August 2012 Climate Update

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North Carolina Climate, the monthly newsletter of the State Climate Office of NC, covers the SCO's participation in this year's IARC Summer School, brief descriptions of summer projects worked on by undergraduate students, ECONet updates, and a monthly climate summary for July with impacts across the state.


IARC Summer School

Canwell Glacier, Alaska Range
Sean Heuser and Adrienne Wootten attended the 2012 International Arctic Research Center (IARC) Summer School on Climate System Modeling: Downscaling Techniques and Practical Applications from July 16 through July 27. The summer school program, hosted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and sponsored by the Alaska Climate Service Center, gathered young scientists from multiple disciplines from across the United States and internationally. The goal of this project was to consider the practical applications and challenges of climate modeling in the Arctic that also apply to other regions and discuss the challenges associated with communication of climate modeling efforts.

Students in the 2012 IARC Summer School at Mccallum Glacier
As part of the summer school, the students took field trips and site visits to multiple locations, where they learned about the Alaskan ecosystems and glaciers, which helped them further their understanding of the complexity associated with capturing these features in climate models. These trips included permafrost measurement site visits, the Canwell and Mccallum glaciers in the Alaska Range, and the Army Corps of Engineers Permafrost Tunnel. Sean and Adrienne also participated in group projects with the other students, which involved evaluating the techniques used to measure air temperature, soil temperature, and soil moisture, as well as to evaluate regional modeling results used to predict the same parameters for different locations in the state of Alaska.

The course was meant to focus on the applications of observations and global and regional model data to the local and regional needs of stakeholders. Sean and Adrienne returned to the State Climate Office with an increased understanding of the complexities of communicating the results of climate modeling efforts to all sectors, particularly stakeholders in hydrology and ecosystem management.


Undergraduate Summer Projects

The SCO is proud to have 6 undergraduate students working for the office this summer. Below you will find brief descriptions regarding the work each student has focused on over the past couple of months.

Colin Craig
Colin's tasks this summer include writing Python scripts that extract data from vector and raster layers, which are then used to update station metadata in CRONOS. Such updated metadata includes hydrology, soil texture, closest city, county, and climate divisions. Additionally he has worked on a turf grass disease risk assessment tool along with Corey Davis. This tool utilizes a combination of past climate data obtained from the CRONOS database, forecasted variables obtained from the NOAA National Digital Forecast Database, and the NC SCO in-house 4km WRF model. The tool then assesses the risk for various turf cultivars based on predetermined thresholds.

Geneva Ely
Geneva has created a flexible moderation system to be used for internal purposes at the State Climate Office and on other webpages the SCO manages. Currently, Geneva is working to integrate her system into the new data verification system in development by the staff here at the SCO. This system will be used to improve speed and accuracy of our quality control protocol, and will verify QC flags before permanent implementation.

Torrey Feldman
Torrey is currently working on a web tool for updating the existing tornadoes maps on the SCO website. This tool will enable users to set a radius from their location of interest to view all tornadoes that have touched down within that given distance, as well as their path lengths during select months and years. The user will also be able to view the number of tornadoes that have touched down in any of North Carolina's 100 counties.

James McClellan
James is currently developing a web interface that will allow users to view mapped estimates of monthly average temperatures and total precipitation across the state of North Carolina. When released, this product will also allow users to view mapped estimates for the departure from normal for temperatures and precipitation across the state.

Charles O'Connell
Charles began his summer reviewing the climate education modules to ensure they would be better understood by their target audiences. In early June, he started work on a tool to benefit the Pine Integrated Network: Education, Mitigation and Adaption Project (PINEMAP). For this project, Charles is working to expand the Climate Division Data tool from North Carolina to encompass the entire Southeast and beyond, which will include an option to compare data from different climate divisions on the same graph. He continues to review the climate education modules, which are currently being adapted for the forestry sector.

Joseph Taylor
Joseph is currently writing a manuscript for his research on predicting observed soil moisture using statistical modeling. The model will be used as a soil moisture quality control method at all the ECONet stations that measure soil moisture. He presented his research at the undergraduate research symposium on August 1st. He is also working on improving a Freeze Risk tool currently in development by incorporating a Growing Degree Day tool which outputs the growing degree day accumulation percentiles.


ECONet Updates

As part of our partnership with the NC Forest Service, additional wind sensors are currently being installed at 6 meter heights to meet the needs of the National Fire Danger Rating System. These new sensors will also be used in quality control procedures for wind measurements at 10meter and 2meter heights. We are also installing new, more accurate and robust precipitation gauges at all of our sites to help capture more accurate readings of precipitation. These new gauges measure heavy precipitation more accurately and are much less prone to clogging. As of August 1, 18 of our 37 ECONet stations have been fully upgraded. Full implementation of our new instruments is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.


Climate Summary for July: It feels like a jungle out there!

Temperature and Precipitation by climate division
Departures from Normal for July 2012
Based on Preliminary Data
Temperature and Precipitation Departures from Normal

July 2012 was hot and wet in North Carolina, with nearly every monitoring station reporting above normal precipitation and temperatures that rank in the top 5 warmest on record for July. Overall, statewide average temperatures for July 2012 ranked as the 3rd warmest since 1895. The warmest July on record for North Carolina was in 1993.

Mean Temperature Rankings for July 2012
SERCC Climate Perspectives
Climate Perspectives

Precipitation was less extreme in July – most stations reported above normal precipitation, but these ranked as more typical for July. Statewide average precipitation ranked as the 41st wettest since 1895. The wettest July on record was in 1916, when NC experienced two tropical storms and set the all-time single station 24-hour maximum precipitation record for the state.

Despite general above-average rainfall, there were some areas – most notably the southern-most area of the Coastal Plain – that were dry in July. Storm paths in July largely missed Columbus, Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender counties.

Precipitation for July 2012
Based on estimates from NWS Radar; Data courtesy NWS/NCEP
MPE Precipitation

Precipitation for July 2012: Percent of Normal
Based on estimates from NWS Radar; Data courtesy NWS/NCEP
MPE Precipitation Percent of Normal

Local Storm Reports for July 2012
Preliminary Count of LSRs courtesy National Weather Service
LSR Summary


Impacts to Agriculture and Water Resources

Rainfall across most of the state improved drought conditions, but isolated reports from Cooperative Extension Agents suggest dry conditions in some areas are causing impacts to pastures and crops. Overall, drought conditions improved slightly during July. This is a welcome benefit for many growers especially as our neighbors in the Midwest and Plains deal with extreme drought.

US Drought Monitor for North Carolina
Courtesy NC DENR Division of Water Resources

Drought Monitor

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