Horn Point Laboratory Open House

I would be remiss if I did not use this week’s post to advertise for the Horn Point Laboratory Open House tomorrow, Saturday, October 10th. If you are on the Eastern Shore tomorrow morning, come check out the research that is being conducted at the University of Maryland, Center for Environmental Science at Horn Point. This community-based event is free, and from what I hear, one of everyone’s favorite events every year!

Of course, this work will be on display! For those of you who cannot attend, this post will show off the two posters we have constructed to highlight a few of our major climate findings!

Timeline of Extremes

This first poster was an idea conceived by Victoria Coles.

Figure 1:

Figure 1: The time series of the largest precipitation event each month and percentage of really warm days from 1930 to 2014 in the near-shore Chesapeake Bay region.

One of our most exciting aspects to our climate work is the use of historical data. People, no matter how young or old, all have memories of certain climatic events. Whether it is a recent storm like Sandy or maybe something from our past like Hurricane Floyd in 1999 or Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

Our first poster (reproduced in Figure 1) is a timeline from 1930 to 2014 depicting the greatest monthly precipitation event and the percentage of really warm days for every month over that time period. This allows you to visualize these two climate extreme indices over an 84 year record.

When is your birthday? Did any notable weather events happen that month? My current thought is to give visitors a sticker or push-pin to connect notable events in their lives (i.e. a wedding anniversary, high school graduation, birth of a child) to climate extremes.

Some notes to the figure. We colored each season for easier viewing. In the weather world, winter is December, January, and February (and so on for the other seasons). The lightly shaded horizontal lines mark the greatest overall event in each season.

Rx1day (Biggest Rain Event Each Month)

This index, as noted, is the greatest precipitation event every month. What is interesting to note is that many of the greatest events occurred in summer and fall, mostly attributed to tropical storms and hurricanes.

I dived into some historical records to identify a few of these events.

Figure 2:

Figure 2: The rainfall amounts from Hurricane Agnes. Credit: Hydrometeorological Prediction Center/NOAA

Seven notable events have occurred since 1999, and I remember every single one!  One of the most memorable, and ecologically damaging events, was hurricane Agnes in June 1972. At first, anyone who remembers Agnes may wonder why the precipitation maximum over 1 day is smaller than other events, especially since this hurricane is associated with wide-spread flooding in the Susquehanna.

Looking at Figure 2, you can see that the heaviest rain fell northwest of the Chesapeake, in the Susquehanna watershed, but outside of the bounds of the nearshore Chesapeake. This highlights that local precipitation and flooding are sometimes two very different things.

I also enjoyed researching the 4 notable rain events in the active 1930’s. Before the National Hurricane Center created it’s naming system, hurricanes and storms were named retrospectively based on either timing or location of the most damage.

TX90p (%day that are warmer than 9 out of 10)

This index measures the monthly duration of really warm days, defined as a day when the maximum daily temperature was warmer than the 90th percentile from 1961-1990.

When I look at this time series, two things jump out at me. 1) The winter of 1950 had a lot of warm days! And 2) there have been 4 summers since 1993 that had a lot of really warm days!

What do you notice?

Summary of Climate Findings

We also created a second poster which summarized the most notable climate changes (both historical and projected future). In this poster, we feature the decrease of Frost Days, the increase of Tropical Nights, the extension of the Growing Season, and an increase in heavy precipitation.

Figure 3: A summary of our most notable climate findings.

Figure 3: A summary of our most notable climate findings.

We also summarized two ecological applications of these climate indices: nitrogen transport and eelgrass diebacks!

Interested to know more? Stop by tomorrow from 10 am to 3pm or feel free to leave a comment!

Kari Pohl

About Kari Pohl

I am a post-doctoral researcher at NOAA and the University of Maryland (Center for Environmental Science at Horn Point Laboratory). My work investigates how climate variability and extremes affect the diverse ecosystems in Chesapeake Bay. I received a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island (2014) and received a B.S. in Environmental Science and a B.A. in Chemistry from Roger Williams University (2009). When I am not busy being a scientist, my hobbies include running, watching (and often yelling at) the Boston Bruins, and taking photos of my cat.
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