NOAA Chief Urges Creating National Climate Service

Wednesday, May 14th 2008, 6:40 am
By: News On 6

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science WriterTue May 13, 5:20 PM ET

With concerns about global warming rising along with the planet's temperature, the head of the federal agency in change of weather research and forecasting is proposing creation of a new National Climate Service.

Conrad C. Lautenbacher said Tuesday a climate service within his agency could combine data from the research and analysis work done by several agencies, as well as coordinate climate information for the government.

"In the future I think it would make a lot of sense for us to separate the science from the political furball of policy," he said.

Lautenbacher is head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the National Weather Service, National Ocean Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and other activities.

Currently, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program integrates climate research by 13 government agencies. Lautenbacher said he felt it would make a more sense to have something that is a lot more organized, pulling together data from both U.S. agencies and other countries around the world.

Today everybody just cherry-picks the data that support their point of view, Lautenbacher said of the debate over climate change. "We need to deal with this in a scientific manner."

Whether there is warming or not, no one doesn't want solid, scientific information, Lautenbacher said. That, he added, could depoliticize the arguments.

The Bush Administration has been reluctant to subscribe to limits on carbon emissions that other countries have sought in an effort to combat global warming.

But Lautenbacher said the White House has signed off on "the idea" of a climate service, and he said he plans to seek funds to help organize it in the 2010 budget.

In NOAA, for example, the Climate Prediction Center that looks at long-term outlooks is part of the Weather Service's National Centers for Environmental Prediction, while data on climate is compiled by the National Climatic Data Center, a part of the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service.

The difference between weather and climate is basically one of time. Weather happens from day to day, while climate is the overall averages - and extremes - of weather over seasons and years.

Some have described the difference as "climate is what you expect, weather is what you get."

A new Climate Service would not have any regulatory power, he stressed. It would provide data to other agencies for their use - for example to the Transportation Department, Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy.

And a National Climate Service would not take over climate research carried out by other agencies such as NASA, Environmental Protection Agency or U.S. Geological Survey, he said.


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