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Adrienne Wootten and Ryan P. Boyles

Abstract

Gauge-calibrated radar estimates of daily precipitation are compared with daily observed values of precipitation from National Weather Service (NWS) Cooperative Observer Network (COOP) stations to evaluate the multisensor precipitation estimate (MPE) product that is gridded by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) for the eastern United States (defined as locations east of the Mississippi River). This study focuses on a broad evaluation of MPE across the study domain by season and intensity. In addition, the aspect of precipitation type is considered through case studies of winter and summer precipitation events across the domain. Results of this study indicate a north–south gradient in the error of MPE and a seasonal pattern with the highest error in summer and autumn and the lowest error in winter. Two case studies of precipitation are also considered in this study. These case studies include instances of intense precipitation and frozen precipitation. These results suggest that MPE is less able to estimate convective-scale precipitation as compared with precipitation variations at larger spatial scales. In addition, the results suggest that MPE is subject to errors related both to the measurement gauges and to the radar estimates used. Two case studies are also included to discuss the differences with regard to precipitation type. The results from these case studies suggest that MPE may have higher error associated with estimating the liquid equivalent of frozen precipitation when compared with NWS COOP network data. The results also suggest the need for more analysis of MPE error for frozen precipitation in diverse topographic regimes.

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Rebecca V. Cumbie-Ward and Ryan P. Boyles

Abstract

A standardized precipitation index (SPI) that uses high-resolution, daily estimates of precipitation from the National Weather Service over the contiguous United States has been developed and is referred to as HRD SPI. There are two different historical distributions computed in the HRD SPI dataset, each with a different combination of normals period (1971–2000 or 1981–2010) and clustering solution of gauge stations. For each historical distribution, the SPI is computed using the NCEP Stage IV and Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS) gridded precipitation datasets for a total of four different HRD SPI products. HRD SPIs are found to correlate strongly with independently produced SPIs over the 10-yr period from 2005 to 2015. The drought-monitoring utility of the HRD SPIs is assessed with case studies of drought in the central and southern United States during 2012 and over the Carolinas during 2007–08. A monthly comparison between HRD SPIs and independently produced SPIs reveals generally strong agreement during both events but weak agreement in areas where radar coverage is poor. For both study regions, HRD SPI is compared with the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) to assess the best combination of precipitation input, normals period, and station clustering solution. SPI generated with AHPS precipitation and the 1981–2010 PRISM normals and associated cluster solution is found to best capture the spatial extent and severity of drought conditions indicated by the USDM. This SPI is also able to resolve local variations in drought conditions that are not shown by either the USDM or comparison SPI datasets.

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Christopher Holder, Ryan Boyles, Ameenulla Syed, Dev Niyogi, and Sethu Raman

Abstract

The National Weather Service's Cooperative Observer Program (COOP) is a valuable climate data resource that provides manually observed information on temperature and precipitation across the nation. These data are part of the climate dataset and continue to be used in evaluating weather and climate models. Increasingly, weather and climate information is also available from automated weather stations. A comparison between these two observing methods is performed in North Carolina, where 13 of these stations are collocated. Results indicate that, without correcting the data for differing observation times, daily temperature observations are generally in good agreement (0.96 Pearson product–moment correlation for minimum temperature, 0.89 for maximum temperature). Daily rainfall values recorded by the two different systems correlate poorly (0.44), but the correlations are improved (to 0.91) when corrections are made for the differences in observation times between the COOP and automated stations. Daily rainfall correlations especially improve with rainfall amounts less than 50 mm day−1. Temperature and rainfall have high correlation (nearly 1.00 for maximum and minimum temperatures, 0.97 for rainfall) when monthly averages are used. Differences of the data between the two platforms consistently indicate that COOP instruments may be recording warmer maximum temperatures, cooler minimum temperatures, and larger amounts of rainfall, especially with higher rainfall rates. Root-mean-square errors are reduced by up to 71% with the day-shift and hourly corrections.

This study shows that COOP and automated data [such as from the North Carolina Environment and Climate Observing Network (NCECONet)] can, with simple corrections, be used in conjunction for various climate analysis applications such as climate change and site-to-site comparisons. This allows a higher spatial density of data and a larger density of environmental parameters, thus potentially improving the accuracy of the data that are relayed to the public and used in climate studies.

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Christopher Holder, Ryan Boyles, Peter Robinson, Sethu Raman, and Greg Fishel

Normal temperatures, which are calculated by the National Climatic Data Center for locations across the country, are quality-controlled, smoothed 30-yr-average temperatures. They are used in many facets of media, industry, and meteorology, and a given day's normal maximum and minimum temperatures are often used synonymously with what the observed temperature extremes “should be.” However, allowing some leeway to account for natural daily and seasonal variations can more accurately reflect the ranges of temperature that we can expect on a particular day—a “normal range.” Providing such a range, especially to the public, presents a more accurate perspective on what the temperature “usually” is on any particular day of the year. One way of doing this is presented in this study for several locations across North Carolina. The results yield expected higher variances in the cooler months and seem to well represent the varied weather that locations in North Carolina tend to experience. Day-to-day variations in the normal range are larger than expected, but are retained rather than smoothed. The method is simple and applicable to any location with a complete 30-yr record and with a temperature variance time series that follows a bell curve. The normal-range product has many potential applications.

