Midwest/Northeast Severe Cold Events - Climatology, Causality, and Predictability
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In the second quarter of 2010, SPHEAR completed its pilot project that focused on cold weather outbreaks and their impact to the energy complex. The project was designed to: (1) provide a long-term climate perspective on extreme cold weather events (2) identify synoptic precursors to cold outbreaks and (3) provide information that can be used operationally for improving medium-range forecasts of extreme weather. SPHEAR’s industry collaborators were pleased to discover certain atmospheric variables that can signal a severe cold outbreak at lead times up to 30 to 40-days.
The SPHEAR pilot project used weather records (temperature, time, location, etc.) from multiple locations as a basic input into a central processor to generate analytic catalogs used for predicting extreme incidents of cold weather. The process considers extreme cold according to how local temperature thresholds are exceeded on daily timescales. A regional “Magnitude Index” (MI) reflecting the temperature intensity, duration and spatial extent of extreme temperature events are computed. Observed variability of temperature extremes was then examined on timescales ranging from days to decades and scrutinized with respect to the climate controls on their synoptic causes. Relationships with known climate models as well as other relevant objectively derived circulation and land-surface patterns were then used to develop analytic catalogs that can lead to improved medium-range probabilistic prediction for extreme temperature events. Long-term trends were assessed and integrated into the predictive methodology. The main components of cold temperature extremes, i.e., intensity, duration and spatial extent, were explicitly considered.
These forecasting tools are designed for straightforward operational application by practicing meteorologists. Output from this SPHEAR study consists of: (1) Tabular Event Set Catalogs containing information about each extreme cold event since 1948; (2) Composite Maps created to provide information about the atmospheric/surface anomaly patterns at a range of lead times relative to extreme cold events; (3) Synoptic Catalogs that identify the leading modes of atmospheric variability in winter for multiple variables and then express the relationship to the Magnitude Index for severe cold events; (4) Significance of Leading Mode Probability to indicate the importance of certain atmospheric signals at certain lead times for severe cold outbreaks.
Scripps holds a copyright for the SPHEAR catalog of nearly 5,000
individual representations of data in the form of maps, charts, graphs,
technical descriptions, and unique databases. SPHEAR also developed
a patent pending process for using synoptic precursors to analyze high
Results from SPHEAR's pilot project are currently being compiled for submission to various academic journals, white papers and for conference presentations. The intellectual property developed in SPHEAR's pilot project will be licensed for commercial use under UC San Diego's Commercialization Initiative hosted at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and administered by the UCSD Technology Transfer Office.