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Rebecca Ward

Postdoctoral Research Scholar




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Date: 06/01/20 - 6/30/25
Amount: $664,891.00
Funding Agencies: NC Department of Transportation

The frequency and intensity of both floods and droughts are expected to increase in response to climate change; however, significant uncertainties remain regarding regional changes, especially for extreme rainfall. In particular, North Carolina??????????????????s geographic position makes it vulnerable to several natural hazards that pose significant flooding risks, including hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, and large winter storms. The most obvious problems within NC in recent years are the pluvial and fluvial flooding from notable hurricanes which paralyzed the eastern NC highway system for days to weeks. The heavy rainfall associated with Hurricanes Floyd (1999), Matthew (2016), Florence (2018), and Dorian (2019) generated record-breaking fluvial flooding along key economic corridors including I-95, I-40, US-70, NC-12, and US-64, and created a chain of transportation infrastructure problems that affected emergency response operations and the transportation of goods. In particular, I-95 facilitates 40 percent of the Nation??????????????????s GDP while US-70 and I-40 are key routes for supporting the military, agriculture and the economy in eastern NC. Though hurricanes receive a lot of attention in resilient design, as they should, transportation engineers face additional challenges, including possible changes to rainfall intensity from localized thunderstorms and even drought. NC officials, recognizing the risks posed by a changing climate, developed Executive Order 80 (EO80) to help protect the people, natural environment, and economy of North Carolina. NC DOT is likewise working to implement solutions to become more resilient to weather extremes in a changing climate. This objective of this study is to improve confidence in climate change projections by quantifying future precipitation extremes within NC for resilient design (e.g., precipitation intensity, duration, frequency curves). This project will incorporate guidance developed for the National Cooperative Highway Transportation Research Board, NCHRP 15-61, with additional methods and numerical model experiments to improve confidence in future precipitation extremes, and to inform design concepts for potential future events.

Date: 10/01/22 - 4/01/23
Amount: $14,656.00
Funding Agencies: NC Peanut Growers Association, Inc.

Peanuts are harvested using a digging process, after which the peanut plants lay in the field for nearly a week to dry before the harvesting process completely removes them from the field. If peanuts receive a frost or are frosted on right after digging or during at least the early days after digging, they are susceptible to the moisture in the kernels freezing, which makes them inedible and severely limits their profitability. Peanut growers, therefore, closely monitor upcoming weather conditions to make decisions about when to harvest their crop. To provide guidance to peanut growers in NC, VA, and SC, the North Carolina State Climate Office will develop an online peanut frost advisory tool which will provide automated frost information using forecast data from the National Weather Service.

Date: 02/01/21 - 1/31/22
Amount: $25,000.00
Funding Agencies: Corn Growers Association of NC, Inc.

The State Climate Office of North Carolina will develop an online dashboard to view contextualized forecast and historical climatological information, tailored to a user??????????????????s location, and designed to facilitate weather- and climate-affected decision-making at time scales of days to months. The design and functionality of this online dashboard will be developed to specifically support needs for weather and climate information of North Carolina corn growers. To our knowledge, there are currently no freely available online resources for North Carolina that integrate historical climate data with weather forecast and outlooks, tailored to a user??????????????????s location, into a single interface. In addition to the development of the dashboard, we will conduct analyses to provide guidance to growers on longer-term trends and relationships between atmospheric variables (precipitation and temperature) and corn growth in a changing climate. The State Climate Office of North Carolina is well-positioned for this project, with experience producing similar online weather- and climate-based dashboards, expertise in conducting climate research, and equipped with data servers containing historical climatological observations from thousands of surface weather stations and gridded datasets covering historical periods.

Date: 01/01/21 - 12/31/21
Amount: $10,000.00
Funding Agencies: Cotton, Inc.

The purpose of this research is to compare heat units required for different cotton cultivars to reach key growth stages, as well as to assess improvements to our ability to model cotton development through adjustments to the growing degree day algorithm and exploring a multidimensional model that incorporates other meteorological factors.

