Advancing Understanding of Climate Processes and Impacts in the Carolinas
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.
Connections Between Climate and Human Health
CISA is collaborating with the Southeast Regional Climate Center and the State Climate Office of North Carolina to investigate linkages between climate and human health, with a holistic perspective with respect to heat stress vulnerability and environmental health. CISA is analyzing statistical relationships between different climate and weather conditions and the rates of hospitalizations for heat-related illness. This has been used to develop a model, the Heat Health Vulnerability Tool (HHVT), which combines weather data with community resilience measures to forecast changes in heat-related hospitalization. CISA is also exploring a tool to estimate wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT), a measure that accounts for radiation and ventilation in determining heat vulnerability.
CISA aims to further the region’s integration of heat stress vulnerability by providing a deeper scientific understanding of microclimates and how heat health varies across local landscapes. Engagement with local groups, such as high school athletics officials, helps translate findings from tools and research into decisions that will lead to healthier and more resilient communities in the Carolinas.
- Southeast Regional Climate Center
- State Climate Office of North Carolina
- UNC Gillings School of Global Public HealthNC Chapel Hill School
- NC High School Athletic Association
- National Integrated Heat Health Information System
Climate & Health
Making Global Climate Information Locally Relevant
CISA works to develop regional scale climate information to answer questions stakeholders have about historic climate variability in the Southeast and future climate projections. Some of CISA’s contributions to these efforts were summarized in an article for the SC Water Resources Journal entitled “Climate and Water Resources in the Carolinas: Approaches to Applying Global Climate Change Information to Local Decisions.” The article provides guidance for addressing climate and water resources questions most relevant to audiences in the Carolinas.
• 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.
• Climate and water resources: Climate change information for local decisions.
CISA seeks to incorporate global climate information into local planning by making this information accessible and usable in context. The Central Midlands Council of Governments asked for CISA’s assistance to incorporate climate change into a local watershed-based plan for the downtown Columbia, SC area. CISA collaborators are working alongside McCormick Taylor to provide robust historical data from NOAA and using global climate models (CMIP6) to see how precipitation may shift in future conditions. This work will enable McCormick Taylor to consider both current and future scenarios for the watershed. Alongside summarizing adaptation science, this will allow CISA to help shape a local planning process to make it more resilient to future changes.
- McCormick Taylor
- Central Midlands Council of Governments
Drought Transition Probabilities
This project documented probabilities for transitioning from one drought class to another and attempted to move beyond standard linear techniques in constructing these probabilities. Machine learning approaches show promise for drought forecasting, particularly during winter months. This research compared a suite of analytical approaches to calculate drought transition probabilities in NC and SC climate divisions. Approaches derived from machine learning algorithms delivered the best model performance, incorporating the ENSO index and temperature as predictor variables.
Research findings: Hibbs, M. (2020, May). Developing an analytical method for improved computation of drought transition probabilities. Honors Thesis. University of South Carolina.
Assessing Business Impacts of Hurricanes and Flooding in the Charleston, SC Region
Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up 99% of businesses in the United States and are critical to economic development, job creation, and community well-being. This study of Charleston, SC’s SMEs seeks to understand preparation for and recovery from Hurricane Irma in 2017. Sixty in-depth, in-person interviews were conducted to explore business owners' perceptions of hurricanes, the impacts faced from flooding, and barriers to recovery. Initial research findings suggest the presence of a hurricane plan, perception of hurricane severity change, and the purchase of flood insurance all correlate positively with business recovery.
- National Institute of Standards and Technology