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Climatologist offers perspective on state’s weather extremes

State Climatologist Stuart Foster offered perspectives on weather and climate in Kentucky at an April 9 meeting in Frankfort.

kccDr. Foster’s presentation was part of “Nature’s Call to Action II,” a conference co-sponsored by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Kentucky Division of the Federal Highway Administration.

“The conference dealt with climate change, air quality and livability, but the main emphasis was built around climate,” said Dr. Foster, director of the Kentucky Climate Center and the Kentucky Mesonet.

“The Transportation Cabinet has to look at strategic planning both the long-term in projects for Kentucky’s infrastructure and for the short-term in responding to extreme weather conditions,” said Dr. Foster, professor in WKU’s Department of Geography and Geology.

In his presentation, Dr. Foster discussed the difference in weather and climate, the key influences on Kentucky’s climate, climate trends in Kentucky, climate change scenarios and the frequency of extreme weather events (floods, droughts, heat and cold waves, severe storms, snow and ice).

“Extreme weather affects our state in many different ways,” Dr. Foster said.

For example, he noted, this winter’s cold and snowy conditions caused the state many counties to spend more money than normal on clearing roadways.

“There was a lot of interest in information on the variability and extremes of our climate as well as concerns about what future weather patterns might be,” Dr. Foster said.

Kentucky Mesonet logoHe highlighted climate services partnerships the Kentucky Climate Center has with regional and national groups (Midwestern Regional Climate Center in Champaign, Ill., and NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in North Carolina) and reminded those in attendance about the value of the Kentucky Mesonet, which provides high-quality, real-time data from more than 60 stations across the state.

Dr. Foster used an example of a storm in Hopkins County on June 24, 2013, when 5.92 inches of rain was recorded in less than four hours at the Mesonet site near Madisonville.

“The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet was interested to see if these extreme events are becoming more common and the Kentucky Mesonet gives us the data that we can analyze about these extreme weather conditions,” he said.

This week, Dr. Foster again will be discussing the value of the Kentucky Mesonet and the data it provides during a presentation at a meeting of the Kentucky Stormwater Association.

Contact: Dr. Stuart Foster, (270) 745-5983.

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