NOAA Climate Intrigue

Defenders of the Federal status quo (AKA swamp denizens) are aroused over an apparent move to refocus the mission statement of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). UCS raised the alarm which was, as usual, taken up by the New York Times. At a recent Department of Commerce summit, the acting head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, proposed a new mission statement for the agency. The proposed change in wording is as follows.

The mission of NOAA has been:

  • To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts;
  • To share that knowledge and information with others; and
  • To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

In his presentation, Rear Admiral Gallaudet suggested the mission statement would change to:

  • To observe, understand and predict atmospheric and ocean conditions;
  • To share that knowledge and information with others; and
  • To protect lives and property, empower the economy, and support homeland and national security.

Comment on NOAA Mission Statement

Note the word “observe” is added to give emphasis to NOAA’s responsibility to obtain and maintain data records relating to the ocean and atmosphere. Instead of the words “changes to climate, weather, oceans and coasts,” NOAA is tasked to predict “atmospheric and ocean conditions.” This suggest a move away from climatological considerations to more immediate support for adapting to natural events. It also suggests that coastal land management is outside NOAA’s scope.

Readers will note the proposed wording drops “conserve and manage” from the mission, replaced by the more explicit “To protect lives and property, empower the economy, and support homeland and national security.” The latter phase would be consistent with the larger thrust of the Commerce Department. (See Commerce priorities at end.)

Background:

September 1, 2017, Rear Admiral Gallaudet was nominated by President Trump and was warmly welcomed by scientists.

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) congratulates Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, a former oceanographer of the Navy, on his nomination to assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. In that position, Gallaudet will serve as the second-in-command at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Gallaudet, who also served as commander of the Navy’s Meteorology and Oceanography Command, is a 32-year Navy veteran. He holds master’s and doctoral degrees in oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“Tim’s mixture of operational expertise and scientific knowledge make him an ideal choice for this position,” said UCAR President Antonio Busalacchi. “His understanding of the vital collaborations between NOAA, private forecasting companies, and the academic community can help foster the movement of research to operational forecasting and advance the nation’s weather prediction capabilities. Furthermore, his knowledge of Earth system science and his ability to align that science with budget and programs will be essential to moving NOAA forward in the next few years.”

NOAA runs the National Weather Services, engages in weather and climate research, and operates weather satellites and a climate data center. The agency also works to better understand and protect the nation’s coasts, oceans, and fisheries.

UCAR is a nonprofit consortium of more than 100 colleges and universities focused on research and training in the atmospheric and related sciences.

September 25, 2017

In his answers to the confirmation committee’s questionnaire, Gallaudet listed the top three challenges he sees facing NOAA. He identified the first challenge as implementing the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act that Congress passed earlier this year.

“If confirmed, I would make it my top priority to meet the intent of this law, especially the aspects concerning improvement to severe weather, tornado and hurricane warnings, and satellite data collection program management. … Finally I will need to work with the NOAA Administrator as well as NESDIS and NWS leadership to focus on the NOAA satellite programs which are growing at an unsustainable rate and that have been delayed numerous times.”

October 2017

Gallaudet was confirmed and on October 11, President Trump nominated Barry Myers, chief executive of the private weather forecasting company AccuWeather, to run NOAA. The appointment breaks from the recent precedent of scientists leading the agency tasked with a large, complex, and technically demanding portfolio. Myers has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and economics, a master’s degree in business from Pennsylvania State University, and a law degree from Boston University School of Law. Myers has been an adviser to five directors of NOAA’s National Weather Service and a representative of the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, according to a biography from AccuWeather. He must be confirmed by the Senate before taking the post.

December 17, 2017

In his Senate Confirmation hearing, Myers sought to assure members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee that he has a deep appreciation for NOAA’s scientific mission. In response to pointed questions from Democratic senators, Myers vowed to uphold NOAA’s scientific integrity policies and champion free and open data. And, for the first time in public since his nomination, he concurred with the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change and promised to support NOAA’s climate research portfolio. The full inquisition is described by the American Institute of Physics NOAA Nominee Barry Myers Embraces Science at Confirmation Hearing

April 11, 2018

Timothy Gallaudet testifies at Budget hearings.NOAA Budget Cuts Get Chilly Reception in Congress

In his opening statement at the April 11 hearing, Gallaudet explained that the $4.5 billion budget request for NOAA focuses on two priorities. The first is “reducing the impacts of extreme weather and water events, by implementing the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act,” which was enacted last April. The second is increasing sustainable economic contributions of U.S. fisheries and other ocean resources.

Gallaudet also touted NOAA’s successes over the last year in responding effectively to the record-setting hurricane season, saying the agency’s efforts “saved thousands of lives despite Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, [and] Maria, being three of the five most costly hurricanes in history.” He also highlighted the “perfect” recent launches of two flagship weather satellites — Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) and Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1).

