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UAlbany Named Partner In NOAA Severe Weather Research Effort

The logo of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
Facebook: NOAA

The University at Albany has been tapped to partner on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration severe weather research effort. The Cooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations will be led by the University of Oklahoma and comes with an award of up to $208 million over the next five years.

WAMC's Jim Levulis spoke with Chris Thorncroft, who directs UAlbany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, to learn about the effort.

Thorncroft: This is a cooperative institute funded by NOAA. There are a number of cooperative institutes around the country. But this one is dedicated to better understanding the causes of extreme weather in a changing climate and our ability not only to predict the extreme weather, but also to communicate it to various communities and users of weather information. And we're very excited to be a partner on this project.

Levulis: Are there specific areas of expertise or topics that researchers at UAlbany will focus on during this project?

Thorncroft: Yes, so UAlbany, in itself is a collaboration, which is very exciting between the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Science, and also the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity. And we will be focusing on understanding extreme weather. We will have some emphasis on the Northeast, but also nationally. But also with the new College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, Cybersecurity, it’s called CEHC, we will be also working on this communication and social science aspects. How do we create warnings that are going to be well received and understood by people that need to make decisions, and that could be emergency managers, it could be government and it also could be the public.

Levulis: And now the NOAA partnership is being led by the University of Oklahoma and includes other schools, including Texas Tech. Now, those schools obviously have different weather than upstate New York or the Northeast. Will there be coordination between the schools to learn how detection and response to say a tornado might be beneficial for something like a snowstorm or a Nor'easter, or vice versa?

Thorncroft: Well, this is a national institute, so we will be dealing with national problems. And so even us living in the Northeast while we’ll obviously have some local interest in the winter weather especially, we will be also considering problems that affect the country as a whole. So yes, there will be a collaboration on all types of extreme weather, be it tornadoes, winter storms, hurricanes. There's also an area that's pretty exciting, called sub-seasonal to seasonal time scales where we're looking at timescales beyond the normal day to a week, we're going to be up to two weeks, maybe even a month or two. So that's another area of research at the institute and we will be contributing to.

Levulis: And the award for the partnership is for five years with the potential for another five years based on successful performance. Do you know how that performance will be determined?

Thorncroft: It will be determined on the research that benefits NOAA and this particular cooperative institute is not new. I believe this was the first cooperative institute, so this has existed for decades. So led by University of Oklahoma, it's had an excellent track record of working with NOAA and delivering on what it's supposed to do. So it will be assessed based on the research and its applications to the NOAA mission.

Levulis: And this effort comes ahead of the anticipated launching of UAlbany's ETEC center, a $180 million research and development complex. How might that help in this effort? Or will it?

Levulis: It really is a great story. It will help us for sure. And as director of Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, I'm so excited about the new building. Let me tell you about who's actually going into the building. It is the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences. It is the new college CEHC. But also it will include the New York State Mesonet, which is an observing system of observations around the whole state looking at weather. It will also include the local office of the National Weather Service. And so this ecosystem that we have going here is separated at the moment across the campus and in different buildings. Now we're going to be moving into this building. And this grant actually brings those various entities closer together for the next five years, hopefully for the next 10 years, to work on these really important societal problems.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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