87th AMS Annual Meeting

Wednesday, 17 January 2007: 2:15 PM
Issues of drought within a state climate office
206A (Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center)
David A. Robinson, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ
Precipitation deficits all too frequently accumulate to the point where concern arises for drought of one type or another. A key to responding to impending or ongoing fire danger, agricultural dryness, hydrological drought or concerns with respect to the potable water supply is the diligent monitoring of water-related resources.

In cooperation with various state and federal agencies, many state climate offices are actively involved with issues of drought. There is no meteorological or climatological phenomenon where the expertise and resources provided by state climate offices can be better brought to bear. Whether it is through monitoring, providing historical perspective, forecasting, consulting with decision makers or providing information to the public, state offices are often at the forefront when drought looms or is in progress.

This presentation will focus on the drought-related activities of the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist (ONJSC). The ONJSC monitors precipitation at over 75 stations, approximately 40 of which are operated by the ONJSC. Others stations are maintained by the US Geological Survey, the National Resource Conservation Service and the National Weather Service, among other agencies. Together, the stations constitute the NJ Weather and Climate Network (NJWxNet) http://climate.rutgers.edu/njwxnet . Precipitation and hydrological products of the ONJSC and others, along with outlooks and public drought information are found on the ONJSC's “WaterWatch” web site http://climate.rutgers.edu/stateclim_v1/njwaterwatch2006.html. This page includes a link to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection's (NJDEP) drought page that contains useful drought indicator graphics. The ONJSC web site includes station and statewide monthly precipitation data and climatologies back to the late 19th century. Often with the assistance of students, the ONJSC conducts research projects related to drought. These have ranged from historic assessment of the utility of the Palmer Drought Index in NJ to associations between East Coast sea surface temperatures and NJ precipitation.

The State Climatologist serves on the NJDEP Drought Board, frequently contributing information and advice as drought watch, warning and emergency declarations are considered. On occasion, drought-related testimony is provided to state legislative committees. Finally, in addition to ONJSC web pages, the state office maintains an active public presence, especially during drought and particularly through the media. In one recent drought year, over 500 interviews were granted.

It is such a wide-breadth of activities with state climate offices that result in them serving as key drought consultants and integrators, providing information to decision makers, while keeping the public well informed.

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