Date: 10/01/16 - 10/31/21
Amount: $231,097.00
Funding Agencies: US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

NCSCO proposes a new data interface for DEQ/DWR designed to integrate the various point-based data sources housed at DEQ/DWR, along with weather and water data from the NCSCO. The long-term goal is to develop a web-based application programming interface (API) service that allows data to be pulled across these sources into a common output format, which will allow DEQ/DWR staff and stakeholders to more easily access weather and water data (quantity and quality) to meet regulatory, planning, and stakeholder needs.

Date: 08/01/16 - 3/05/21
Amount: $523,046.00
Funding Agencies: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The North Carolina State Climate Office (NCSCO) at North Carolina State University (NCSU) has provided IT support for the SERCC since its inception in 2007. The relationship between SERCC and NCSCO takes advantage of the information technology and climate data management capacity and expertise at NCSCO, but also helps ensure state- and local-level needs are constantly considered as part of SERCC product and service delivery. NCSCO maintains the computing that hosts ACIS and the SERCC website. It works closely with SERCC staff, including monthly in-person coordination meetings, to ensure that technology services meet SERCC needs. NCSCO staff consists of 8 applied climatologists with scientific and information technology expertise. With a combined 60 years of experience, NCSCO specializes in developing climate data tools and products that translate climate science and data into user-driven visualization and decision support tools. As part of this contract NCSCO will continue to design, develop, test, and maintain, and enhance climate database and web services for SERCC. The focus for this period will be on maintenance of the Applied Climate Information System, the SERCC website, and the associated climate information tools. Additional effort will be focused on development of new climate information tools and services to support the mission of SERCC.

Date: 05/10/17 - 9/30/20
Amount: $83,751.00
Funding Agencies: North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

As a comprehensive resource for weather and climate information, the State Climate Office of North Carolina (SCO) has a mission to use weather and climate observations and science for the benefit of state and local government agencies. Data archived by the SCO is widely used for drought, agriculture, transportation, and air quality decision support. Similarly, these observations are available for decision support for the forest resources community. Beginning in 2011, SCO contracted with the NC Forest Service to develop an integrated Fire Weather Intelligence Portal (FWIP) that leverages the many high-quality weather observations across North Carolina to provide fire danger guidance to better meet NC Forest Service risk management and monitoring requirements. The SCO database processes weather observations from more than 10,000 monitoring stations every day, 402 of which are processed every hour from North Carolina and neighboring states. These data provide real-time monitoring capabilities for many applications. Sensor data collected by SCO are pushed into the USDA Forest Service Weather Information Management System (WIMS), which then generates fire danger output according to the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS). National Weather Service-provided fire danger forecasts are also available in WIMS. This NFDRS output is then captured by SCO and ingested into our CRONOS database for further manipulation. This is done seven times per day to ensure the most current information is available. Using a GIS-based Internet mapping system, observations and calculated indices are displayed across North Carolina. This mapping tool allows users to display single or multiple variables, zoom quickly to areas of interest, and handles both vector and raster (gridded) data. SCO has worked closely with the NC Forest Service project managers to refine the user interface to address both statewide and local user needs. As part of the ongoing collaboration between SCO and the NC Forest Service, we propose to continue providing the Fire Weather Intelligence Portal to meet the needs of the state fire agency and its partners.

Date: 09/01/18 - 8/31/20
Amount: $173,755.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Commerce (DOC)

