A place for new discoveries

Date Posted: October 15, 2012

The federal government today officially opens a new center that is the backbone of weather and climate prediction for the nation. Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, NOAA Adminstrator Jane Lubchenco and other federal and state officials will gather for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Center for Weather and Climate Prediction on University of Maryland grounds to announce the new programs and collaborations the facility will support.
 
The 268,000 square-foot building is home to more than 800 employees of NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate Prediction who provide the nation with a broad range of environmental services – from predicting the hurricane season and El Niño/La Niña to forecasting ocean currents and large-scale rain and snow storms. Billions of earth observations from around the world flow through environmental models, developed and managed in the new building, that support the nation’s weather forecasts.
 
Scientists at the center also predict how hazardous materials move in the atmosphere, conduct air quality modeling, study climate variability, monitor and predict movement of volcanic ash, and research new ways to use satellite information to safeguard the environment. Scientists also monitor hurricane and tropical cyclones worldwide and analyze fire and smoke plumes from wildfires, which NOAA satellites track.
 
“NOAA’s weather forecasters, scientists and researchers stand sentry over Maryland and the nation, looking out for severe weather to protect lives and livelihoods,” Senator Mikulski said. “This new NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction will be the brain center of weather operations. Investing in this center is an investment in our human capital, serving as a world class facility for a world class workforce and supporting thousands of NOAA jobs across our state. Marylanders can continue to rely on NOAA data to keep them safe every day, and I will continue to do my part to put funding in the federal checkbook to support these important operations.”

“This facility is an important investment in our nation’s future,” said Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank. “It’s a place where government, academia and others can come together to make new discoveries, drive innovation, and uncover new ways to give our citizens and businesses the information they need to make smart decisions, whether that’s deciding how to ship their products to customers or just taking care of day-to-day tasks. The work that happens at this center – and the new discoveries that will be made – will lead to a better quality-of-life for all Americans.”

NOAA is developing and expanding programs for the new center to increase scientific collaboration between researchers, forecasters, University of Maryland faculty and students, and scientists across the nation and abroad. A new partnership with the University of Maryland will inspire the next generation of earth scientists by pairing undergraduates in the department of atmospheric and oceanic science with researchers at the center to earn federal requirements to become certified meteorologists and oceanographers.

A visiting scientist program will promote innovation in environmental prediction by offering rotating assignments to foreign meteorologists and scientists who will help accelerate science advancements that support NOAA’s mission. This mutual sharing of ideas and experience between U.S. and international researchers, academics and applied scientists will advance the field of atmospheric sciences and help create a Weather-Ready Nation, one that is capable of anticipating and responding to extreme weather, water and climate events.

Architects designed the energy-efficient building, equipped with a green roof and rainwater bio-retention, to reflect NOAA’s environment and science mission and the important public work carried out within its walls. The work environment encourages scientific interaction by co-locating scientists from across disciplines and creating an open concept design to promote greater communication and collaboration. Ultimately, integrating NOAA units – researchers and modelers, data managers, duty meteorologists and satellite analysts – will allow for more accurate environmental predictions, advanced ecosystem forecasting and acceleration of new ideas from research to operation.