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Climatologists from 3 states discuss opportunities for collaboration

Climatologists from Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia are exploring opportunities for collaboration in the development of climate services and research initiatives in the region.

The group gathered last week for a meeting hosted by the Kentucky Climate Center at WKU.

“This meeting was an effort to identify and develop opportunities to collaborate,” said Dr. Stuart Foster, state climatologist and director of the Kentucky Climate Center and the Kentucky Mesonet.

In addition to Dr. Foster, those participating in the meeting were: Dr. Kevin Law, state climatologist at West Virginia State Climate Office located at Marshall University; Dr. Mark Simpson, a geography professor at University of Tennessee-Martin; Dr. Joanne Logan, an environmental climatologist at University of Tennessee-Knoxville; Glen Conner, who served as Kentucky’s climatologist from 1978 (when the Kentucky Climate Center opened) until 2000; and Dr. Rezaul Mahmood, associate director of the Kentucky Mesonet and Kentucky Climate Center.

“While we are neighbors, we have had little collaboration in the past. One reason is that NOAA has placed each state in a separate region. Kentucky is affiliated with the Midwest Regional Climate Center (RCC), Tennessee with the Southern RCC and West Virginia with the Northeast RCC.”

The three states are affected by many of the same climatic influences and share many of the same environmental and economic concerns, Dr. Foster said. “We felt like we have enough in common that we could find ways to share resources in an effort to better serve our states, both in terms of delivering services and engaging in applied research,” he said.

Flash flooding is a common problem in the Appalachian region of each state; tornadoes are a concern in much of Kentucky and Tennessee; energy production and low rates for electric power help shape the traditional industrial economy of each state; and weather patterns can affect the market for electric power and the rates consumers pay.

“The three states have so much in common climatologically that it makes a lot of sense for us to collaborate together,” Dr. Law said. “Our states are among the highest in weather related federally declared disaster areas. This shows the importance of having the most reliable weather and climate information available in our region.”

Dr. Simpson, a Kentucky native and WKU graduate now living in northwest Tennessee, agreed that all three states would benefit from working together.

“Since Kentucky and Tennessee share a very long border, it makes perfect sense to collaborate on projects together, and I can see many opportunities for doing so,” Dr. Simpson said. “The inclusion of Kevin Law, state climatologist for West Virginia, into the discussions provided even more opportunities for the three states to work together, especially since there is the mutually shared interest of producing important research in Appalachian climatology.”

Dr. Simpson and Dr. Logan have initiated efforts to create a Tennessee state climate office and would like to establish a mesonet similar to Kentucky’s.

“Having Glen Conner, the state climatologist emeritus for Kentucky, partake in our discussions proved to be especially important because he was able to let us know how the KCC started and gave us good advice on how to proceed to develop our own,” Dr. Simpson said.

“Dr. Foster and Dr. Mahmood also shared with us their experiences in developing a mesonet for the state. They specifically showed research that involved mesonet data that clearly can be easily applied to specific situations in Tennessee,” he said. “We can and should work together to produce research and provide services that benefit both states.”

The group also discussed the next National Climate Assessment that is due in 2013. Dr. Mahmood was recently named to the National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee, which is meeting this week in Washington, D.C.

Contact: Stuart Foster, (270) 745-5983.

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