Obama Administration Creates New National Climate Service

WASHINGTON, DC, February 12, 2010 (ENS) – To meet a “rising tide” of millions of requests for information about climate change annually from both public and and private sectors, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says he will create a Climate Service line office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA.

The NOAA Climate Service will provide a one-stop shop for climate information in much the same way NOAA’s National Weather Service has been providing weather information and services for 140 years.

“By providing critical planning information that our businesses and our communities need, NOAA Climate Service will help tackle head-on the challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change,” said Secretary Locke. “In the process, we’ll discover new technologies, build new businesses and create new jobs.”

More and more, said Locke, Americans are witnessing the impacts of climate change in their own backyards, including sea-level rise, longer growing seasons, changes in river flows, increases in heavy downpours, earlier snowmelt and extended ice-free seasons in our waters. People are searching for relevant and timely information about these changes to inform decision-making about virtually all aspects of their lives.

The climate research, observations, modeling, predictions and assessments generated by NOAA’s top scientists, including Nobel Peace Prize award-winners, will continue to provide the scientific foundation for extensive on-the-ground climate services that respond to millions of requests annually for data and other critical information said Locke.

“Working closely with federal, regional, academic and other state and local government and private sector partners, the new NOAA Climate Service will build on our success transforming science into useable climate services,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

“NOAA is committed to scientific integrity and transparency; we seek to advance science and strengthen product development and delivery through user engagement,” she said.

Map of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations on August 1, 2008. The red in the Congo Basin shows a large quantity of CO2 released from land-clearing fires. The blue in the Northern Hemisphere indicates low CO2 concentrations as the gas is absorbed by forests and agricultural crops. (Map courtesy NOAA)

Unifying NOAA’s climate capabilities under a single climate office will integrate the agency’s climate science and services and make them more accessible to NOAA partners and other users, say Locke and Lubchenco.

Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, will serve as transitional director of NOAA Climate Service. New positions for six NOAA regional climate services directors will be announced soon.

Planning for the new service has been, and continues to be, shaped by input from NOAA employees and stakeholders across the country, with close consideration given to the recommendations of the NOAA Science Advisory Board, the National Academies and the National Academy of Public Administration.

NOAA has a new website, the NOAA Climate Portal, that serves as a single point-of-entry for NOAA’s extensive climate information, data, products and services.

The NOAA Climate Portal addresses the needs of decision makers and policy leaders, scientists and applications-oriented data users, educators, business users and the public.

Highlights of the portal include an interactive climate dashboard that shows a range of constantly updating climate datasets – temperature, carbon dioxide concentration and sea level – over adjustable time scales.

The NOAA Climate Portal also features a new climate science magazine “ClimateWatch,” featuring videos and articles of scientists discussing recent climate research and findings; and an array of other data products and educational resources.

A long list of leaders from public and private sector organizations support the creation of the NOAA Climate Service, beginning with Conrad Lautenbacher, who served as NOAA administrator from 2001 through 2008.

“I was delighted and thrilled to learn of the commitment by the [Obama] Administration to form the NOAA Climate Service,” Lautenbacher said. “I have been a long time supporter of this vision and it is very gratifying to see it accomplished. NOAA has worked for many years to become proficient in climate science, climate observation, and data management. Additionally, with vast experience in producing world-class weather forecasts, extension of these skills to climate is a natural step and will go far in improving the foundation for rational science based policy making.”

Rear Admiral Dave Titley, oceanographer of the Navy and director of the Navy’s Task Force Climate Change, said, “The establishment of NOAA Climate Service will be an important step forward in helping the nation better understand and forecast the changing climate. The Navy’s Task Force Climate Change looks forward to working closely with NOAA Climate Service to ensure that both the nation and the Navy are best prepared for the future challenges posed by climate change.”

Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, said , “Addressing climate change is one of our most pressing environmental challenges. Making climate science more easily accessible to all Americans will help us gain the consensus we need to move forward. The new NOAA Climate Service is a welcome addition. It will help bring people together so we can also bring about an economic recovery by more rapidly modernizing our nation’s energy infrastructure.”

Carol Browner, assistant to President Barack Obama for energy and climate change and administrator of the U.S. EPA under President Bill Clinton, said, “NOAA has consistently led the world in climate research and observation. Through NOAA’s improved climate services we will be better able to confront climate change, and the many challenges it presents for our environment, security, and economy.”

Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said, “NOAA’s proposed climate service would be a welcome and critically needed asset to the public health community, both in the U.S. and around the world. Every key sector of the public health community, from first responders to those who provide food and medical supplies and services, would draw on the information. Forecasting air quality, drought, natural hazards and climate-sensitive diseases all impact public health. Better predictive tools, monitoring and other resources will inform our decision-making and advance our efforts to get further ahead of the curve. Lives can be saved as a result.”

Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, said, “As climate adaptation becomes an increasingly important strategic path, the new climate service will provide essential information to the public and private sectors. The insurance industry is heavily dependent on public data and information related to climate, and the creation of a NOAA Climate Service with new data services will greatly enhance the industry’s analysis of climate and extreme event weather risk.”

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said, “With more than 4,000 miles of coastline, Maryland is one of the most vulnerable states in the nation to the impacts of sea level rise. Even as we work to aggressively address the drivers of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we are also working to ensure that the viability of our coastal communities and the health of Maryland’s Chesapeake, ocean and coastal resources are not compromised. On behalf of Maryland, I applaud NOAA for the formation of a Climate Service.”

Lester Snow, California secretary for natural resources, said, “Climate change is an international problem that is already affecting California. Accurate up-to-date information from an integrated source is absolutely essential for California and other states to address impacts such as sea level rise, temperature increases, and changes to our water supply. NOAA is known for its expertise in delivering accurate and useful information. We are pleased with this plan to coordinate the delivery of climate information through the new Climate Service.”

NOAA Climate Services will provide climate products such as:

  • Inundation maps for coastal communities that reflect the best available information on sea-level rise and changing patterns of coastal storms
  • Heat projections to help mangers plan future energy and health services needs
  • Climate and precipitation models to help farmers know the impact of a changing climate on their crops
  • Relevant historical climate data and data from state-of-the-art climate models to inform investment and planning for businesses and local governments
  • Routine vulnerability and risk assessments for climate-sensitive regions and sectors

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.