A wide range of stakeholders are increasingly asking questions that require state-of-the-art information about climate variability and extremes, projections of future climate, and climate-related impacts on the Carolinas’ resources and communities. These projects seek to advance understanding of climate processes and impacts in contexts specific to these stakeholder inquiries.
CISA is collaborating with the Southeast Regional Climate Center (SERCC) to investigate linkages between climate and human health, with respect to heat stress vulnerability and waterborne disease. Working with data from the North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT), researchers are developing empirical relationships which can be exploited to build a public health toolbox that translates recent, current, and predicted weather conditions (e.g., temperature and precipitation) across the Carolinas into useful information regarding the probability of public health emergencies.
The NC Heat Health Vulnerability Tool was developed in partnership with the NC State Climate Office based on heat-related research findings. This tool has the capacity to predict heat-related ED visits at the county level based on National Weather Service daily maximum temperature forecasts. Expansion of the tool to incorporate precipitation data will extend prediction to waterborne disease-related ED visits.
CISA works to develop regional scale climate information to answer questions stakeholders have about historic climate variability in the Southeast and future climate projections. In several cases, this downscaled climate information has been incorporated into watershed-scale hydrologic models. Integrating climate information into watershed models improves understanding of the intricate relationship between the two. These watershed models have been used to assess the impact of saltwater intrusion under future climate and sea level rise scenarios and to estimate the potential for increased Vibrio occurrence due to projected climate changes.
In other instances, climate projections have been developed to answer questions about specific variables such as future temperature or rainfall patterns. Recent efforts include contributions to the South Carolina Coastal Counties Low Impact Design (LID) manual and the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment Tool for Coastal Habitats (CCVATCH) pilot projects.
• Assessing climate models for use in the Carolinas. This study evaluated how well downscaled regional climate models simulate historical temperature and precipitation records for the Southeast US and identified factors that lead to differences in output between different downscaled models. Researchers also compared the outputs of these downscaled models to output from global climate models to determine if downscaling does, in fact, produce better information at a more decision-relevant scale.
• Assessing climate model simulation of heavy rainfall events. In order to better understand potential change in precipitation extremes, team members evaluated the ability of downscaled regional climate models to reproduce the intensity, duration, and frequency of heavy rainfall events at a regional scale across the US. The researchers used a unique method to develop 12 regions with similar annual maximum 24-hour rainfall patterns in order to better assess regional rainfall patterns. This work can help to inform infrastructure design standards needed to manage stormwater under future climate conditions, in which heavy rainfall events are expected to intensify.