Innovation through Geography and Technology
A pair of Kent State University geographers have teamed up to secure two research grants totaling more than $550,000 for separate projects to study climate change and weather patterns.
Geography Professor and Chair Scott Sheridan, Ph.D., will lead a project titled "Using a Synoptic Climatological Framework to Assess Predictability of Anomalous Coastal Sea Levels in NOAA High-Priority Areas," while Assistant Professor Cameron Lee, Ph.D., will lead another project called "Developing Extreme Event Climate Change Indicators Related to Human Thermal Comfort."
Lee and Sheridan, of Kent State's Department of Geography in the College of Arts and Sciences, will be co-investigators on each other's projects, both of which are funded by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Sheridan's project, funded for about $287,000 over three years, focuses on nuisance floods that result from short-term rises in sea level along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
"Everybody wants to study the big events, like the floods that result from major hurricanes, but these noncatastrophic events are not well-studied," Sheridan said. "A few centimeters of difference, depending on the coastline type, can mean inland advance of ocean water, which causes nuisance events like blue-sky floods. With global sea-level rise, the frequency of these events is going way up."
Sheridan and Lee will study local and regional meteorological trends like barometric pressure and wind patterns to determine how they affect sea level. Lee's contribution includes self-organizing maps he has perfected through his familiarity with particular geographic information science (GISc) software and his understanding of neural network models.
The researchers say the aim of the project is to help meteorologists better understand weather patterns to enable more accurate forecasting.
"Forecasting is the golden egg, of course," Dr. Lee said. "That's part of the grant."
Lee's own project, funded for about $270,000 over two years, will study historic changes in extreme weather events that cause either severe heat or cold—two major factors that affect human comfort and health.
"We're talking about hot and humid versus cold and dry," Lee said. "We're trying to understand how days of these weather types have changed in frequency."
Lee said Sheridan fits his project perfectly.
"He's one of the leading experts in the world on the impacts between extreme heat and human health, and my research looks at both ends of that spectrum," Dr. Lee said. "Part of Scott's research has been about creating a classification for these weather types in different locations. I created a similar one relative to season and location."
Lee said other indicators will come from the Climate Prediction Center at NOAA and raw weather station data.
This is just one of the many projects Kent State faculty are working on to research climate change and lessen its impact. Read about GISc professor Andrew Curtis' work to aid recovery efforts after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.