The Obama administration is establishing a new federal agency on climate change, officials announced last week.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will set up the new Climate Service, which will operate in partnership with the agency's National Weather Service and National Ocean Service.
"Whether we like it or not, climate change represents a real threat," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told a news conference last week.
The NOAA Climate Service will provide "critical planning information" that businesses and communities need to "tackle head-on the challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change," Locke said. "In the process, we'll discover new technologies, build new businesses and create new jobs."
NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said the new agency would work closely with federal, regional, state and local governments, academia and the private sector. The aim, she said, will be to advance science and new product development, "transforming science into useable climate services."
NOAA scientists will provide climate research, observations, modeling, predictions and assessments to support and promote on-the-ground initiatives, the officials said.
The NOAA also launched a new climate web site - http://www.climate.gov - that provides quick access to the agency's extensive climate information, products and services. Known as the NOAA Climate Portal, the site is aimed at decision makers and policy leaders, scientists and engineers, educators, business users and the public.
It includes an interactive "climate dashboard" that shows various constantly updating climate datasets (e.g., temperature, carbon dioxide concentration and sea level) over adjustable time scales. It also includes the new climate science magazine ClimateWatch, featuring videos and articles in which scientists discuss recent climate research and findings.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studies and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages the country's coastal and marine resources.
The announcement of the new climate change agency was greeted enthusiastically by a range of environmental and science advocates.
"The Obama administration has returned science to its proper role in the decision-making process and this new Climate Service should prove to be a valuable resource as the administration continues to move forward on so many fronts involving climate change,: the Sierra Club's executive director, Carl Pope, said on his group's web site.
"As polluters and their allies continue to try and muddy the waters around climate science, the Climate Service will provide easy, direct access to the valuable scientific research undertaken by government scientists and others," Pope said.
In a series of comments posted by the NOAA, Peter Saundry, who heads the National Council for Science and the Environment, said the Climate Service would provide "a profoundly valuable service to the nation and its people as a focal point for objective, impartial scientific information on climate change that helps people, businesses, and governments make wise decisions about the kind of future we will have."
Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, said he was "very excited" and said his group looked forward to working closely with the Obama administration and the new agency to "satisfy America's needs to better understand and to predict climate change."
Georges C. Benjamin MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, called it a "welcome and critically needed asset to the public health community."
"Forecasting air quality, drought, natural hazards and climate-sensitive diseases all impact public health," he said. "Better predictive tools, monitoring and other resources will inform our decision-making and advance our efforts to get further ahead of the curve. Lives can be saved as a result."
The Climate Service will have its headquarters in Washington and will have six regional directors across the country.
Creation of the new agency requires congressional appropriations approval.