CEMA recognized by state
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson November 05, 2019
UD’s Center for Environmental Monitoring and Analysis proclaimed official repository for weather and climatological observations
The University of Delaware’s Center for Environmental Monitoring and Analysis (CEMA) has been storing and compiling data on weather throughout the state of Delaware for quite some time. In recognition of this long-standing service to the state, legislators honored the center with a bill recognizing CEMA as the official repository of historical and real-time weather and climatological observations for the state of Delaware.
The bill was sponsored by Representatives Debra Heffernan and Stephanie L. Hansen.
CEMA formed in 2017, but its environmental network, the Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS) began in 2003 with only 5 stations. Those stations were monitored by Dan Leathers, Delaware state climatologist, professor in the Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences, and Co-Director of DEOS, and Kevin Brinson, associate state climatologist and DEOS director who was a graduate student at UD at the time.
Today, the DEOS network has over 80 real-time environmental monitoring stations supporting many vital state functions and CEMA has since grown into an umbrella organization for four different groups — DEOS, the Satellite Receiving Station, the State Climate Office and the Delaware Environmental Monitoring and Analysis Center — and boasts seven staff members.
“We started out with this idea that we’d have four or five stations to give emergency management a much better picture of what the weather is like in the different areas of Delaware,” said Leathers. “Once those five stations were up, other people in state government started to see it and say ‘Well, we could really use a station here’ and then the Delaware Emergency Management Agency said, ‘Well we could really use a couple more in these locations’ and the DEOS network really grew organically after that.”
Everything sprung out of the DEOS network and as it grew, so too did the applications of the information and the partnerships that developed over the years with various state agencies.
“Those partnerships took us from being just a bunch of stations out in the field to being applications that were helping decision makers and building decision support systems,” said Brinson.
Leathers said that since they were using all of the pieces to produce integrated decision support systems, and since they were all working together, it only made sense to bring them together under one organization.
CEMA offers a broad array of services to the state, including real-time weather monitoring and storing the climatological and weather-related data.
In addition, CEMA provides emergency management support during severe weather events, through their real-time weather system but also with Leathers and Brinson providing weather updates and their general expertise as part of the state climate office. The National Weather Service uses CEMA data in all their interactions with the state during emergency weather events as well.
“We also have alert notifications through our system that provide updates to various state employees and state agencies to let them know about heavy rainfall,” said Brinson. “We have a pond monitoring portion of our DEOS network, which monitors water levels in ponds, and if the water levels get to certain thresholds, they receive notifications so they can go and release some water and mitigate the potential for the dam to fail.”
Perhaps the most popular service is the coastal flood monitoring system which is a collaboration with the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) and provides emergency managers and local municipal officials with predictions of flood potential in various coastal communities in the state.
Leathers stressed that they work hand in hand with DGS in a lot of what they do.
“The partnership between CEMA and DGS is crucial in bringing the best possible data and decision support to the people of Delaware,” said Leathers. “CEMA and DGS represent an important part of the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment’s outreach to the surrounding region.”
CEMA supports the Delaware Department of Transportation through the snow monitoring work that they do, providing them with snow totals for their snow removal reimbursement program and giving them the real-time snow information that they use for some of their operations during snow events.
There is also the irrigation scheduling software system, known as the Delaware Irrigation Management System (DIMS) which supports the agricultural community in the state.
“Roughly a third of the state’s cropland is irrigated, and somewhere between 120 and 150 irrigation systems are managed through DIMS each year,” said Brinson. “It helps farmers manage their water so they can maximize their crop yield.”
The Delaware Weather Hazards Index went operational in the summer of 2018 and is a one-stop shop for emergency managers throughout the state to be able to assess particular weather risks. Instead of having to go through various individual maps, like a temperature map or a rainfall map, the index has all of the information in one place with three colors to indicate the severity of risks: yellow for low risk, orange for moderate and red for extreme.
CEMA also conducts outreach events and the Satellite Receiving Station is used for numerous research projects and for instruction in many classes at UD. Along with the National Weather Service and the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, CEMA helped to sponsor the first severe weather awareness week, with a Severe Winter Weather Awareness week coming up this fall.