I feel that weather prediction centers are a highly intelligent decision to improve the safety of citizens. This article illustrates the first one of it kind in America, Center for Weather and Climate Prediction, on University of Maryland’s campus. It has 800 employees that work to predict hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes etc. but as well, they study weather and its patterns. These centers need to appear in most major cities to help keep the citizens safe from torrential weather. It is also interesting how they not only plan to predict weather to warn people, but to study the weather in order to learn more about it. Phoenix needs one of these.
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 Administrator Jane Lubchenco and other federal and state officials will gather for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Center for Weather and Climate Predictionon 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.”
Ribbon cutting at NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction. Left to right: Dr. Louis Uccellini, director, National Centers for Environmental Prediction; Dan Tangherlini, acting administrator, GSA; Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator; Sen. Barbara Mikulski; Dr. Rebecca Blank, acting secretary of commerce; Laura Furgione, acting director, NWS; Dr. Wallace Loh, president, Univ. of Md.; Rushern Baker III, county executive, Prince Georges County, Md.
High resolution (Credit: NOAA)
“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.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes
Increasing temperature in Australia have been a major cause of discussion on this low populated island. Government officials have related this to the increased amount of coal mining occurring in the area. As a result the government has initiated a carbon tax that charges industries for the amount of carbon dioxide as well as other harmful toxins into the air and water of the country. I feel that this is a extremely useful tax because not only is the government gaining money that they can put back into the environment (hopefully) but it is making the companies think more about what they are doing to the Earth and maybe encourage them to seek a greener energy source. If NATO made this a customary tax for nations around the world, we would be much better off.
Coal-Fired Australia, Buffeted by Climate Change, Enacts Carbon Tax
Published October 5, 2012
Australia’s enormous coal deposits long seemed like an unmitigated gift in an expansive land of sweltering summers. On the planet’s driest inhabited continent, fossil fuel delivered cheap, reliable electricity through both extreme heat and torrential storms.
But drought, rampant wildfire in the outback, and the degradation of the treasured Great Barrier Reef have forever altered how Australia views its energy endowment. Facing a future as one of the places on Earth most vulnerable to climate change, and one of the nations with the world’s highest per capita carbon emissions, Australia has taken steps to change its fate. (See interactive: “Four Ways to Look at Global Carbon Footprints“)
This week the government issued its first ever carbon emissions permits, a milestone in implementation of a new climate and energy law that is expected to give Australia the world’s most comprehensive carbon cap-and-trade system by 2015. (Related: “IEA Outlook: Time Running Out on Climate Change“)
Climate activists have hailed the law as a hopeful sign that even one of the world’s most carbon-intensive economies can commit to a different future. But the work is only beginning. In just one indication of the long road ahead, anInternational Energy Agency fuel economy report last week ranked Australia’s new car fleet as worst among the world’s major economies in carbon emissions per kilometer. Emblematic of Australia’s failure to invest in energy efficiency, it has no binding automobile fuel economy standards. (Related Pictures: “A Rare Look Inside Carmakers’ Drive for 55 MPG“) Historically, only the United States has surpassed Australia in its appetite for powerful engines. And this year, as U.S. drivers have begun flocking to smaller, more efficient cars,Australia has seen an SUV boom. SUVs made up 28 percent of Australia’s new vehicle sales in August, compared to just below 25 percent a year earlier.
Joshua Meltzer, a former Australian diplomat who now is a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institute, says his country, much like the United States and Canada, must now grapple with the economy it has built since the Industrial Revolution around its huge fossil fuel deposits. “You have greater urban sprawl, cheaper fuel, greater use of cars, less use of public transportation, larger houses,” than in Europe or Japan, Meltzer said. “At the end of the day,” he added, achieving ambitious emission targets “is going to involve some very significant changes in how people live their lives.”
Carbon Tax and Permits
Australia passed the Clean Energy Future Package in its fourth attempt at comprehensive climate legislation. Enacted in July, the package establishes a goal of reducing national emissions to 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 2000 levels by 2050. And it levies a carbon tax on its 300 largest polluting companies, as well as providing incentives for renewable energy and efficiency improvements. Australia’s scheme covers more sectors, and more of the country’s total emissions, than Europe’s long-standing cap-and-trade system. Analysts say California’s program, set to go into effect on Jan. 1, has a similar sweep; Australia and California are reportedly in talks to link their carbon markets.
Australia has sought to give its energy-intensive industries a helping hand in meeting new requirements. The first carbon permits, issued free of charge this week to aluminum producer Alcoa and Queensland Nitrates, are part of the government’s $8.9 billion program to help certain businesses—those facing global competition—cope with cap-and-trade.
