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Sunday, February 14, 2010

U.S. Climate Service

After years of workshops, press releases, reports and behind-the-scenes lobbying, the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has announced it is moving ahead with the creation of the U.S. Climate Service. The new agency will be charged with delivering climate information and analyses, much like the weather service has operationalised weather forecasting. NOAA has launched an Internet portal and has proposed a range of services including climate data analyses, detection and attribution studies, vulnerability and risk assessments, and stakeholder outreach and engagement.

The service is being touted as a major step forward in supporting climate adaptation efforts in the United States. However, much of this is based upon the presumption that access to climate data and information regarding impacts is a current barrier to adaptation. To some extent this assumption is certainly true, although much of the challenges of adaptation facing the United States are probably more closely tied to non-climate factors such as demographic change, poor governance, and societal values. To what extent the Climate Service will be able to engage or even recognise these barriers and identify pathways through which science can ameliorate them remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it is clear that a major milestone has been achieved when climate is recognised as such a significant force as to warrant its own agency.

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