North Carolina Climate
A Newsletter of the State Climate Office of North Carolina
Ryan Boyles, Editor
Volume 2 | Number 3 | Fall 1998
In This Issue...
The summer started off with dry conditions across North Carolina as the El Niño event dissipated. This follows the prediction made last
November by the SCO statistical model. Eastern North Carolina had large rainfall as the hurricane season got going with the end of El Niño
and as the La Niña phase began to emerge. However, western North Carolina is feeling the effects of very dry conditions, affecting crops
and other activities. The SCO is now providing information to the NC Drought Monitoring Council and participating in the discussions as a member
institution. More on statewide precipitation is addressed in the following pages.
Hurricane Bonnie made landfall over North Carolina on August 26,1998, bringing with it heavy rainfall and strong winds. State Climate Office staff
worked with the meteorologists at the North Carolina division of Emergency Management during and immediately after the passage of the storm. They
assisted with information updates, reports to the Governor and his staff, and provided hourly updates of wind and rainfall data from the AgNet
stations as Bonnie moved up the coast. It was a good experience and is a service we would like to continue to provide in the future.
AgNet modernization is in progress. Meteorological towers (10m) have been installed in three stations so far and we are in the process of
instrumenting them. We hope to soon have our own calibration, testing and rigging facility from which many of these operations can be staged.
SCO Database development is also in progress. A brief description of this system is given in this newsletter. This database is expected to meet
the needs of the SCO and should assist our operations immensely once it is in place.
Three undergraduate students worked in the SCO this summer: Wendy Sellers in data dissemination, Aaron Sims in the AgNet data update project,
and Frank Murray in the development of a storm database for North Carolina. They all have made excellent contributions, and brief descriptions of
their experiences are included in this newsletter. Michelle Hein, Program Assistant, left the SCO on September 1 to become a full-time employee
with the Center for Research in Scientific Computation. I would like to thank Michelle for her contributions in setting up the administrative
structure of the SCO. Everyone in the SCO welcomes Bic Fort, who has joined as the new Program Assistant effective September 1.
We are glad to have our new Chancellor, Dr. Marye Anne Fox, leading NCSU as of August 1. The State Climate Office staff wants to assure our
Chancellor and the public that we start each day with a resolve to improve and enhance our services to the citizens of North Carolina.
At the service of North Carolina,
State Climatologist of North Carolina
The summer of '98 has seen the final demise of arguably one of the strongest El Niño events ever recorded. In May
of this year, the tropical Pacific sea-surface temperatures (SST) returned to near normal for the first time since spring of 1997. An
unprecedented amount of data was collected during this event and will keep scientists and researchers busy for years to come.
Pacific sea surface temperatures continue to cool and are now below normal. These observations, along with other factors, strongly suggest the area
is now experiencing a mild La Niña. In fact, recent measurements show a very large pool of cold water (up to 8° C below normal) just
below the surface of the ocean. This cool water is expected to eventually rise, producing a moderate to strong La Niña, persisting through
the spring of 1999. Generally speaking, impacts from La NiĆ±a are not as widely felt as El Niño. In recent years, there have not been as
many La Niña events as El Niño episodes. Still, there is enough historical data to conclude that the tendency in North Carolina is
toward drier conditions during winter La Niña episodes.
Provided by Brian Potter
The State Climate Office of North Carolina deals with the reporting and analysis of hourly climate-related data from the 17
agricultural weather monitoring stations (AgNet) located across the state. It also receives data daily from 26 other sites spread over the state.
Whenever data is requested for clients or research purposes, the large volumes of AgNet data are searched manually. These manual searches are time
consuming and prone to errors. To enhance data dissemination services, the SCO has begun development of a database management system that will
facilitate efficient storage and retrieval of climate-related data. The database is structured for optimal querying according to the needs of the
client and possesses versatility for adding more climate information when required.
All stations report the following data:
- Station ID
- Maximum Air Temperature
- Minimum Air Temperature
These stations include the 17 observer stations as well as the other cooperative observation stations. These are referred to
as the Basic Parameters. In addition to the Basic Parameters the 17 observer stations also report the following parameters, henceforth referred to
as Extended Parameters:
- Maximum Soil Temperature
- Minimum Soil Temperature
- Average Wind Speed
- Maximum Wind Speed
- Average Wind Direction
- Total Solar Radiation
- Average Barometric Pressure
- Photosynthetically Active Radiation
AgNet stations record the above Basic and Extended Parameters on an hourly basis, while other observer stations report the
Basic Parameters on a daily basis. All this information has been stored in tables that have been given structured relations to each other, thus
creating the framework for a relational database.