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Corey Davis, Heather Aldridge, Ryan Boyles, Karen S. McNeal, Lindsay Maudlin, and Rachel Atkins

Abstract

While there is growing demand for use of climate model projections to understand the potential impacts of future climate on resources, there is a lack of effective visuals that convey the range of possible climates across spatial scales and with uncertainties that potential users need to inform their impact assessments and studies. We use usability testing including eye tracking to explore how a group of resource professionals (foresters) interpret and understand a series of graphical representations of future climate change, housed within a web-based decision support system (DSS), that address limitations identified in other tools. We find that a three-map layout effectively communicates the spread of future climate projections spatially, that location-specific information is effectively communicated if depicted both spatially on a map and temporally on a time series plot, and that model error metrics may be useful for communicating uncertainty and in demonstrating the utility of these future climate datasets.

Open access
Peter P. Childs, Aneela L. Qureshi, Sethu Raman, Kiran Alapaty, Robb Ellis, Ryan Boyles, and Dev Niyogi

Abstract

The Flux-Adjusting Surface Data Assimilation System (FASDAS) uses the surface observational analysis to directly assimilate surface layer temperature and water vapor mixing ratio and to indirectly assimilate soil moisture and soil temperature in numerical model predictions. Both soil moisture and soil temperature are important variables in the development of deep convection. In this study, FASDAS coupled within the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5) was used to study convective initiation over the International H2O Project (IHOP_2002) region, utilizing the analyzed surface observations collected during IHOP_2002. Two 72-h numerical simulations were performed. A control simulation was run that assimilated all available IHOP_2002 measurements into the standard MM5 four-dimensional data assimilation. An experimental simulation was also performed that assimilated all available IHOP_2002 measurements into the FASDAS version of the MM5, where surface observations were used for the FASDAS coupling. Results from this case study suggest that the use of FASDAS in the experimental simulation led to the generation of greater amounts of precipitation over a more widespread area as compared to the standard MM5 FDDA used in the control simulation. This improved performance is attributed to better simulation of surface heat fluxes and their gradients.

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Lindsay C. Maudlin, Karen S. McNeal, Heather Dinon-Aldridge, Corey Davis, Ryan Boyles, and Rachel M. Atkins

ABSTRACT

Decision support systems—collections of related information located in a central place to be used for decision-making—can be used as platforms from which climate information can be shared with decision-makers. Unfortunately, these tools are not often evaluated, meaning developers do not know how useful or usable their products are. In this study, a web-based climate decision support system (DSS) for foresters in the southeastern United States was evaluated by using eye-tracking technology. The initial study design was exploratory and focused on assessing usability concerns within the website. Results showed differences between male and female forestry experts in their eye-tracking behavior and in their success with completing tasks and answering questions related to the climate information presented in the DSS. A follow-up study, using undergraduate students from a large university in the southeastern United States, aimed to determine whether similar gender differences existed and could be detected and, if so, whether the cause(s) could be determined. The second evaluation, similar to the first, showed that males and females focused their attention on different aspects of the website; males focused more on the maps depicting climate information while females focused more on other aspects of the website (e.g., text, search bars, and color bars). DSS developers should consider the possibility of gender differences when designing a web-based DSS and include website features that draw user attention to important DSS elements to effectively support various populations of users.

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Rezaul Mahmood, Ryan Boyles, Kevin Brinson, Christopher Fiebrich, Stuart Foster, Ken Hubbard, David Robinson, Jeff Andresen, and Dan Leathers

Abstract

Mesoscale in situ meteorological observations are essential for better understanding and forecasting the weather and climate and to aid in decision-making by a myriad of stakeholder communities. They include, for example, state environmental and emergency management agencies, the commercial sector, media, agriculture, and the general public. Over the last three decades, a number of mesoscale weather and climate observation networks have become operational. These networks are known as mesonets. Most are operated by universities and receive different levels of funding. It is important to communicate the current status and critical roles the mesonets play.

Most mesonets collect standard meteorological data and in many cases ancillary near-surface data within both soil and water bodies. Observations are made by a relatively spatially dense array of stations, mostly at subhourly time scales. Data are relayed via various means of communication to mesonet offices, with derived products typically distributed in tabular, graph, and map formats in near–real time via the World Wide Web. Observed data and detailed metadata are also carefully archived.

To ensure the highest-quality data, mesonets conduct regular testing and calibration of instruments and field technicians make site visits based on “maintenance tickets” and prescheduled frequencies. Most mesonets have developed close partnerships with a variety of local, state, and federal-level entities. The overall goal is to continue to maintain these networks for high-quality meteorological and climatological data collection, distribution, and decision-support tool development for the public good, education, and research.

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