New York is creating a Weather Risk Communication Center at the University at Albany, a first-of-its-kind operational collaboration between university researchers and state emergency managers. 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.
“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,” Governor Hochul said. “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.”
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 seven 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.
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.”