Current Research

Water Resources


Trends in Rainday Frequency in the United States

  • Climate over the last century has raised questions about climate change and one of the more important variables that may undergo change is precipitation. Precipitation can affect many sectors including agriculture, socio-economic activities and hazard management. This dissertation will address the temporal aspect of precipitation using 178 first order stations in the lower 48 States for a 65-year span, 1951-2015. The three objectives of this dissertation are to perform (1) an annual analysis of the frequency of rain days in the United States and changing magnitudes of daily rainfall, (2) monthly and seasonal rain day frequency and magnitudes in the United States, and (3) hourly rain frequency and magnitudes trends throughout the United States. Similar methods will be used throughout these studies including both parametric and non-parametric trend analyses. Methods include a regression analysis testing frequency vs. time, magnitude vs. time, and frequency vs. magnitude. Other methods include the Mann-Kendall test for trends and a Spearman’s correlation analysis. Results will help us better understand changing precipitation climates. This dissertation proposal will give a summary of past studies, methods and findings along with an action plan on the duration and work schedule for completion.

    Research Dates: 2015-2017

    Investigators: Rudy Bartels, Barry Keim

Storm Hazards


An Hourly Precipitation Climatology

  • Sub-daily precipitation time series provide more information on precipitation characteristics, particularly intensity and duration compared to daily data, which omits a large portion of the precipitation story. In a series of three peer-reviewed manuscripts, this research will investigate sub-daily precipitation characteristicsfrom a climatological perspective. The first study will create a climatology of hourly precipitation for the Southeast United States (1950-2017). Results from the climatology will provide baseline information on precipitation characteristics and allow for projected future conditions to be placed in a longer-term perspective to better understand the significance of future climate change. The second study will investigate the relationship between hourly precipitation and teleconnections such as the El Nino / Southern Oscillation and the Madden-Julian Oscillation. The final study will investigate extreme
    hourly precipitation events using statistical techniques to determine if a shift in the hourly precipitation distribution is occurring, favoring shorter more intense events.

    Research Dates: 2016-Present

    Investigators: Vincent Brown, Dr. Alan Black, Dr. Barry Keim

Examining Extreme Rainfall Forecast Processes

  • The SCIPP region experienced at least three 1000-yr rainfall events (at point locations at a minimum) over a two-year period from 2016-2017. The research community often focuses on extreme rainfall events for their meteorological or climatological characteristics or impacts on communities. Less attention has been given to examining how forecasters manage the events. The purpose of this study is to understand forecast processes during extreme rainfall events, including use of numerical weather prediction and how outlier information, both climatological and/or model, is interpreted and communicated. This study also aims to understand whether forecasters conceptualize real-time meteorological data within the context of long-term climate variability and change.

    Research Dates: 2017-Present

    Investigators: Rachel Riley, Michael Navarro, Renee Edwards

Relationships of Tropical Storm Size to other Storm Attributes

  • We are trying to determine if trends exist in hurricane size and how this parameter impacts damages along the coast. The insurance industry will likely have an interest in the results.

    Research Dates: 2015-2017

    Investigators: Derek Thompson, Barry Keim

Strategic Petroleum Reserve Project

  • SCIPP has partnered with two Department of Energy (DOE) groups - the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to develop a climate change resilience plan for the SPR. Mission-critical objectives of SPR were identified and the impact of current climate on SPR’s ability to meet those objectives was assessed. SCIPP then used future climate projections from Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, Phase 5 (CMIP5) to evaluate how those mission relevant climate variables are expected to change in the future. Several brainstorming sessions resulted in a list of options to reduce the impacts of changing climate on SPR operations. These were evaluated in terms of feasibility, cost, and potential to reduce vulnerability or increase resilience to changing climate and are currently being incorporated into SPR modernization planning.

    Research Dates: 2016-2017

    Investigators: Alan Black, Barry Keim

The effect of El Nino / Southern Oscillation and Wind across the United States

  • ENSO has been shown to be the single most important determinant of variability in global meteorological fields and can be detected at the regional scale. Typically, equatorial trade winds migrate from east to west across the Pacific Ocean. During the warm El Niño phase (cool La Niña phase) pressure increases (decreases) near Australia and decreases (increases) over Tahiti and the eastern Tropical Pacific, resulting in a weakening or reversal (strengthening) of the trade winds. Consequently, this seesaw of pressure results in El Niño (La Niña) bringing atypically dry (wet) conditions to Australia and surrounding locations and wetter (drier) conditions over the west coasts of Tropical North and South America. These changes set in motion shifts in convection and latent heat exchanges that alter the position and strength of some atmospheric circulation features, such as the Pacific Jet Stream. These shifts can alter the frequency of wind events such as gusts and sustained wind events across the United States. This research breaks two thirds of the United States into 5 separate regions and investigates the frequency of wind events during specific phases of ENSO on a monthly and seasonal basis. Results will provide more information on the climatology of wind events across the regions of interest.

