Severe weather, frozen precipitation, icing, and high winds associated with mid-latitude and tropical cyclones affecting the southeastern United States pose significant hazards and constitute special regional forecast challenges. The goal of this project is to establish a Storm Analysis Research and Training (START) Center at North Carolina State University, in conjunction with the NWSFO at Raleigh-Durham. The specific objectives of START encompass: 1) providing a cooperative environment for research and learning in which operational forecasters and university scientists jointly approach regional forecast challenges; 2) improving the understanding how the new NWS observing systems can be applied in addressing local forecasting and nowcasting problems; and 3) producing computer-based software tools and training materials with wide application to the operational community.
Several specific studies have been conducted at the START Center under the Cooperative Program. Using several case studies, a conceptual model and other forecast tools are under development for use during landfall of coastal fronts over eastern North Carolina. A climatological investigation of the rainfall probability associated with hurricanes after landfall in the Atlantic Coast and Gulf Coast states has been performed, and a detailed study of the rainfall distribution in Hurricane Hugo is also underway. Snowfall data over a 40 year period are being compiled and statistically analyzed to provide an updated climatological frame of reference for assisting forecasters in snowfall prediction. An ongoing comprehensive survey of major winter storms impacting the Carolinas identifies the primary physical processes and the principal synoptic and mesoscale patterns associated with significant snow and/or ice storms. Partial thickness values taken from real-time RAOB observations and projected NGM data were used to develop regression equations and nomograms to predict precipitation type across North Carolina, and a climatology of frozen and freezing precipitation events for the Outer Banks will also be prepared. Another study will provide a climatology that will be used to develop a forecast tool that predicts the strength of inland winds after landfall as a function of various storm parameters. A regional climatology of prolonged sleet events over the southeastern U.S. is also being prepared. Two studies involve investigating and developing forecast tools for cold-air damming episodes. The feasibility of using a numerical model to generate guidance for forecasting water levels and flooding threats on the Sounds of North Carolina is also being examined. Preliminary use in an operational setting indicates that this model has resulted in improved forecasts of coastal flooding. Studies involving severe weather include the use of WSI radar composite loops as a severe weather forecasting tool, research into the synoptic signature of especially destructive tornado outbreaks in the Southeast, and the use of satellite data to identify tornado-producing thunderstorms.