could be dry over the next 2-3 months. Without regular and substantial rainfall, central North Carolina could experience water supply problems this summer. Water supply conditions in the summer of 2006 could become as bad, or worse, than those experienced in 2002. An active tropical storm season is predicted with 17 named storms forecasted, and NC may experience higher precipitation amounts associated with tropical storms in the late summer and autumn - hopefully without damaging winds and floods. Although the tropical storm season of 2005 was the most active on record, storms generally did not affect NC and did not bring much rainfall to central parts of the state.

The NC Drought Management Advisory Council has called on all water users in affected areas to monitor water supplies closely, to review their Water Shortage Response Plans, and implement the Plans if necessary. As a member of the Drought Management Advisory Council, the State Climate Office will continue to monitor conditions across North Carolina using the best tools available.

Drought Monitor

Recent Climatological Conditions (Jan 1 - Mar 31, 2006)

Station 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 43.3 2.9 7.04 -5.44 56
Charlotte Airport 47.5 0.9 5.72 -6.22 48
Chapel Hill 46.2 3.2 6.52 -5.99 52
Clayton 45.3 1.4 4.86 -7.18 40
Concord 47.5 3.1 5.25 -6.97 43
Elizabeth City 46.3 0.3 4.64 -7.71 38
Fayetteville 48.0 1.9 4.73 -7.24 40
Greensboro Airport 46.9 4.1 4.87 -5.62 46
Hickory Airport 46.6 2.8 6.12 -6.90 47
Kinston 47.9 2.3 7.76 -4.36 64
Lincolnton 46.9 2.2 6.25 -6.67 48
Morganton 44.9 3.0 5.14 -8.28 38
Mount Mitchell 29.9 0.9 12.88 -7.46 63
New Bern Airport 49.1 1.0 6.27 -6.79 48
Raleigh/Durham Airport 47.7 3.2 4.97 -6.55 43
Waynesville 40.8 2.0 9.12 -5.28 63
Wilmington Airport 50.8 0.8 6.51 -5.89 53

Summer Climate Outlook

Provided by National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center

Temperature Outlook

May 2006 through July 2006 Temperature Outlook

May 2006 - July 2006 Temperature Outlook
Precipitation Outlook

May 2006 through July 2006 Precipitation Outlook

May 2006 - July 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 oceanic and atmospheric indicators in the tropical Pacific remain consistent with weakening La Niña conditions. The temperature outlook for this summer calls for warmer than normal conditions across the South. The precipitation outlook suggests equal chances of wetter-than, drier-than, or near-median for North Carolina this summer. This outlook is from the Climate Prediction Center and is based on a multi-model ensemble as well as various statistical tools.

Recent Activities and Visitors

Select Activities

  • Presentation to Wake Tech Community College , September 27, 2005, Raleigh , Ryan Boyles
  • Drought Management Advisory Council Meeting, October 5, 2005, Raleigh, Ryan Boyles
  • Presentation on Severe Weather and Emergencies to Chatham County , October 15, 2005, Goldston , NC , Ryan Boyles
  • "Thunderous Technology" program for Pines of Carolina Girl Scout Council, October 5, 2005, Raleigh, Ryan Boyles, Ashley Frazier, Kate Horgan, and Suzanne Schwab.
  • Presentation on Smoke Plume Modeling, NC Forest Service Fire Partners, November 10, 2005, New Bern , NC , Ryan Boyles
  • ECONet site survey, December 7, 2005, Anson and Richmond Counties , Ryan Boyles and Ameenulla Syed
  • ECONet site survey, January 19, 2006, NC A&T SU Research Farm, Ryan Boyles, Aaron Sims, and Ameenulla Syed
  • SCO/NWS Cooperative Observer modernization planning meeting, January 26, 2006, Raleigh
  • AMS Annual Meeting, January 29 - February 3, 2006, Atlanta , GA , Ryan Boyles, Mark Brooks, and Sethu Raman
  • International Conference on Mesoscale Processes, February 13-17, New Delhi , India , Sethu Raman
  • Seminar to National Institute of Ocean Technology, February, 23, 2006, Chennai , India , Sethu Raman
  • Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change, March 7, April 4, April 25, 2006, Sethu Raman
  • Interview on Lightning, WTVD-TV, March 9, 2006, Ryan Boyles
  • Seminar to NCSU Department of Horticulture Science, March 13, 2006, Mark Brooks, Sethu Raman
  • Seminar to NCSU Department of Crop Science, March 16, 2006, Mark Brooks
  • Wind site survey, Grandfather Mountain , Linville , NC , March 23, 2006, Ryan Boyles
  • Seminar Department of Mathematics, NCSU, March 31, 2006, Sethu Raman
  • Seminar to Marine Sciences Program, UNC-CH, April, 5, 2006, Chapel Hill , Sethu Raman


  • Girl Scout Troop from Alamance County , October 27, 2006
  • NC DataStreme / WES program, December 3, 2006
  • Jamie Rhome, National Hurricane Center , February 24, 2006
  • Dr. Charles Peacock and Dr. Art B., NCSU Department of Crop Science, March 30, 2006
  • Professor Jerry Whitten, NCSU, April 12, 2006
  • Professor M.P. Singh, Director, Ansel Institute of Technology , India , April 12, 2006
  • Dr. Lane Tredway, NCSU Department of Crop Science, April 21, 2006

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