The State of Climatology
Posted April 23, 2007
The title of this post might sound like it would be an exposition or primer on the science of climatology and its current status as a part of meteorology in general. However, in this case my intent is a little more mundane, and I'm referring mainly to the fact that our home state of North Carolina has quite a presence in that field on a local, regional and national basis, and a recent announcement just shores that up a bit more.
Climatology, of course, is defined as the description and scientific study of the climate, which is further defined (in the American Meteorological Society's Glossary of Meteorology, for example) as "the slowly varying aspects of the atmosphere–hydrosphere–land surface system." There are descriptive, scientific and applied branches of climatology, and all are represented to varying degrees in the climatological organizations that reside in our state.
We are frequently asked questions about averages and variability of temperature, precipitation, wind speed, snowfall, dates of extreme high or low values of those quantities or dates of first and last frost or snowfall, and so on, and the three organizations I'll mention here provide a wealth of information online and via telephone or e-mail that can address most of those issues. They maintain records, provide consultation to private and government entities, and conduct research to improve our understanding of the climate at a range of temporal and spatial scales, and some of you might find the information on their web sites useful from time to time.
First, just down the road from our studios is the State Climate Office of North Carolina. It is located in a building on the NCSU Centennial Campus that also houses the Raleigh National Weather Service Forecast Office, in an effort to foster cooperative efforts between the NCSU research community, climatologists focusing on our state, and forecasters/hydrologists who make weather forecasts and warnings for central North Carolina. You can learn more about the State Climate Office and the services it provides at
Only a little farther away and covering a larger area of responsibility is the Southeast Regional Climate Center (SERCC). This organization spreads its focus across a region encompassing 12 southeastern states and 2 U.S. territories in the Carribean, and is the source of the map above showing 60-day precipitation departures from normal. Of special note regarding this organization is that it has just announced a relocation into our local area. The SERCC is one of six regional climate centers around the country, and was established back in 1989. For most of that time, it has been co-located with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in Columbia. However, as of April 1st, a move was undertaken that places the center with the Geography Department at UNC-Chapel Hill. While this move is not fully reflected as yet in the SERCC web site, its extensive suite of online resources remain available, and you can peruse them at
At the next step up the area of responsibility scale, our state is also home to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville. As the name implies, it is a repository for climate information for all of the United States and conducts research and offers services more oriented to the national or global scale. Our military weather services also have climatological organizations that are co-located with NCDC, in the form of the Air Force Combat Climatology Center and the Navy's Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Detachment Asheville. You can explore the information offered by NCDC at