THE Midwestern REGIONAL Climate Center (MRCC) is a cooperative program of the Illinois State Water Survey and the National Climatic Data Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The MRCC is a partner in a national climate service program that includes the National Climatic Data Center, Regional Climate Centers, and State Climate Offices. The Center is based in Champaign, Illinois, and serves the nine-state Midwest region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin). The services and research provided by the MRCC help to gain a more in-depth understanding of climate change and its impacts on the Midwest. They also attempt to provide practical solutions to specific climate problems, and supply climate information for the Midwest on climate-sensitive issues, such as agriculture, energy, the environment, human health, risk management, transportation, and water resources.
The MRCC is committed to provide high-standard weather data for the midwestern area, to monitor and assess regional climate conditions and their consequences on the local environment, to compile historical datasets and to coordinate applied research on climate-related issues and problems. The MRCC has two research programs: the Climate Database Modernization Program and the West Nile Virus Project.
The Climate Database Modernization Program (CDMP) aims to preserve and make available online a wide range of observations about the climate from the last three centuries, including those carried out at U.S. Army forts starting in the early 1800s. Following these early observations, in the second half of the 19th century, the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Department of Agriculture directed volunteer observer networks, which eventually evolved into the Weather Bureau's Cooperative Observer Network. The Network remains in operation today for the National Weather Service. The creation of a digital database of the daily Forts/Volunteer Observer data from the 1800s will allow a more comprehensive analysis of daily climate variables and a more complete picture of climate change in the region. Thirty-nine distinct data types have been identified for digitization, including observations of temperature, pressure, precipitation, wind, clouds, state of the weather, river-gauge height, and surface water temperature. The Center carries out quality control tests on the digitized data to guarantee their accuracy in representing the observations recorded on the original documents. The MRCC is also developing a comprehensive set of metadata to complement the dataset. These metadata account for changes in instrumentation and observation practices, by classifying changes in the forms used by the observers. The metadata incorporates detailed information about each station as recorded on the forms, such as station name and location, and barometer correction and other instrument adjustments. This interest in extending weather data also applies to climate extremes, like heat waves, cold waves, and heavy precipitation events, to better understand their changes over time.
Within its interest in climate change, the MRCC is also investigating the topic of drought. The drought projects examine what causes alterations in drought frequency over decades, the impacts of recent droughts on the nature of winter in the Midwest, and the development of improved tools that can further the understanding of recent and ongoing drought.
The West Nile Virus Project aims to construct weather models to determine the period of the year when the northern house mosquito, the most common type of mosquito, becomes dominant in the Midwest, causing a higher risk of transmission to humans and other mammals. The white-spotted mosquito and the northern house mosquito are supposed to maintain the natural transmission cycle of West Nile Virus (WNV) between birds and mosquitoes in Illinois. During the spring and early summer, the white-spotted mosquito, which feeds on birds, is the dominant species, and is responsible for bird-to-bird transmission of WNV. As temperatures become warmer, the northern house mosquito, the most common night-flying mosquito, becomes more dominant. The female of this species is probably responsible for the rapid spreading of the arbovirus among birds, and may act as the major bridge vector to mammals, including humans, in the Midwest. Two types of climate models have been developed to provide an estimate of the likely date when the northern house mosquito begins to become the dominant species, and, thus, when the risk of WNV to horses, humans, and other wildlife is likely to increase.
The MRCC also has a comprehensive section on its website on weather resources, including material for teachers and schools related to climate change. Dr. Steven Hilberg has been the director of the MRCC since 1998. In that same year, Michael Paleki became the Regional Climatologist for the MRCC.
sEE ALsO: Climatic Data, Atmospheric Observations; Illinois; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Western Regional Climate Center.
bibliography. Midwestern Regional Climate Center http://mcc.sws.uiuc.edu. (cited January 2008); Michael A. Toman and Brent Sohngen, Climate Change (Ashgate Publishing, 2004).
Luca Prono University of Nottingham
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