NOAA:

National Climate Service proposal sparks intra-agency debate

The proposed creation of a National Climate Service to help communities adapt to global warming has sparked debate in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that would house it.

Richard Hirn, a lawyer for the National Weather Service Employees Organization, advised a House Science and Technology subcommittee today against creating a standalone climate service.

"The creation of a National Climate Service as a separate line office within NOAA is unnecessary because it would duplicate the historic and current mission, programs and services of the National Weather Service and will inevitably result in a reduction of resources for the NWS," Hirn said.

Instead, Hirn suggested turning the weather service into the National Weather and Climate Service. The nation, he said, already has a "shovel ready" climate service that needs only some additional resources to meet the need for climate data.

But Eric Barron, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and chairman of a NOAA advisory panel on options for a climate service, said adding climate to the weather service is a bad idea. What is needed is a "one-stop shopping" office for the latest data on climate trends and forecasting.

"The patchwork of climate services that currently exist does not have the capacity to meet growing needs and demands," Barron said.

Local and regional climate centers need help assessing global data and trends, while national researchers do not understand the specific details of local places, Barron said. The climate service must integrate regional, local, national and international data into an accessible format.

Barron said he envisions a climate service with high-level leadership, such as through the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy -- a plan supported by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

"The nation needs an objective, authoritative and consistent source of consolidated, reliable and timely climate information to support decision-making," Lubchenco told lawmakers.

The subcommittee chairman, Brian Baird (D-Wash.), acknowledged questions about the organization of a climate service after the hearing. While his panel plans to have a bill creating the service, he said, there is no clear timeline for writing or voting on such legislation.