To overcome objections that Australia should not put itself at a competitive disadvantage while other nations drag their feet on climate change, the law was designed to have targets calibrated to the state of global negotiations on carbon emissions. If the international community were to embrace an agreement to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million, Australia will set its own target for 2020 at 25 percent below 1990 levels. But, as seems more likely at this point, if nations fall short of achieving a new climate treaty, Australia would set its 2020 goal at a more modest 15 percent below 2000 levels.
“Essentially what Australia is saying is we are prepared to deal with a high carbon price in a situation where the world is doing its fair share to reduce carbon emissions,” Meltzer said.
Canberra did not pass cap-and-trade without controversy. About two-thirds of Australians are concerned that household expenses and living costs will rise and they will be worse off in a low-carbon economy, according to the Climate of the Nation 2012 report from the Australian research organization, the Climate Institute. And yet 54 percent of survey participants reported being concerned about climate change; only 10 percent saw no need for action on climate change; and 47 percent of people expressed support for the carbon price when it was fully explained to them.
Support for action on climate change increased during the years-long drought that has gripped the continent, punctuated by a record-breaking heat wave in the summer of 2009. Temperatures climbed high enough to buckle train lines in Adelaide and cook moths landing on sunbaked tennis courts in Melbourne. The sweltering heat exceeded 104°F (40°C) in some cities in late January, and stayed there for days on end. On February 7, a dry, windy scorcher of a day now known as Black Saturday, bushfires raged through Victoria, leaving 173 people dead and 500 injured.
“The long drought in Australia made people think this is what Australia would look like in climate change,” Meltzer said. “The environment is dry and arid and fragile, and very susceptible to changes in the temperature. That galvanized support.”
An Economy Built on Coal
But the heat also underscored the nation’s fossil fuel dependence. On Black Saturday, demand for electricity, driven by millions of air conditioners, overloaded the electric system. Amid deadly heat and ferocious fires, residents also coped with power outages. (Related Pictures: “World’s Worst Power Outages“)
This kind of “peak” demand spike is a serious vulnerability for Australia, especially in South Australia. While the nation’s overall energy use has fallen over the past two years for the first time in history, peak demand has continued to grow. (Related Quiz: “What You Don’t Know About Electricity“) On the hottest summer days in South Australia, residential air conditioners, along with commercial and industrial activity, can produce more than twice the average demand of a typical day.
Mark Lister, executive director for the Australian Alliance to Save Energy, notes that the problem has been long in the making. Abundant low-grade black coal and brown coal reserves helped build the fortunes of two of the world’s largest mining companies, BHP Billton and Rio Tinto, both based in Australia. Electricity prices in Australia were among the lowest in the world until 2007, making the country hospitable for energy-intensive industries like iron, aluminum, steel, and chemicals. Lister notes the investment in coal-fired electricity begat an ever more energy-hungry economy. “There was a real bias in policy thinking towards the importance of that asset and using that asset,” he said. “We’re very used to investing in large, chunky sort of assets with a well-known project model and financing, and we have our regulations and institutions built around them.” (Related: “Mining the Truth on Coal Supplies“)
So over the past 20 years, while many developed nations began to shift the mix that powered their electric grids away from the most polluting coal plants, Australia kicked coal into high gear. Among the advanced nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only Denmark and Greece outrank Australia in their dependence upon coal for electricity. Largely due to coal, its carbon emissions per capita are higher than any developed country; in fact, they’re higher than those of all but eight nations—Qatar, Trinidad and Tobago, Kuwait, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, Aruba, Luxembourg, and Bahrain.
Coal, of course, is not the only natural resource in abundance in Australia. “We also have the world’s best wind resources, and tide resources, and solar,” Lister said. In fact, the $1 billion, 420-megawatt Macarthur Wind Farmscheduled for completion early next year in southwestern Victoria is said to be the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere, generating enough power for an estimated 220,000 homes each year. As many as 750,000 Australian homes—roughly 10 percent of all homes on the continent—now have rooftop solar panels, amounting to some 1.7 gigawatts of capacity. Incentive schemes that helped to spur installations in 2011 have ended, but industry watchers still expect 600 megawatts of capacity to be added this year. (Related interactive: “Personal Energy Meter“)
Another resource Australia has yet to fully exploit: Energy efficiency. The nation launched a major home weatherization program in 2009 as part of its economic stimulus. But insulation installers were not properly trained. Homes caught on fire. Four workers died from electrocution or heat stroke. Although 1 million homes were insulated without incident, the program was canceled.
But the Australian Alliance to Save Energy says properly administered energy efficiency programs could save Australia more than $5 billion annually. Already, Australia has introduced performance standards for many household appliances, including refrigerators and air conditioners. A phase-out of inefficient incandescent light bulbs began in 2009. And this week, new legislation went into effect establishing a national framework for energy efficiency and labeling standards, replacing seven state and territory programs. The law allows the government to regulate the efficiency and carbon footprint not only of electrical goods, but also gas- or diesel-powered products, and related items like window glass, insulation, and air conditioner ducts that can affect energy use.
