Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Wednesday in Spokane that the federal government is about to expand its climate and weather services throughout the West.
Lubchenco is planning to sign memoranda of understanding with governors at the Western Governors Association annual meeting this week in Coeur d’Alene.
The National Weather Service, an agency under the NOAA umbrella, will increase its scientific research and monitoring of long-range outlooks for floods, wildfires and extreme precipitation in the West.
She said that the new services will also open opportunities for private-sector analysis and consulting services, and will follow the successful operation of the U.S. Drought Monitor center in Lincoln, Neb.
Increasing knowledge about weather-related phenomena such El Niño and La Niña is giving scientists a better look at what kind of weather and climate trends are possible months ahead of time, she said.
For example, forecasters pointed out months ago that La Niña last winter would bring heavy snow and a potential for flooding, both of which proved accurate.
“We’re a science agency. Part of this is understanding the science behind the patterns,” she told members of the media during her visit to the Spokane Weather Forecast Office on North Rambo Road.
Lubchenco was confirmed as NOAA administrator in 2009, the first woman and first marine ecologist to head the agency. She spent 30 years researching on the Oregon coast as a member of the Oregon State University faculty.
She said that when she travels she tries to stop at any nearby weather office for briefings.
“I think what the weather service does is immensely important,” she told the Spokane staff.