Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Southeastern Climate Consortium

 *Please Click Here for SECC's most recent annual progress report* (Period of Performance: 5/1/13 - 6/30/14) 

Mission & Vision

The mission of the SECC is to improve climate risk management through advances in education, information technology, outreach, and decision-support in the following ways:

• Improve the understanding of decision contexts for using climate variability and change information within water, land, and coastal systems by considering their integrated linkages. 

• Develop actionable knowledge for decision support through interdisciplinary research in close collaboration with stakeholders and policy makers.

• Maintain diverse and flexible networks of scientists, including leveraging existing organizations, such as Extension and stakeholder groups in the SE US.

• Explore the role of innovative science-practice networks as incubators for the collaborative development of tools and adaptation options that enhance the use of climate science in decision making.

• Experiment with new approaches for connecting science, science-outreach, and science-stakeholder interactions by exploring and expanding established communication pathways and new social media.  

Building Partnerships

SECC aims to establish partnerships among:

Scientists, Extension, and Sea Grant; State and local planners, policy-makers and governments; Water utility, natural resource and land management agencies; Industry; Non-governmental organizations; and anyone whose decision-making is influenced by climate-related events.

Select Projects

  • RISA funding has supported research to determine the water-stress level of basins in the Southeast.  This stress information is being used directly in the governor-appointed Alabama Water Agency Assessment Group of which RISA investigator and the Alabama State Climatologist (John Christy) is a member.  This group has been tasked to frame a first-ever State Water Management Plan.  To this end, precise information is required that quantitatively identifies stressed rivers and streams and thus basins in need of measures to protect their economic and environmental integrity.  Using climate, water withdrawal, and water consumption data, this effort, led by Richard McNider of UAH, executes the US Forest Service WASSI hydrologic model over long periods of time to determine stress levels and probabilities.  Below is an example of the UAH WASSI run that calculates the percentage of months during 1951-2010 in which the given basin would NOT have been stressed while under CURRENT water withdrawal demands.  This tool will also be used to define future stress levels given specific scenarios of increased irrigation, municipal water withdrawals and climate variability.
  • SECC researchers are examining the impact of landfalling tropical cyclones on the seasonal droughts in the southeastern US from historical observations. This research question was framed from our interactions with the stakeholders in the Florida Water and Climate Alliance (FloridaWCA) who believe that rainfall from landfalling tropical cyclones tend to mitigate seasonal droughts. While this belief is intuitive, it confounds the well known climate variations of the tropical sea surface temperatures that force droughts over the southeastern US.
  • We are using global seasonal climate forecasts for 21 winter seasons to forecast nutrient loading and streamflow in 28 watersheds spread across the southeastern US. This is being used as a demonstration to develop climate application products for the southeastern US that would be useful to our stakeholders in the Ag and water industry.
  • We are also examining the anthropogenic influence of irrigation on the local climate of the southeastern US using high resolution regional climate models. With the increasing irrigation infrastructure in the southeastern US to meet the demands of food security and biofuel, it is important to understand the potential impacts of irrigation on the surface climate of the southeastern US.
  • The Florida Water and Climate Alliance (WCA) is an innovative climate learning community that convenes researchers, stakeholders from public water utilities, water management districts (regulators, permit providers), and local government employees, such as city planners.  Members of the Florida WCA engage in knowledge exchange, dialog and learning about climate risk management and have developed successful collaborative research proposals.  Research projects contribute to assessing and developing relevant climate data and tools and ensuring their usefulness to water supply and resource planning.
  • SECC is working on the development of a risk index for Corn Aflatoxin contamination in the southeastern USA, which includes assessing if pre-planting climate conditions as influenced by ENSO have an effect of corn yield in in the southeastern USA, determining El Niño-Southern Oscillation effects on winter wheat yield in the southeastern USA, and evaluating the agronomic and economic benefits of irrigation scheduling on corn yield.
  • Climate variability and climate change affect crop production in the southeastern United States.  The SECC has been using crop simulation models to understand the effect of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) based climatic variability and projected climate change on the yields of traditional southern crops such as corn, peanuts, cotton, and grain sorghum.  There are clear ENSO signatures for some of these crops.  For example, we have learned that rainfed grain sorghum has higher yields and higher water use efficiency rates in La Niña years.  The results are now being summarized so that they can be disseminated to stakeholders who will be able to use them to improve farming efficiency.
  • Using analog methods, we have found that a one-degree Fahrenheit increase in annual temperature corresponds to an 8-10 day increase in the length of the growing season in some inland areas of the southeastern United States.  Areas near the coast behave differently because of the influence of the ocean.   Some inland areas in central Florida may become frost-free under a 1 Fahrenheit increase.
  • What do climate projections say about future droughts in Alabama? This project involves quantifying what commonly used drought indices say about future droughts in Alabama. The changes in frequency, severity, and spatial extent of future droughts are being quantified via Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), Palmer’s Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and Self-calibrating Palmer’s Drought Severity Index (sc_PDSI).
  • Assessment of future erosivities in Alabama. Erosivity, the only climate factor in the RUSLE2 soil loss equation, captures the erosive power of rainfall and runoff at a location. The temporal stationarity of erosivity can no longer be assumed under a climate change regime and numerous studies have been undertaken to estimate future R-values in the US and elsewhere. In this project, high resolution  dynamically downscaled 3-hourly precipitation data, simulated by the NARCAAP HRM3-HadCM3 model under the SRES A2 climate change scenario, was disaggregated further into 15-minute resolution by a stochastic method. The disaggreagted precipitation data are being processed to calculate future erosivity values for each model point within the state of Alabama.
  • Potential changes in erosivties in Alabama. In this project, comparison is being made between the magnitude of future and current erosivity values at a county level for the state of Alabama. The current erosivity values were extracted from the RUSLE2 climate database. In addition to the magnitude of erosivity, the temporal distribution of erosivity within each county is also being examined by utilizing the Kendall Tau Rank Coefficient. The sensitivity of erosivity to changes in rainfall amount is also being examined for each county. 
  • Since 2012 SECC researchers have been working on an extension-research project focused on climate risk management for African American limited-resource farmers.  Initiated in 2009, this project is currently a component of the Southeast Climate Extension project directed by Clyde Fraisse.  From the start, this effort has been in partnership with a community-based organization, the “Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund” (or “Federation”). Based on farmer interviews, climate workshops and numerous meetings with Federation outreach specialists and leaders, we have found that the approaches and outreach methods developed with more prosperous, non-minority farmers do not necessarily resonate with smaller-scale minority farmers due to unique histories and production constraints.  Project activities and outputs therefore include approaches to climate variability and climate change that are more likely to be relevant to this group. The intended impact will be improved climate resilience for small-scale African American farmers.
  • SECC researchers will engage with coastal research and outreach within Sea Grant and the FCI to focus on how coastal resilience as an integrated component of water and agriculture is being developed in three regions along the Georgia and Florida coastlines. The overarching goal for SECC coastal efforts is to compare and contrast the three case-study regions (Georgia coastline, Apalachicola Bay, and Miami Beach). The goals are to understand links between coastal challenges, including sea level rise, fresh- and waste-water management, and agricultural land and water use; and to learn how climate information is being incorporated into coastal planning efforts and decision making.


