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Next President Advised to Upgrade Climate Science Budget

WASHINGTON, DC, August 25, 2008 (ENS) – Eight of the top American organizations responsible for weather and climate science and education are calling on the next administration and Congress to better protect the United States from severe weather events and climate change by investing in the basics of better science.

They issued five recommendations to reverse declining budgets and provide needed tools, information, and leadership to decision makers. Topping the list is a request to fully fund the nation’s Earth observing system from satellite and ground-based instruments as recommended by the National Research Council.

The plan is estimated to cost roughly $9 billion above the current federal investments being planned for 2010 through 2014.

“Given the costs of weather and climate disasters, we believe these are wise and critical investments,” says John Snow, co-chair of the Weather Coalition and dean of the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences at the University of Oklahoma.

The recommendations and supporting information were provided Thursday in a transition briefing document to both the presidential campaigns.

“Our concern is that our nation is not prepared for severe weather or climate change because of declining budgets and lack of attention to these threats over the past few years,” says Jack Fellows, vice president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, UCAR, a consortium of more than 70 universities offering doctorate degrees in the atmospheric sciences.


The owner of this repair shop in
Newtonia, Missouri looks for recoverable
items after a powerful tornado ripped
through southwest Missouri May 10,
2008. (Photo by Michael Raphael
courtesy FEMA)

“We should improve our ability to respond to severe weather events and prepare for the impacts of climate change that will undoubtedly occur over the next several decade,” Fellows said.

UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the UCAR Office of Programs to provide member institutions and affiliates with state-of-the-art instrumentation, aircraft, and computer technology to advance the study of Earth’s atmosphere.

“Decision makers need information on how climate change will affect their local areas,” he said, “but we are hampered by a lack of funding, observations, and computing power to provide information at this local level.”

The eight organizations that wrote the document are UCAR, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, the Weather Coalition, the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, and the Alliance for Earth Observations.

Collectively they represent thousands of scientists, technology specialists, public policy analysts, and other experts.

This year the United States has been battered by a record number of tornadoes, severe floods, and wildfires.

The briefing document reminds the candidates that tornadoes are forming at a record-setting pace this year, with nearly 1,000 twisters confirmed by NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center for the period January through May 2008.

And every year, the scientists point out, the country sustains billions of dollars in losses from disasters related to weather and climate, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, floods, droughts, and snow storms.

“With more than a quarter of the U.S. gross national product – over $2 trillion – sensitive to weather and climate events, these events substantially impact our national health, safety, economy, environment, transportation systems, and military readiness,” the briefing document states. “All 50 states are impacted by these events, and many of these events will be exacerbated by climate change.”

The organizations say that spending more now on satellites, scientific instruments, and research will better protect Americans from the effects of global warming and the severe weather events it will bring in the future.

The five recommendations of the eight scientific organizations are:

1. Observations. Fully fund the nation’s Earth observing system from satellite and ground-based instruments as recommended by the National Research Council.

2. Computing. Greatly increase computing power available for weather and climate research, predictions, and related applications.

3. Research and Modeling. Support a broad fundamental and applied research program in Earth sciences and related fields to advance present understanding of weather and climate and their impacts on society.

4. Societal Relevance. Support education, training, and communication efforts to use the observations, models, and application tools for the maximum benefit to society.

5. Leadership and Management. Implement effective leadership, management, and evaluation approaches to ensure these investments are done in the best interest of the nation.

The full transition document, “Making Our Nation Resilient to Severe Weather and Climate Change,” can be found at www.ucar.edu/td. It provides detailed implementation guidance, including specific management actions, budget estimates, and recommendations for nominations of leaders to serve in the next administration.

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