5.1 Applied Climatology: Polishing Its Golden Age (Core Keynote Lecture)

Tuesday, 12 January 2016: 11:00 AM
Room 245 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Barbara E. Mayes Boustead, NOAA/NWS, Valley, NE

Applied climatology, as noted by “founding father” Stanley Changnon (2005), has entered its Golden Age. It is a discipline that evades definition, though in his interpretation, “applied climatology describes, defines, interprets, and explains the relationships between climate conditions and countless weather-sensitive [and climate-sensitive] activities” and their impacts. Its practitioners draw from disciplines that include meteorology, geography, hydrology, social sciences, agriculture, other physical sciences, and yes, climatology. In fact, one unifying feature of applied climatology is its interdisciplinary nature, along with heavy dependence on weather and climate data and an operational purpose. The field of applied climatology is not new, though it certainly has morphed over the last several decades as the key partners have evolved. In its current incarnation, applied climatologists in the United States are found in state climate offices and regional climate centers, within federal agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Department of the Interior, and among the private sector. Most work in applied climatology in the United States is accomplished by those federal agencies, some state agencies and tribal entities, a subset of universities around the country, and a growing number of private entities.

That the field is undergoing expansion is demonstrated by recent additions of applied climatology as a discipline within university curriculum, as well as the construction of guidance for creating applied climatology major and minor programs. Federal agencies such as the USDA and DOI have added climate centers in recent years, and NWS has included climate services in its Weather-Ready Nation roadmap. These initiatives have strengthened the connection between applied climatologists and disciplines including meteorology, hydrology, social sciences, agriculture, and ecology. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment have provided framework for climate change assessment, as well as aiding constituents with adaptation and mitigation planning. Ongoing and future research spans a vast range of disciplines and issues, ranging from creating tools that aid decision-makers in considering climate information to managing and interpreting the large amount of climate data to assessing impacts of climate variability and change.

Changnon, S.A., 2005: Applied climatology: The golden age has begun. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 86, 915-919.

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