Decision Support Tools

  • SmartIrrigation Apps:  A suite of smartphone applications for scheduling irrigation in a variety of important southeastern crops.  The apps improve both the timing and amounts of irrigation water applied and result in higher or equal yields than traditional methods with significantly less water use.  The apps also incorporate drought mitigation strategies such as primed acclimation.
  • AgroClimate: The SECC has developed a series of relevant decision support tools that are available through AgroClimate (www.AgroClimate.org) and used by Extension experts and growers. 


Other Resources

SECC on Facebook: A Facebook Page to connect with SECC stakeholders and interested parties. Regularly updated with items about SECC research and related work in the Southeast USA.

SECC on Twitter: A Twitter account for SECC sharing SECC, climate, agricultural, water, and coastal-related news.

SIFT AG: SIFT is an online platform to strengthen information exchange and learning among farmers, extension professionals and researchers in the SE USA. This website is a dynamic space to support continuous interactions among participants who are part of existing agricultural networks, such as the Tri-state row crop climate learning community and the FL soil health and cover crop network. This network is funded by and partners with SECC scientists.

Southeast Climate Consortium

Principal Investigator 
Senthold Asseng

Program Coordinator

Shelby Krantz

Co-Principal Investigators 

Wendy-Lin Bartels, Assistant Research Scientist, U Florida

Norman E. Breuer, Scientist, U Florida

John Christy, Distinguished Professor, U Alabama Huntsville

Carrie Furman, Assistant Research Scientist, U Georgia

David Letson, Professor, U Miami               

Vasu Misra, Associate Professor, Florida State U

Mark Risse, Professor, U Georgia

Puneet Srivastava, Professor, Auburn U

George Vellidis, Professor, U Georgia

Affiliated Institutions

University of Miami

Florida State University

University of Florida

University of Georgia

Auburn University

University of Alabama- Huntsville

Dates Funded 


Project Website