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NOAA's Lubchenco calls for national climate service

Jane Lubchenco, the newly confirmed director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), says she wants to create a national climate service that would predict the effects of global warming on communities, similarly to how the National Weather Service sends out info about the weather.

In reports in today's New York Times and Nature News, Lubchenco, 61, says she hopes to establish the service to help elected officials and businesses make decisions that may be affected by climate change, such as the location of wind farms, buildings and roads. Such a service would be run in conjunction with another department, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) or NASA, Lubchenco told the Times.

"It is no longer enough to know what the wind patterns were for the last hundred years," Lubchenco told the newspaper. "You want to know what they will be for the next hundred years — and they undoubtedly won't be the same. So there are huge opportunities to provide services to the country."

Lubchenco noted her intention to create the service during her Senate confirmation hearing last month. "NOAA is the best agency in the government to synthesize the scientific data on climate change and create products and services that can be used by the public to guide important decisions such as where to build a road or wind turbines," she said then. "This idea has been studied by the agency, the National Academy of Sciences, and by members of this committee. It is an idea whose time has come, and I would like to make it happen."

The concept of a national climate service first surfaced at NOAA in the 1970s, Nature News noted in a report last month. The service would make long-term predictions about climate change by merging data from NOAA, the USGS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), according to that report.

Other organizations that might find such a service useful include insurers, utilities and forest and shoreline managers, Nature News reported. "There is so much information floating around on climate change Larry Larson, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers in Madison, Wis., told the Web site, "that it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff."

Corrected at 5:05 p.m. March 24 with name of agency as U.S. Geological Survey, not U.S. Geological Service.

Image of Jane Lubchenco/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via Wikimedia Commons

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