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Hochul announces launch of state-of-the-art weather risk communication center


Fri, Dec 8th 2023 03:55 pm

Says first-of-its-kind center to strengthen decision-making before, during and after severe weather

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the creation of New York’s State Weather Risk Communication Center at the University at Albany, a first-of-its kind operational collaboration between university researchers and state emergency managers.

Her team said, “Through an annual $1.5 million investment, the center will serve as a clearinghouse for critical weather information and develop new tools to help emergency managers make more informed, time-critical decisions to protect communities. The center will also examine how the state and its partners communicate the risks associated with extreme weather to the public and how to improve those messages.”

Hochul said, “New Yorkers know all too well that climate change has caused more frequent, intense, and unpredictable storms across our state, and we need innovative ideas to help us respond. As we face the rising risk of extreme weather events, I’m proud to establish New York’s Weather Risk Communication Center to strengthen our preparedness and keep New Yorkers informed and safe before, during and after emergencies.”

The press release noted, “Specifically, the center’s work will combine the high-quality forecasts provided by the National Weather Service (NWS) and supplemental data from the New York State Mesonet with on-the-ground information about critical infrastructure to create new decision-support products tailored to the specific needs of emergency managers. For example, during the massive September storm that dumped more than 7 inches of rain in New York City in just 24 hours, the center would have been able to create real-time maps informed by advanced weather observations with data about the city’s sewer infrastructure and capacity to help pinpoint where and how flooding was likely to occur and when evacuations might be necessary. Additionally, before or during a snowstorm, the center will monitor forecasts and Mesonet data to map road surface temperatures and inform roadway pre-treatment planning.

“The center’s assistance will not be reserved just for state-level emergency managers. Its resources and expertise will be available to other public entities in New York that need support in making weather-related decisions, including, for example, school superintendents who need support to inform school closures.

“When extreme weather is not in the forecast, the SWRCC will work closely with the state to offer emergency weather training and workshops, as well as prepare after-action analysis of weather emergencies and examine how the state and its partners communicate the risks associated with extreme weather.”

State Weather Risk Communication Center Director Nick Bassill said, "New York already possesses the ingredients necessary to make us a nationwide leader at integrating weather information into our everyday decision-making, and I'm beyond thrilled to help make this possible through our State Weather Risk Communication Center. We'll build upon the excellent service from the National Weather Service and work hand-in-hand with our state partners in emergency management, transportation and energy to provide them with the information they need before, during and after a storm. Simultaneously, social scientists and software developers will build better tools and communication strategies. Being located at UAlbany also lets us train the next generation of experts by incorporating a robust student internship program."

The center will be based inside UAlbany’s ETEC building, which is home to one of the nation’s largest clusters of atmospheric and climate researchers, including the NWS and UAlbany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center. In addition to being strategically located next to the NWS’ Albany Office, the center will also leverage key existing resources within ETEC, including:

√ The xCITE (ExTREME Collaboration, Innovation, & Technology) laboratory, a state-of-the-art data and visual analytics center that will serve as a base of operations for the center during severe weather events;

√ The New York State Mesonet, which Hochul’s team called, “the most advanced statewide weather network in the nation,” and which UAlbany built and operates out of ETEC on the state’s behalf; and

√ Related expertise in UAlbany’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity.

The annual $1.5 million investment by New York state will fund approximately 10 full-time positions, hourly student employment and internship opportunities, as well as work with the Mesonet to develop new data computing products and to purchase equipment for the center’s operations hub.

The State Weather Risk Communication Center will operate in parallel with a $3 million federal grant secured by the university to fund the Exploitation of Mesonets for Emergency Preparedness and Response in Weather Extremes (EMPOWER) project.

The press release stated, “A partnership between UAlbany’s atmospheric scientists and College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, EMPOWER is exploring how to leverage real-time data from the New York State Mesonet and other advanced observation systems to create a suite of new support tools that are designed for emergency managers, first responders, and other key public and private stakeholders. The pilot project, which is being supported through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, will serve as a regional testbed to explore the potential of using big data to improve emergency management outcomes nationwide. Through the SWRCC, New Yorkers will be among the first to benefit from the research advances achieved under EMPOWER.”

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