Weather and Climate

passing rainstorm and clouds over Palo Alto Battlefield NHP
Passing rainstorm and clouds over Palo Alto Battlefield NHP

Jane Carlson/NPS


Weather and climate are key drivers of ecosystem structure and function. The long-term patterns of how temperature and precipitation vary over the year, i.e., climate, act as evolutionary pressures and ecological filters on the species occurring at a given location. Furthermore, short-term weather events, such as hurricanes or droughts, can have devastating effects on plant and animal populations in parks, particularly because these organisms often occur on isolated habitat units. As such, both climate and weather have the potential to shape the current status and long-term trends for all of the Gulf Coast Network's vital signs. For this reason, the network assembles datasets on weather and climate for correlative analyses with vital signs such as water quality, vegetation, amphibians, seagrass, and breeding landbirds. By comparing trends in vital signs to variation in weather, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the network can better understand the effects and functions of weather within ecosystems of the Gulf Coast region.

Basic Approach

The climate and weather datasets that are assembled by the network rely primarily on existing climate monitoring stations in and near parks. Several networks/agencies are operating weather stations in the Gulf Coast Network region, including: NOAA-COOP, RAWS, HaleNet, and the NPS Gaseous Pollutant Network. Gridded climate products are also used, such as PRISM. Protocols for these data sources have been reviewed to ensure that they conform to NPS standards and that data are comparable.

Parameters Measured

For weather data, the network mainly uses hourly or daily data on air temperature, relative humidity, precipitation, and barometric pressure. Also of interest are wind speed and direction, and total solar radiation. Depending on the weather station, different data may be available. COOP stations measure either temperature or precipitation or both. RAWS stations measure more variables, but do not all have the same set of sensors; many include sensors for soil moisture and soil temperature and fuel moisture.

For long-term climate data, the network uses of datasets of 30-year normals and extremes for rainfall, temperature or composite variables representing water balance or potential evapotranspiration.

Data Management

The publicly-available weather/climate data are downloaded by network staff on an 'as needed' basis. The data are used to compliment other monitoring projects for the network. If site-specific data are required for a given vital sign, weather stations may be added and managed by the network itself or in collaboration with park staff.

Last updated: April 11, 2018