And in Australia, because of the nation’s heavy coal dependence, every kilowatt-hour saved cuts carbon emissions more than in countries that rely on lower- or zero-emissions sources like natural gas, nuclear energy, or renewables. “Australia is better placed [than other nations] to take advantage of efficiency because of the climate imperative,” said Lister. “It stands to gain more from efficiency than a country with a cleaner supply.” (See interactive: “World Electricity Mix“)
Due to the historic and inclement weather of 2011 NOAA as well as several other environmental centered organizations plan to create a more “Weather-Ready Nation” based out of Washington D.C. The weather response systems being put into place focus on emergency response, ecological forecasting and enhanced support to officials who make public health and safety decisions when extreme weather sets in. The overall theme of this operation, is to keep the general public informed if anything were to happen. I feel that these steps should be taken up all across the nation to keep Americans safe from natural disasters. I am glad to see that people have began to take action for the past devastating weather events.
NOAA ramps up Weather-Ready Nation initiative in nation’s capital
Launches new project to enhance weather forecasts and support for D.C, Baltimore
September 22, 2012
NOAA’s National Weather Service forecast office for the Baltimore/Washington, DC area.
Download here. (Credit: NOAA)
Today, NOAA announced service improvements underway at its forecast office in Sterling, Va., which provides weather forecasts and warnings and supports public safety decision-makers in the nation’s capital and Baltimore. This is the latest in a series of six pilot projects NOAA launched over the past year as part of its Weather-Ready Nation initiative to improve the country’s resilience to extreme weather.
The six Weather-Ready Nation projects focus on emergency response, ecological forecasting and enhanced support to officials who make public health and safety decisions when extreme weather sets in. Successful projects may be duplicated in other locations.
“We’re closer to becoming a Weather-Ready Nation every day,” said NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco. “Efforts to improve our service to the nation through these pilot projects along with upgrading our technology and integrating social science research in our warning language are helping us empower people to make life-saving decisions.”
Three new emergency response specialists at the Baltimore/Washington forecast office will allow the National Weather Service to improve its service to the region in a number of ways. For example, the office will now be able to provide a highly trained and certified meteorologist on the scene during major weather events to give on-demand briefings. Other service enhancements include:
- Cataloging local impacts from weather – going beyond the weather forecast to tell the public how that weather will affect society, giving people and local government more information about what actions they need to take;
- Providing better explanations about differences between the forecast (the most likely outcome) and the range of possibilities beyond three days out to help decision-makers plan for any possible scenario;
- Mapping flood threats to visually show where flood waters will inundate based on tidal and storm surge forecasts – this will help emergency managers keep people and their cars out of areas that are expected to flood;
- Improving the distribution of weather information by keeping up with new communication technologies and social media; and
- Working to achieve local weather-readiness where everyone gets a clear, understandable message when a weather disaster is imminent and knows what to do to protect themselves.
The extreme weather in 2011 – historic, costly and deadly – was the impetus for NOAA to start a national dialog about how to build a Weather-Ready Nation and its effort to improve service to the nation by launching these pilot projects.
“These weather forecast improvements will help emergency managers more effectively mitigate the impacts of flash flooding, floods, snow storms and other disasters in our area,” said Rep. Frank Wolf, whose Northern Virginia district is within the forecast area and home to the Sterling office. “For those who live in the Baltimore/Washington area, these impact-based weather forecasts may help save lives and reduce the cost of weather-related damages.”
As part of Weather-Ready Nation, NOAA has made fundamental changes during the past year touching every area of the agency’s work, from observing current weather and climate conditions to increasing lead times on severe weather warnings to improving how forecasts and warnings are communicated to the public.
By upgrading the nation’s network of Doppler radars to dual polarization, forecasters are able to better track and assess weather systems and warn the public. New NOAA facilities for water resource managementand weather and climate prediction will utilize the latest in satellite technologies as well as encourage collaborative efforts among water, weather and climate forecasters, leading to more accurate forecasts.
Weather forecasters are working with social scientists to improve communication between the weather community, emergency managers and the public. Through research and new warning language, the National Weather Service is helping the public make risk-averse decisions to protect their lives when dangerous weather threatens.
NOAA is working with a vast network of partners to build a Weather-Ready Nation. This network includes other government agencies, emergency managers, researchers, the media, the insurance industry, non-profits, the private sector, and the Weather Enterprise, among others. Through a series of symposiums, NOAA has engaged these partners to assess how the nation can become less vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather, which is becoming more frequent. Initial reports coming out of dialog events have identified key action items to increase weather-readiness in the future.