Research Project

Assessing and Quantifying Changes in Rainfall and Temperature Patterns in Indiana Pennsylvania and other locations within the Appalachian Plateau

Faculty Mentor

Katie Farnsworth

What is your research?

My research involves assessing long-term climatic trends both locally and regionally. So far, we have downloaded free weather station data from 12 stations (there will be more eventually) in Western PA, eastern OH, and northern WV in the form of Google Sheets, which can be converted into excel format. Each of these stations has a weather record of at least 30 years. Many of them have much longer periods of archived data. The plan is to use this data to assess long-term changes in precipitation, temperature, heating/cooling degree days, and other variables related to temperature and the growing season such as the minimum temperature threshold for plant growth (growing degree days). After "cleaning" the "raw" data, it was inserted into a programming platform called Matlab to create averages for each variable of each year in the form of spreadsheets. After processing all the raw downloaded data, there are 12 columns for each month of the year, and each row is a year. Each cell is the average value for that month of that specific year. Then I started creating bar or line graphs of monthly averages in google sheets to investigate the data to see if I notice any trends. Graphs are useful and necessary for identifying and evaluating changes over time, which is the purpose of this project. However, to find all trends in the data, we are preforming one or more types of statistics tests in excel since it would be too time consuming to create graphs (on sheets or excel) for all the processed data. This will identify all trends and will help us to investigate the possibility of shifting seasons, global warming, and/or shifting temperature and precipitation patterns. We will also be investigating causes behind observed climate variabilities. These might include certain climatic oscillations, global warming, etc.

Why is it important?

This research is important for several reasons. This project will determine how and why rainfall patterns are changing on a local and regional scale. Precipitation patterns have major influences on agricultural production, forest growth/diversity, the energy sector, and water resources. So, with a new analysis of changing patterns, this may help state officials cope with and model future climate scenarios and their associated effects on different industries as well as the stress on fragile ecosystems. Mitigating the effects of intense rainfall events and droughts could also be planned more effectively. As populations rise in the future, more people are going to be affected by extreme weather events such as floods and droughts. Climate change will help to further enhance this risk. Because of this, prior planning will help the situation in a remarkable way. I believe there is going to be far-reaching implications because this project may lead to other states becoming more vigilant about changing climate patterns. This would lead to better planning in advance for floods and droughts, along with lessening the economic as well as the communal impact of these events.

Josh Merichko Josh Merichko's Research