Later in the hearing, Gallaudet described further investments NOAA is making in high-performance computing and modeling to support operational weather prediction. In describing the Global Forecast System FV3 experimental model that is being transitioned to the National Weather Service, Gallaudet said,

This model out-performed the European models for the hurricane track forecasts for the three Category 4 hurricanes that made landfall [last year]. Our goal is to regain world leadership, take number one back for our weather modeling. We’re on track to do it. We expect to do that before 2020.

Gallaudet assured Cartwright that climate is “embedded” within NOAA’s weather and water forecasting priority, explaining that it includes consideration of “scales that are in weeks to seasonal and even sub-seasonal and climate types of scales.”

Although the administration has proposed deep cuts for climate research and grant programs, including termination of the $48 million Competitive Climate Research grant program and the $6 million Arctic Climate Research Program, Gallaudet assured members that climate research would continue, “because there’s much we still don’t know.”

When Cartwright pressed further on his concerns about the White House’s treatment of climate change, Gallaudet reassured him that the White House has “not zeroed out our climate work,” pointing to the Climate Prediction Center’s publication of seasonal and long-range outlooks as well as recent collaboration between NOAA and the U.S. Navy on Arctic sea ice forecasting. In addressing similar concerns brought up by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) at the April 12 hearing, he added that the White House is “supporting much of our Arctic-related research that is driven primarily by climate change,” and that he has not been directed to eliminate or remove the phrase “climate change” from reports.

May 14, 2018

Senate Should Confirm Barry Myers to Lead NOAA

NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – needs its leader! President Trump nominated Barry Lee Myers, the CEO of AccuWeather, to the post in mid-October. The Senate Commerce Committee has twice advanced Myers’ nomination to the full Senate. All that’s needed to fill this important job is a majority vote on the Senate floor, which both Democrats and Republicans expect to happen. Unfortunately, partisan politics keeps getting in the way, delaying the vote.

Senate offices have received more than 60 letters from individuals and organizations supporting his confirmation, including strong backing from the past four leaders of the U. S. National Weather Service who served under both Democratic and Republican administrations. In addition, the seafood industry has overwhelmingly advocated his confirmation with letters of support from seafood processors and others in the fisheries industry ranging from ship captains to sport fishermen.

Also, as a recognized leader in the sciences, Myers has demonstrated respect for quality-tested science when making decisions related to all areas of the agencies’ responsibilities, including the nation’s fisheries, weather, oceanographic and climate challenges.

Myers worked closely with lawmakers to help secure enactment of last year’s Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act. The American Meteorological Society conferred its highest award for Excellence in Meteorology on him. He also has demonstrated a deep knowledge about NOAA and is committed to making the agency the best it can be, second to none in the world.

Prompt confirmation of Myers will benefit the public and the U.S. economy in the days, weeks and months ahead by solidifying the NOAA leadership team. With the unprecedented threat of catastrophic storms, the agency’s mission – protecting life and property and expanding American economic competitiveness – is on the line. The Senate should quickly confirm Barry Myers as NOAA administrator.

Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr. VADM USN (ret.), CEO of GeoOptics, is a former under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of NOAA.

Robert Vanasse is executive director of the National Coalition for Fishing

Overview of Strategic Plan of US Department of Commerce 2018 to 2022

Knowing that innovation is a key driver of economic advancement, we are placing an increased emphasis on the commercial opportunities of space exploration and aquaculture while our scientists are conducting foundational research in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to quantum computing. Our patent professionals are also working to improve the protection of intellectual property so that creators can profit from their inventions.

U.S. businesses must export more, and our workers deserve a level playing field. Enforcing our trade laws to ensure that trade is free, fair, and reciprocal is a top priority of the Department. We are also joining with all federal agencies in cutting red tape that drives up costs and puts American workers and businesses at a disadvantage.

To maintain America’s leadership in next-generation technologies, we are making important advances in data, cybersecurity, and encryption technology. Our economists and statisticians are improving Commerce data that American businesses and communities use to plan investments and identify growth opportunities. Every level of the Department will be engaged to ensure that we conduct the most accurate, secure, and technologically-advanced decennial census in history.

Finally, teams across the Department are working to keep Americans safe by predicting extreme weather events earlier and more accurately, preventing sensitive technology from getting in the hands of terrorists, rogue regimes, and strategic competitors, and deploying a nationwide public safety broadband network that allows better coordination among first responders.

Thank you to every employee at the Department and to our industry and government partners for your dedication to our mission.

Post by Wilbur Ross Secretary of Commerce

2 comments

  1. Bob Greene · June 25, 2018

    I wasn’t all that interested in the weather forecast for June 26, 2045. But at the rate these folks are getting approved maybe they will be in time enough to give that forecast as tomorrow’s weather.

    Like

  2. Hifast · June 25, 2018

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

    Like

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