NORMAN — The University of Oklahoma will host one of eight regional climate science centers that will help the U.S. Department of Interior use weather and climate projections to help manage federal lands, natural resources and fish and wildlife.
OU President David Boren announced the university’s selection on Friday.
The center, to be housed at Two Partners Place near the National Weather Center, will be the sixth federally funded center at OU’s Norman campus.
“The Department of Interior’s selection of OU as (the) site of the South-Central Climate Science Center underlines the university’s weather expertise and reaffirms the strength of the consortium team we have assembled to address the region’s distinct challenges,” Boren said.
Paul Risser, chairman of the OU Research Cabinet, said the U.S. Geological Survey will join the Climate Science Center, which he estimates could open within six months.
University officials said the center will add 90 to 100 new jobs over the next three years, not including spin-off, private-sector jobs related to the center.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazer said OU was awarded one of the final three regional centers.
“The nationwide network of Climate Science Centers will provide the scientific talent and commitment necessary for understanding how climate change and other landscape stressors will change the face of the United States,” Salazar said, “and how the Department of the Interior, as our nation’s chief steward of natural and cultural resources, can prepare and respond.”
OU will lead a consortium that will include Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Louisiana State universities, the Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.
OU and Texas A&M were finalists to host the south central center. Risser said OU delivered an “A-plus presentation” to the Department of Interior that boosted the university’s weather expertise, partnerships and consortium partners.
“This is a wonderful model because it is similar to our model with NOAA (at the National Weather Center) in that it’s highly collaborative,” Risser said.
Natural resource managers across the south-central United States struggle to ensure that its residents have adequate, quality water supplies, opportunities for hunting and other recreational activities, and protection of fish and wildlife habitats.
The new center will provide managers with information, tools and education to enhance short-term and long-term strategies.
OU will combine its expertise in monitoring, analyzing and predicting severe storms and weather patterns with that of NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory to improve long-term climate change models.
The weather and climate models will feed into application models, practices and climate research specialties at OSU, Texas Tech and LSU.
The Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will bring cultural perspectives toward protecting water resources and protecting the environment. They’ll also serve as a liaison to other tribes across the region and nation.