Climate researchers funded $5.4M to study extreme weather impacts

BATON ROUGE – Earth’s climate is changing, and those changes have been identified as a threat to U.S. national security. To gather the latest, most critical data to address these challenges, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, has awarded climate researchers $5.4 million over five years as part of the Southern Climate Impact Planning Program, or SCIPP. SCIPP is a collaborative research program between the University of Oklahoma, LSU, Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M University and Adaptation International that has helped communities in the southcentral U.S. plan for and mitigate the impacts of weather and climate since 2008. This is the fourth phase of funding the program has received.

“For the past 13 years, we have been producing research, tools and knowledge that reduce weather and climate risks now and in the future. NOAA’s continued support of this work validates its importance, especially now as extreme weather events, flooding and wildfires threaten critical infrastructure and our livelihood across the country,” said Louisiana State Climatologist Barry Keim, who is also the Richard J. Russell Professor in the LSU Department of Geography & Anthropology and SCIPP Principal Investigator at LSU.

The researchers at LSU have been tracking extreme rainfall events across the region, including Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and coastal Mississippi. They quantify the large volumes of water from heavy rainfall events in search of the largest storms to ever impact the U.S. and they seek to determine what meteorological and climatological factors may be driving the frequency of the storms. They also developed and manage the storm surge database called SURGEDAT.

Other projects include research on heat stress to identify critical temperature thresholds that lead to hospitalizations for heat-related illness and how winter temperatures and freezes affect coastal ecology in the South.

 “It’s an extremely exciting time to be doing this work. It’s always been my passion to do climate research and ‘climate’ is now a buzz word. We want people to have a better understanding of what climate and climate resiliency means to them. The information we are collecting can change people’s lives and benefit all of us,” said SCIPP Climate Research Director Vincent Brown, who is also a LSU Department of Geography & Anthropology assistant professor.

This funding will support new projects on how people have migrated from Louisiana’s coast due to extreme weather events including hurricanes and flooding. SCIPP researchers are also investigating the impact of weather on crawfish harvests and how sea-level rise influences nuisance flooding in coastal cities.

NOAA has also funded Keim and Brown an additional $300,000 over two years to work with the Sewage and Water Board of New Orleans to help better understand the flooding issues across New Orleans.

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