    Research Dates: 2017-Present

    Investigators: Vincent Brown, Dr. Alan Black, Dr. Barry Keim

Drought


Arkansas Drought Planning

  • SCIPP and NDMC are working with the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC) to develop a statewide drought preparedness and response plan, and eventually leading to a drought mitigation plan. The process was begun from the annual meeting of the Interstate Council on Water Policy that was held in Little Rock, AR in October 2015. Conversations between ANRC, SCIPP and NDMC led to planning the first workshop (June 2016) among Arkansas state agencies and federal partners to begin the planning process. SCIPP will summarize breakout discussions for use by ANRC in the planning process. SCIPP and NDMC will continue to support ANRC until a plan is adopted.

    Research Dates: 2016-present

    Investigators: Trevor Timberlake, Mark Shafer, Mike Hayes, Deborah Bathke

    Report can be found here.

Field Photo Weekends

  • Since 2012, SCIPP, CoCoRaHS, and the Earth Observation and Modeling Facility have conducted a “Field Photo Weekends” project to create a national picture of our landscape. The project started out as a way to compare visual impacts of drought to the kinds of things we measure, like rainfall and stream flow. But the photos of places that are not in drought can be equally valuable, providing a frame of reference for future years and seasons. For each Field Photo Weekend, we ask CoCoRaHS observers and other citizen scientists to take pictures of the land around them - water bodies, fields, forests, or any other facet of our environment - at roughly the same time. These events began with Labor Day Weekend in 2012 and have continued over Presidents Day and Memorial Day ever since. This year, NOAA SARP has provided funding to further develop the project, including improving training materials, access to the database, and analysis of images. In addition, iSeeChange, an NGO that seeks to document environmental changes due to climate change, has joined the project team.

    Field Photos Library Animation

    Research Dates: 2012-2017

    Investigators: Mark Shafer, Nolan Doesken, Xiangming Xiao, Julia Kumari-Drapkin

    Implementation of a Drought App for Mobile Devices

    • Unlike other natural hazards, drought is difficult to detect and difficult to assess its impacts. Also, unlike many other natural hazards, drought can affect any area; it is not confined to regional or physical structures. This poses challenges for monitoring, assessing severity, and communicating the nature of the risk to decision-makers and the general public.

      Each week on the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) discussion list, experts provide local information to add fine detail to the national depiction created by the USDM authors. Much of the input is quantitative, but qualitative information on differential impacts is also considered in the process. Some degree of subjectivity exists in evaluating the relative weights of the various indices and impacts. As a result, what may be considered severe impacts in one location may not be considered as severe as others.

      The Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP), the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), and Weather Decision Technologies (WDT) are developing a mobile smartphone app that will convey drought
      information and allow users the opportunity to provide “condition reports”. The app serves two purposes: it puts the many indicators, assessments, forecasts and outlooks used in the USDM process and other drought assessment activities into the hands of a more mobile population, adding an important capability to existing conveyance through websites, media and other methods. However, the two-way ability of the app, allowing user inputs on their perceptions of drought conditions, adds a new data stream to the suite of indicators available to USDM Authors and local experts.

      Research Dates: 2015-2017

      Investigators: Mark Shafer, Mike Wolfinbarger, Mike Hayes

    Managing Drought in the Southern Plains

    • A drought of strong intensity and vast geographical extent has gripped areas of the South Central United States for several years. To respond to these severe ongoing conditions, multiple efforts were launched to engage decision makers in regional, state and local arenas in a conversation about drought. A four-pronged approach was used to assure that all of these arenas were addressed: regional workshops, state drought planning, a series of webinars and supporting local impact reporting. The net effect of these efforts is that interaction between these arenas and between the academic and practitioner communities increased substantially. Many decision makers have participated in multiple activities, such as state drought planners attending the regional workshops or local Farm Service Agency offices participating in the drought webinars and impact reporting.

      Research Dates: 2011 - present

      Investigator(s): Mark Shafer, Margret Boone, Alek Krautmann, Monica Mattox

      Webinars can be found here.

      Drought Briefings can be found here.

    Spatial Patterns of Drought and other Natural Hazards in the U.S.

    • SCIPP utilized the data archives of the United States Drought Monitor FEMA to produce a frequency-based analysis of drought and weather-related disaster declarations throughout the contiguous United States using Geographic Information Systems. The purpose of the analyses is twofold: First, a geographic assessment of the frequency of each category of drought in the contiguous United States is performed to address several common questions that arise when a region is experiencing a drought or is attempting to plan for future water resources, such as the frequency and average duration of drought in the region. Second, a spatial comparison is made between the dual frequencies of weather-related disaster declarations and drought, placing a spatial context in the ways in which droughts compare to other weather and climate extremes. This research was performed over the 2000 - 2017 time period at roughly the county level and is summarized in a technical report.

