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Societal Impacts

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These indicators were established at NCDC to enhance the understanding of weather and climate's effects on socioeconomic sectors of the United States. Climatic factors such as temperature, rainfall, snowfall, cloudiness and winds have a significant impact on many aspects of the nation's economy as well as human health and quality of life. Weather is often used to explain seasonal and year-to-year changes in economic performance, but the explanations are often subjective and many times based on perceptions rather than clear observational evidence.

Ski resorts rely on cold temperatures and seasonal snow while families head for the beach on warm sunny days. Crop yields are higher when growing conditions are ideal. Housing and road construction progresses at a more rapid pace when temperatures are above minimum thresholds and conditions are dry. Energy usage is closely linked to seasonal temperatures so that demand for sources of energy such as natural gas, home heating oil and electricity increases during abnormally hot summers and extremely cold winters.

These and similar indicators are being developed to provide public and private sector analysts with up-to-date quantitative information on the effect of weather and climate on vital sectors of the U.S. economy and society. Although index development is ongoing, two indices currently provide valuable information related to crop yield and energy usage. The crop Moisture Stress Index reflects the influence of severe drought and catastrophic wetness on annual crop yield for corn and soybean crops, and the Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index provides quantitative information on the impact of seasonal temperatures on residential energy demand. Details on index development as well as current and historical data are available via the links above.

Indices will be developed within other sectors such as Transportation, Retail, Tourism, and Human Health. Planned development includes an Airport Weather Index that will quantify the impact of weather on aircraft takeoffs and landings due to factors such as convective storms, reduced visibility, low ceilings and precipitation; an index that will quantify the effect of poor working conditions on road construction; a seasonal weather index for retail shopping; and an index that reflects conditions conducive to large mosquito populations. Research efforts will require close collaboration with experts in related fields and the complexity of the relationships between weather and climate and the associated sector will, in some cases, require lengthy development periods.