November 2012 Climate Update

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North Carolina Climate, the monthly newsletter of the State Climate Office of NC, covers drought risk for new forests, the snow from Hurricane Sandy, and a monthly climate summary for October with impacts across the state.


Coming Soon – Monthly Newsletter to Transition to Online Blog

Instead of a routine monthly newsletter, we are going to start putting our climate updates and thoughts into an online blog. You’ll still get regular monthly climate summaries, but we’ll also be publishing more frequent tidbits of climate information and discussion. Our goal is to be more responsive to weather and climate events and not necessarily wait until the end of the month to push numbers, analysis, and our thoughts on climate in North Carolina. We’ll continue to send out notifications to all subscribers, but we’ll also post these via Twitter and as an RSS feed.


To Plant or Not to Plant? A Drought Risk Assessment for New Timber Stands

Photo of a loblolly pine seedling, courtesy of David Stephens,
Are you considering planting pine trees? Or, are you curious about some of the factors that influence planting of pine trees? If so, you are in luck! A new fact sheet about planting pines has been developed as the result of collaboration between the Pine Integrated Network: Education, Mitigation, and Adaptation Project (PINEMAP), Texas Forest Service, and Texas AgriLife Extension. Included is a short check list of things to consider before planting, such as:

  • Have you determined the best season to plant? Fall planting (mid-Oct to Nov) has lowest risk of loss, winter planting (Dec to mid-Feb) has moderate risk of loss, and spring planting (late-Feb to Apr 1) has highest risk of loss.
  • Have you assessed soil moisture conditions? Delay planting until winter if there is not enough moisture in the fall.
  • Have you checked the 3-month precipitation outlook? Risk of failure increases if the outlook indicates a greater than 25% chance of below average precipitation. Delay planting until next season if the 3-month outlook is not favorable.
  • Have you assessed drought potential? A newly planted stand is highly susceptible to drought during the first 2-3 years. Check current and potential future conditions. Also, consider using the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) for your area, which can be used in an equation to predict seedling survival.

Overall, the decision to plant or not should be based on ALL factors listed above and, ultimately, according to your risk tolerance to loss under extreme weather conditions. The full fact sheet on planting is currently under review and will be available on the PINEMAP website soon! You can also follow PINEMAP developments on Facebook:


Sandy Brings Early Snow, High Winds for Western NC

As Hurricane Sandy brought widespread damage to much of the urban corridor between Delaware and Rhode Island, the wrap-around flow brought near record snowfall for October to parts of western NC. Based on observations from a variety of reports, National Weather Service analysis shows an area of the western slopes that received more than a foot of snowfall from this event at the end of October. Special thanks to CoCoRaHS observers who provided many of these valuable reports.

Snowfall Summary from Sandy

Dr. Baker Perry, a colleague at Appalachian State University, is actively researching snowfall dynamics in western NC. Thanks to him and his monitoring efforts, we have some impressive numbers and photos from this event. Winds at Grandfather Mountain peaked above 105mph, and snowfall at high elevations exceeded 12 inches in the northern mountains.

Snow depth measurements during Sandy
Dr. Baker Perry taking snow depth measurement to add to the data from his automated sensors (shown behind him).

Also very impressive was the rime-ice build up at the higher elevations. One of the primary challenges with high elevation weather monitoring is dealing with such situations.

Rime ice on Beech Mountain sensors
Rime ice on weather sensors at Beech Mountain, courtesy Dr. Baker Perry, Appalachian State University.


Climate Summary for October: Getting Dry in Central NC

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

October was dry most notably in central North Carolina. Temperatures were overall close to normal. Sandy brought heavy rains to the northern coastal region, but most of that moisture missed the Piedmont and southern coastal plain.

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

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

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


Impacts to Agriculture and Water Resources

October is generally a drier month in North Carolina – indeed for many locations October average rainfall is the lowest of any month in the year. This is beneficial especially to many growers who need drier fields for harvest and field preparation. This October isn’t exceptional – it ranks only as the 32nd driest for the Southern Piedmont climate division (the driest in the state in Oct 2012 at 1.7 inches). And we don’t have to look too far back to find drier Octobers for the southern Piedmont. In 2010, this division reported 1.44 inches, in 2004 there was only 1.25 inches, and ZERO precipitation fell in October 2000.

But we are moving into the time of year when we usually start to see recharge in our water resources. While there aren’t any widespread drought impacts reported, the dryness in October has expanded the geography where the Drought Management Advisory Council is closely watching for possible impacts to emerge.

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

Drought Monitor

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