Kent State Geography Professors to Assess Relative Extreme Temperature Events and Develop Monitoring Tools With NOAA

Everyone expects Death Valley in July to be "hot" and Minneapolis in February to be "cold", right? Much research has been done to study the extreme temperature events that take place in these and other regions. But, what about 81 degrees in Anchorage in July or 2 degrees in Dallas in February?

Such events are often called "relative" extreme temperature events – relative to the time of the year and how acclimatized the local population is to them. Less studied, though potentially more impactful, relative temperature extremes are a topic that two Kent State University geography professors and their collaborators at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are currently studying in depth.       

Headshot of Cameron C. Lee
“These relative events may grab fewer headlines but can have important impacts on the environment, agriculture, and human health,” said Cameron C. Lee, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Geography (within the College of Arts and Sciences) at Kent State.

As principal investigator, Lee was recently awarded a three-year, $387,000 grant from NOAA's Climate Program Office and its Modeling, Analysis, Predictions and Projections (MAPP) program.

The project is titled “Excess Heat and Excess Cold Factors: Establishing a unified duration-intensity metric for monitoring hazardous temperature conditions in North America.”

Lee’s co-investigators on this project are Professor Scott Sheridan, Ph.D., chair of Kent State's Department of Geography and Karin Gleason, a meteorologist at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

The researchers will analyze the historical frequency, duration, spatial extent and population impacted by these events in North America and will cross validate the results between observed station data and modeled historical data known as reanalysis data. These events will be developed into prospective monitoring products. The robustness of these products will be assessed through different data sets. Using the event definitions that are developed, the researchers will then aim to transition them into operational monitoring products.

Ultimately, establishing a standard set of products can help unify and simplify information used by local National Weather Service offices and public health leaders to issue excessive heat and cold warnings across climatologically-diverse areas of North America.

“Results show an increase in heat events and decrease in cold events across most of the United States and Canada,” Lee said. “More interestingly, the relative events are changing slightly more rapidly than the absolute events.”

The grant will also provide the funding for the university to hire a postdoctoral fellow in fall 2022.

In 2017, Lee and Sheridan received funding from NOAA’s MAPP program to use a synoptic climatological framework to assess predictability of anomalous coastal sea levels. That same year, they also received funding from NOAA’s Climate Monitoring (CM) program to develop extreme event climate change indicators related to human thermal comfort.

Lee is a member of the Environmental Science and Design Research Institute at Kent State and also serves as managing editor of the International Journal of Biometeorology.

Kent State is ranked as an R1 research institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which is the highest recognition that doctoral universities can receive, affirming Kent State’s place as an elite research institution along with Yale, Harvard and the University of California-Berkeley.

To learn more about Lee’s research, visit www.personal.kent.edu/~cclee/.

Media Contacts:
Jim Maxwell, jmaxwel2@kent.edu, (330) 672-8028
Cameron C. Lee, cclee@kent.edu, (330) 672-0360

POSTED: Friday, June 17, 2022 - 9:13am
UPDATED: Friday, June 24, 2022 - 11:30am
WRITTEN BY:
Jim Maxwell