In the aftermath of recent droughts in North Carolina, decision makers from across the state have articulated needs for information and communication that enhance and build upon existing resources. These needs include a better understanding of how drought is monitored, the environmental conditions that can cause or worsen drought conditions, and drought??????????????????s impacts on various sectors including agriculture, forestry, and water resources. As liaisons between science and its applications, the State Climate Office of North Carolina (SCONC) and the Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments (CISA) are tasked with connecting decision makers to information that can help them better understand and respond to drought. This information includes data from NOAA such as climate outlooks and ENSO conditions, North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) forecasts, and resources developed by the Southeast Regional Climate Center (SERCC). In response to the Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP) ????????????????Coping with Drought in Support of the National Integrated Drought Information??????????????? competition, SCONC is partnering with CISA and members of the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council (DMAC) on this proposed project called ????????????????Innovating Approaches to Drought Communications with North Carolina Decision Makers.??????????????? Building on knowledge obtained through in-person and online meetings with drought-sensitive stakeholders across the state, new strategies and resources for communicating weather and drought information will be developed by SCONC team members. These strategies include using communication methods such as multimedia and social media on timescales that are effective for decision making. To evaluate these communication methods, they will be shared and tested with extension agents, water resource managers, and other stakeholders at meetings in the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019 using surveys, eye tracking analyses, and focus group discussions. The best strategies, as identified by their feedback, will be implemented into routine communications and the websites of SCONC, CISA, North Carolina DMAC, and NIDIS Coastal Carolinas Drought Early Warning System (DEWS). This project will provide improved communication and dissemination of information to diverse groups of stakeholders, and enhanced exchanges of information between providers and decision makers. Improving the accessibility of drought information will better equip stakeholders and decision makers to respond to changing conditions, address emerging impacts, and identify precursors to drought that may provide an early warning for its onset. In addition, these resources will help North Carolina become more resilient and create a useful framework for other states and regions.

Date: 02/01/17 - 5/01/20
Amount: $179,012.00
Funding Agencies: Burroughs Wellcome Fund

RAIN Across the River is a community-based learning program that connects the process of science to student participation in locally relevant citizen science. Birmingham and Barton (2014) support the belief that effective science education is the result of both ????????????????knowing??????????????? and ????????????????doing??????????????? science in a place-based context ?????????????????? a process they call educated action in science. The goals of this program focus on increasing student awareness of real science in their communities through their involvement with the national Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), increasing student engagement in ????????????????doing??????????????? science through meaningful data collection at home installed weather instrumentation, and raising STEM achievement through applied inquiry-based activities and data analysis. These goals are supported through action strategies, aligned with SSEP program goals, to include 1) leveraging resources of the NC State Climate Office (NCSCO) to provide creative, fun, and content and concept-rich programming (improving student competence in science and mathematics), 2) empowering students as citizen scientists who contribute valuable meteorological information to global scientific understanding (nurturing student enthusiasm for STEM), and 3) building collaboration opportunities through program activities between students and research scientists, STEM technicians, community weather spotters and STEM educators (interesting students in pursuing STEM careers). RAIN Across the River is a full year program with two components, a Summer Academy and Saturday sessions throughout the school year. A total of thirty rising 7th grade students representing two Northeastern North Carolina counties, Chowan and Bertie, will be recruited and selected to participate in this program. The parents/guardians of these students will be directly involved in guiding and supporting student involvement in citizen science activities because weather instruments will be installed at their homes. The activities and special events (weather balloon launch and field trips) at the Chowan and Bertie County Summer Academies will form the foundation for continued work with students at 6 Saturday sessions from September through May (for each county). Participating students will use a wide-range of technologies to collect, upload, analyze and share their meteorological data and their personal understanding of data trends with national networks and local partners. Community CoCoRaHS volunteers, staff from NCSCO, and professional STEM educators will mentor students in developing inquiry questions from their data to guide science fair investigations. The NCSCO staff and local program coordinator will work to engage the local and global STEM community in building successful outcomes from the RAIN Across the River program. It is anticipated that the RAIN Across the River program will be a model for other communities who seek to engage youth as contributing scientists providing detailed understanding of local variations in weather patterns.

Date: 09/01/18 - 8/31/19
Amount: $14,671.00
Funding Agencies: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Eastern NC has a history of large and intense wildfire on both privately owned timberland and protected areas such as national wildlife refuges. A layer of soil rich with organic content plays an important factor in the wildfire susceptibility and intensity across this region. The SCONC is monitoring organic soil moisture to assess potential fire and smoldering risk and integrating this data into resources to better address coastal fire conditions and risk. As part of the proposed project, SCONC will be maintaining a network of organic soil moisture monitoring stations in eastern NC and implementing quality control routines. SCONC will also develop usable guidance using the collected data through stakeholder engagement.

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