Queries can be made of the following types:
- Finding any Extended Parameter(s) for a station on a particular day (Ex. Find the minimum soil temperature for Raleigh
- Calculating the Growing Degree Days (GDD) for a station for a given base temperature during a given period (Ex. Find
the GDD for Goldsboro with a base temperature of 65F between 4/1/98 and 4/4/98).
- Select a parameter greater or less than a threshold value for a particular station within a given period (Ex. Select
minimum temperature for Charlotte greater than 20F between 4/1/98 and 4/4/98).
- Find the average for a particular parameter over a certain time window (Ex. Find the average minimum temperature for
Boone in January between 1961-1990).
The primary security requirement is that the application should allow two kinds of users, the administrator who is allowed to query, insert, delete
and update the data and the ordinary user who is only allowed to query the data.
Future Areas of Development
This database has been developed with the goal of making it usable over a wide range of applications. The primary disadvantage of most existing
database management systems is the inability to add new sources of information to the existing structure. Efforts to overcome this disadvantage and
allow the inclusion of newer sources of information, such as storm data and air quality data are the next features to be added. In addition, a
graphing package to allow plotting is planned for the near future. This will be modeled as a client server application so that the data may be
stored at a remote location and accessed by a separate computer.
Provided by Sonali Aditya
Based on Preliminiary Data
Click on any image to view full size map
Maps generated by Brian Potter
The mountains of NC have seen an unusually dry summer in 1998, with many locations receiving only a third of their normal
amount. While the region received above normal precipitation during the winter and spring, the last 3 months have been well below normal. It is
hoped that the dry summer will produce more brilliant colors in the autumn and consequently attract more visitors to the region.
*Based on preliminary data through September 21, 1998
Hurricane Bonnie was the third hurricane to make direct landfall in North Carolina in the past three years, and was the second major hurricane
(category three or higher) to enter the state over the same period. Bonnie ranks among the most powerful hurricanes to hit North Carolina, along
with Hazel (1954) and Fran (1996).
Hurricane Bonnie began its life as an ordinary tropical wave that developed off the west coast of Africa. As it moved west across the Atlantic
Ocean, it intensified into a tropical depression, then quickly became a tropical depression, then a tropical storm. Bonnie moved just north of
the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico, then tracked to the northwest, parallel to the Bahamas. This put Bonnie on a course straight for North
Carolina. Bonnie slowed dramatically, giving plenty of time for the Carolinas to prepare for the worst. Bonnie continued to move northwest,
confounding forecasters with slow and erratic movement. With a track forecast to cross the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, storm surge in the
sounds and along the beaches was a major concern for people in the coastal counties.
Bonnie made landfall on the evening of August 26 at Cape Fear, the same location that Fran and Bertha made landfall two years earlier. Shortly
after landfall, Bonnie began to curve to the northeast, crossing Jacksonville, New Bern, and Manteo. Wind gusts of over 90mph were recorded near
the point of landfall. Rain bands caused flooding problems as far away as Wilson. Many areas along the path of the storm reported rainfall amounts
of 8 to 10 inches. Preliminary damage estimates put the cost of Bonnie ($1 to $2 billion) well below the cost of Hurricane Fran ($4 billion), even
though both were classified as category three hurricanes at landfall. This is most likely due to the northeastward track of Bonnie through a less
populated area than Hurricane Fran, which crossed through the Raleigh-Durham area. Additionally, the increased awareness of hurricanes after Fran
and Bertha, combined with the slow movement of Bonnie, allowed plenty of time for adequate preparations before the storm hit.
Staff from the State Climate Office were able to directly assist the Division of Emergency Management (DEM) by providing meteorological expertise,
sending hourly data updates, assisting with updates to the Governor, and even answering questions at the DEM Raleigh headquarters during the early
morning hours. In the coming months, the State Climate Office will collect and analyze data from Hurricane Bonnie. The data will be used in research
to improve forecasts of hurricane structure and intensity at landfall.
Provided by Doug Schneider
Our new program assistant is Bic Fort, who joined us on September 1, 1998. He has been a valuable addition, and shows great
enthusiasm. Bic was employed as a paralegal before coming to NCSU, and has recently completed his undergraduate program in Business Administration.
We look forward to working with Bic, and hope that his wide experiences will aid the SCO in its future efforts.
Jamie Rhome is a new graduate student who joined the SCO staff to assist with data operations and climate research. Jamie, who
is originally from Roanoke Rapids, NC, received his B.S. in Meteorology from NC State in 1998. He has spent the past two summers working at the
Environmental Protection Agency with Dr. Ellen Cooter, and continues to work there two days a week. We are excited and thankful to have Jamie as
a part of the group.