      Research Dates: January - August 2018

      Investigators: Daniela Spade and Mark Shafer

    Hazard Planning


    Improving Hazard Planning Through Collaborations with Planners and Emergency Managers

    • Many cities and counties in the U.S. are plagued by the costly cycle of development, experiencing climate disasters or nuisance events, rebuilding, and experiencing disasters again. Disaster risk reduction measures can be implemented in the development and rebuilding stages, but for a variety of reasons are not always done. Individuals and groups across the country are working toward disaster risk reduction, and one way of doing so is through hazard planning. However, informal research and engagement that SCIPP began in 2016 revealed that what is known at a national level is not necessarily widely known or being implemented at local levels in the South Central United States. This insight led to identifying locally-relevant and realistic pathways toward improving hazard planning in Oklahoma and Arkansas, especially among small- and medium-sized communities. Those pathways include facilitating collaborations between city planners, emergency managers and their tangentially related professions, and developing and piloting a simple planning tool that assists them in assessing climate risks. Collaboration within Oklahoma and Arkansas will continue in 2018 with the debut of the finalized tool followed later by a formal evaluation.

      Research Dates: 2016-Present

      Investigators: Rachel Riley and Leah Kos

    Strategic Petroleum Reserve Project

    • SCIPP has partnered with two Department of Energy (DOE) groups - the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to develop a climate change resilience plan for the SPR. Mission-critical objectives of SPR were identified and the impact of current climate on SPR’s ability to meet those objectives was assessed. SCIPP then used future climate projections from Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, Phase 5 (CMIP5) to evaluate how those mission relevant climate variables are expected to change in the future. Several brainstorming sessions resulted in a list of options to reduce the impacts of changing climate on SPR operations. These were evaluated in terms of feasibility, cost, and potential to reduce vulnerability or increase resilience to changing climate and are currently being incorporated into SPR modernization planning.

      Research Dates: 2016-2017

      Investigators: Alan Black, Barry Keim

    Summer Internship - Tulsa Partners

    • Research Dates: 2015-2016

      Investigators: Tim Lovell, Alex Nongard, Derrick Jones, Cara Vandersel, Mark Shafer, Rachel Riley, Margret Boone

      The project conducted a preliminary investigation of perceptions, knowledge, and action on flood hazard mitigation and emergency preparedness in West Tulsa in areas located behind two
      different ageing levees. The project was hosted and led by Tulsa Partners, inc., a non-profit community organization, in association with SCIPP, the City of Tulsa, Tulsa County, and the Oklahoma Silver Jackets. A survey was constructed and administered to assess flood risk awareness, mitigation efforts, and preparedness efforts and to discover the best forms of outreach to these communities. These results are part of a larger Program for Public Information (PPI) and will serve as a baseline measure for how effective future flood-related public information is. Continuing work focuses upon the effectiveness of community-wide risk communication messages as part of the PPI.

    Measuring Impacts


    Field Photo Weekends

    • For the past 3 years, SCIPP, CoCoRaHS, and the Earth Observation and Modeling Facility have conducted a “Field Photos Weekend” project to create a national picture of our landscape. The project started out as a way to compare visual impacts of drought to the kinds of things we measure, like rainfall and stream flow. But the photos of places that are not in drought can be equally valuable, providing a frame of reference for future years and seasons.

      For each Field Photos Weekend, we asked CoCoRaHS observers and other citizen scientists to take pictures of the land around them - water bodies, fields, forests, or any other facet of our environment - at roughly the same time. These events began with Labor Day Weekend in 2012 and have continued over Presidents Day and Memorial Day ever since.

      For additional details about the project or taking or posting photos, please see our Field Photos Reference Sheet.

      Research Dates: 2012 - present

      Investigator(s): Mark Shafer, Henry Reges, Xiangming Xiao, and Katy Christian

    The Southeastern Louisiana Flood

    • Louisiana is the wettest state in the conterminous United States according to data from the National Climatic Data Center and frequently experiences flood producing rainfall events. Despite a long history of heavy rainfall events, Louisiana recently experienced a record breaking precipitation event on 10-14 August 2016 that shattered numerous meteorological and hydrological records. A remarkable 31.39 inches of precipitation was recorded at one location in 48 hours spurring widespread flooding that cost the state of Louisiana billions of dollars. This research seeks to place this storm in a historical context by examining rainfall amounts and corresponding return intervals using the Storm Precipitation Analysis System (SPAS) and describing the meteorological characteristics that came together to produce such a rare event.

      Research Dates: 2016-Present

      Investigators: Vincent Brown, Dr. Alan Black, Dr. Barry Keim