355 Developing a High-Resolution Extreme Weather Event Climatology for the Kennedy Space Center Using a Combination of High-Density Observations and Detailed Infrastructure Mapping

Monday, 8 January 2018
Exhibit Hall 3 (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
John M. Lanicci, Univ. of South Alabama, Mobile, AL

Handout (3.1 MB)

This research was part of a NASA Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES) funded project to develop a vulnerability analysis of the KSC natural and physical environments to the occurrence of extreme weather events and climatic anomalies that can be expected under various global climate-change scenarios. This portion of the study attempted to quantify the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events (tornadic and severe thunderstorms, and heavy rainfall events) by mapping them onto a high-resolution grid structure (4Í4km squares) that we used to map KSC’s critical infrastructure.

Previous research on KSC infrastructure vulnerability focused on portions of the infrastructure (e.g., fuel lines, HVAC, and communication lines) located along the immediate coastline and revealed that these were in jeopardy in locations where the beach is narrow and dunes are already being overwashed. Based on this previous research, we decided to concentrate on the physical facilities and structures over both KSC and Cape Canaveral AFS (CCAFS), utilizing the KSC Basic Information Guide to build a spreadsheet with information on approximately 1220 semi-permanent and permanent buildings, bridges, towers, antennas, and other structures. Our spreadsheet sorted the structure data by square footage, ownership, year built, and physical location. We then mapped these facilities onto a Geographic Information System / Facility Information Center (GIS/FIC) grid map that is used by installation facility managers. When we mapped the infrastructure data onto the GIS/FIC grid, we found that in addition to the coastal infrastructure, there are several large concentrations of facilities within KSC (e.g., Shuttle Landing Facility, Space Launch Complexes 39B and 39A, Vehicle Assembly Building and Contractors Road areas, the KSC Industrial Area and Visitors Center complex) that should also be of concern. Changes in extreme event frequency and/or intensity could put these facilities in jeopardy in addition to those on the immediate coast. This is particularly concerning when one considers that nearly one third of these structures were built before 1980, and eight of them have square footage in excess of 100,000 ft2.

For the tornadic and severe thunderstorm portion of the study, we mapped 65 reports from the NOAA’s Storm Events Database onto the same GIS/FIC map used for the critical infrastructure. The mapping showed that about half of the grid squares in the GIS/FIC map received at least one report during the 64-year period in the database, and about one fifth of these occurred within the critical infrastructure grid squares we identified from our facilities spreadsheet. This mapping is 20 times finer than the national grid used by the Storm Prediction Center (80Í80 km). For the heavy rainfall data, we utilized Schnapp’s (2014) extreme-value statistical analysis (EVSA) using the rain-gauge data collected from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) network operated by NASA over the KSC installation. The EVSA has also been described by Schnapp and Lanicci (2014). We mapped the extreme rainfall data onto the GIS/FIC grid for the 30-year return period, and found a large spatial variability in the estimated rainfall (264.2–382.8 mm), with the highest value (382.8 mm) in the approximate location of the Shuttle Landing Facility, with a secondary maximum of 356.7 mm over the CCAFS launch complexes. As with the severe-storm climatology, the resolution of our EVSA is much higher than that of conventional EVSAs [e.g., NOAA Atlas 14, Volume 9 (Perica et al. 2013)]. The NOAA Atlas 14 used seven reporting stations in a one-degree latitude-longitude square, compared to our EVSA which used 36 grid points over the TRMM network covering a total area 600 km2.

It is hoped that environmental managers, engineers, and facility planners can use the information contained in these databases as they consider infrastructure improvements and new construction over the next 20-30 years. The unprecedented detail in these databases will allow more precision in this planning. As we consider the consequences of global climate change and sea-level rise, these databases should provide planners with a reasonable first estimate of what to expect, especially for heavy rainfall events.


Perica, S., D. Martin, S. Pavlovic, R. Ishani, M. St. Laurent, C. Trypaluk, D. Unruh, M. Yekta, and G. Bonnin (2013). NOAA Atlas 14 Volume 9 Version 2, Precipitation-Frequency Atlas of the United States, Southeastern States. NOAA, National Weather Service, Silver Spring, MD.

Schnapp, A. D. (2014). Extreme Value Analysis of Rainfall Events over the Kennedy Space Center Complex. M.S. Thesis, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL, 226pp.

Schnapp, A. D., and J. M. Lanicci, 2014: Analysis of climatological rainfall extremes over the Kennedy Space Center Complex using a high-density observational network. 26th Conference on Climate Variability and Change (American Meteorological Society), 2–6 February 2014, Atlanta, GA.

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