Aaron Sims is a senior undergraduate in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, and is currently working toward
his and his B.S. in Meteorology with a specialization in Marine Meteorology. He is originally from Garner, NC, and spent the summer retrieving
archived AgNet data and assisting with daily operations and data dissemination. He helped prepare archived data files for assimilation into the
new database being created at the State Climate Office. His tasks included downloading data, organization of data availability, and scanning hard
copies of data in order to cover the breaks in the period of records. He was also able to visit several AgNet sites and become more familiar with
the instruments and data logging procedures needed to successfully run an automated station. Aaron explains, "My experience at the State Climate
Office this summer has proven to be very beneficial. I was able to obtain practical on-the-job experience and learned new techniques for analyzing
data. I feel more prepared for the fall semester and future opportunities". Aaron is being supported by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
at NC State, and is continuing his work with the SCO.
Wendy Sellers is a second-year undergraduate at NC State who is working toward her B.S. in Meteorology. Originally from Hampton, VA, she has been
with the State Climate Office since April 1998 and assists with daily operations and data dissemination. She enjoys this work since it allows her
to be "directly involved in SCO operations while at the same time gaining experience working with my major and dealing with the general public".
She has had the opportunity to assist such organizations as the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, The News and Observer, Walnut Creek
Amphitheater, Raleigh chamber of Commerce, and numerous other industries, researchers, universities, and private citizens. Wendy feels that the
experience she is gaining with the SCO will give her a head start into her career. She says that most importantly, she has "been able to understand
the everyday application of climate and weather information and how this information impacts the citizens of North Carolina."
Frank Murray is a second-year undergraduate from Rocky Mount, NC. He spent the summer helping to fill requests for historical
weather data. In that respect, Frank worked with a "wide range of people, such as avid gardeners planning to move into the state, lawyers needing
pertinent information for legal cases, and several newspapers concerned about various recent severe weather phenomena, especially the drought
conditions prevalent in western NC this summer. Being able to help these different groups of people was a very interesting and fun experience."
Frank also has been instrumental in the creation of a comprehensive storm database, which electronically stores all major weather activities in the
state of North Carolina. His work to develop the database "has been challenging to say the least." However, Frank feels "it will definitely be worth
the effort when the database is finally complete and usable both by clients needing data for personal or business reasons and for faculty needing
research information." Frank has been supported this summer by the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences.
- Ben Waters, Greg Fishel, Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc., June 10
- Dr. Jerry L. Whitten, Dean, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (PAMS), July 20
- Goals 2000 Group, Four high school students from Tennessee interested in weather networks, July 21
- Dr. J. C. Lu, Head of Industrial Statistics, August 19
- Dr. Len Pietrafesa, Head, Dept. of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, August 12
- Dr. Tom Banks, Center for Research in Scientific Computation, August 12
- Ms. Anita Stallings, Director of PAMS Foundation, August 12
- Dr. Robert Martin, Head, Department of Mathematics, August 12
- Information Super Highway Policy Meeting, Chapel Hill, NC, June 4, Dr. Sethu Raman
- Inter-Agency Fire Initiative, Kinston, NC, June 11, Dr. Sethu Raman
- Presentation to Board of Science and Technology, Figure Eight Island, NC, June 16, Dr. Sethu Raman
- La Niña Workshop, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, July 15-17, Brian
- Colloquium on Statistics for Understanding the Atmosphere and Ocean, National Center for
Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, July 18-24, Brian Potter
- Colloquium on Hurricanes at Landfall, Boulder, CO, Miami, FL, July 13-24, Doug Schneider
- Extension & Research Stations Annual Meeting, Pinehurst, NC, July 22-24, Dr. Sethu Raman,
Devdutta S. Niyogi
- WTVD-TV Interview on Hurricane Bonnie, Raleigh, NC, August 23, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S.
Niyogi, Brian Potter
- Live Interview on Hurricane Bonnie, WPTF 680 AM Radio, Raleigh, NC, August 25, Dr. Sethu
- WUNC-TV Interview on Hurricane Bonnie, Chapel Hill, NC, August 25, Dr. Sethu Raman
- Live Interview on Hurricane Bonnie, WUNC 91.5 FM WUNC Radio, August 27, Doug Schneider
- Emergency Management for Hurricane Bonnie, August 25-27, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta S.
Niyogi, Ryan Boyles, Brian Potter, Doug Schneider, Vinayak Parameshwara
- Inauguration of Center for Plant Health, Science, and Technology, Raleigh, NC, September
9, Devdutta S. Niyogi
- Annual Meeting of State Climatologists, Duluth, MN, August 5-8, Dr. Sethu Raman, Devdutta
- Visit to New Jersey Climate Office, September 11, Dr. Sethu Raman
- Drought Monitoring Council Meeting, Raleigh, NC, September 16, Dr. Sethu Raman