213 The Pacific Coast Fog Project: A Multi-disciplinary Effort to Provide Web-based Climate Products for Ecologists

Monday, 7 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Gary P. Ellrod, Ellrod Weather Consulting, LLC, Granby, CT; and A. Torregrosa, C. L. Combs, and I. Gultepe

Handout (1.8 MB)

The Pacific Coast Fog Project is an effort to pool the expertise from multiple science disciplines to provide regional and local weather and climate information on the frequency and character of fog for effective management of natural resources and the lands that sustain them along the coast of California. Advective fog is a major modifier of the weather and climatic condition along the Pacific coast and has significant effects on the hydrologic cycle and thermodynamic balance in coastal ecological, biological, and economic systems. For example, fog is the major source of moisture during summer months for the redwood forests, a treasured natural resource. Fog also modulates shallow stream temperatures to reduce the mortality rate of young salmon during their freshwater life stages as they head to the sea. Fog induced cooling helps reduce summer energy costs along the Pacific Coast and reduces heat burn on crops important to the local economy such as grapes.

Factors that drive the patterns of fog along the coast include synoptic weather patterns, ocean upwelling, topography, aerosol-cloud dynamics, and differences in temperature between inland valleys and the littoral ocean areas. Estimating the distribution, frequency and characteristics of coastal fog and evaluating the resulting ecosystem responses require a diverse array of measurements and models that link processes at multiple scales.

The project leverages results from existing research projects, such as long-term fog climatology based on surface land and buoy observations (University of Washington), and California fog climatology derived from 11 years of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) data (Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins). There are numerous other collaborators from academia (such as several University of California oceanographic and atmospheric science departments) and government agencies (U. S. Geological Survey, National Weather Service, NASA, and Environment Canada).

During the summer of 2012, a pilot project deployed sensors on loan from Environment Canada to augment existing instruments at Bodega Bay, California and Pepperwood Preserve in Sonoma County to gather important data sets on mesoscale and microphysical variables (fog liquid water content, surface wind, visibility, temperature, etc.) that will be used to better describe the characteristics of coastal fog. Sample transects for significant fog days will be shown, along with examples of possible graphic products for end users.

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