University partnerships enable crucial NOAA climate research

This
story
was originally published by
High Country News
and is reproduced here as part of the
Climate Desk
collaboration.

For the past two decades, seafaring scientists from Oregon State
University have set out from the Newport, Oregon, harbor to collect
data. Tracing ocean trenches and undersea mountains, their heavy
equipment dips into the water taking measurements of the current,
the ocean temperature, and zooplankton levels.

The data helps researchers understand how climate change affects
the marine food chain and can predict what the fishing season will
look like.

The Oregon State study, and others like it, carry on — despite
the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to
roll back environmental protections
, remove the United States
from international climate treaties, and
cast doubts on climate science
. Decades-long research programs
like Oregon State University’s Cooperative
Institute for Marine Resource Studies
continue thanks to
independent university partnerships with the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, which funds projects, keeping them
surprisingly insulated from politics.

Throughout the country, there are 16 similar cooperative
institutes, partnered with 43 universities, according to Monica
Allen, a spokeswoman for NOAA. These institutes and the projects
they conduct help NOAA meet its mission “to understand and
predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts,” Allen
said in a written statement.

The resulting work allows NOAA to share results with others to
conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.
One project has tracked the frequency of coastal floods and extreme
weather events; another works closely with the National Weather
Service, housed within NOAA. Another, led by researchers at the
Joint Institute for the Study of
the Atmospheric Sciences
(JISAO) at the University of
Washington, tracks carbon emissions as they dissipate from the
atmosphere into the oceans and how climate variability ultimately
affects fish populations. “We know CO2 concentrations are rising
every year, and we know humans are responsible for the combustion
of fossil fuels,” said Nicholas Bond, principal research
scientist with JISAO.

The university system partnerships make it possible for NOAA to
focus on research projects specifically tailored to tracking
atmospheric changes or marine needs, according to Michael Banks,
director of the CIMRS at Oregon State University. “The university
system is a lot more flexible,” Banks said. “It’s not a big,
slow, grinding engine.”

But while the climate research continues despite political
threats to science, Uma Bhatt, director of the Cooperative Institute for Alaska
Research
(CIFAR) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks,
perceives a subtle shift. Bhatt has not noticed researchers
muzzling their findings, but she worries about a slow strain on the
scientific community. “I do feel like people think they have to
be careful how they communicate things,” Bhatt said. “Although
we’ve found a way to keep doing our good work.”

For many working in university partnerships, the frustration in
conducting climate science comes not from whether or not the
research gets done, but from worries about what might happen to
their findings. “It’s kind of frustrating that it hasn’t lit
more of a fire with policymakers,” Bond said.

For the leading researchers involved in the university
cooperatives, there is no debate around whether or not climate
change is occurring but rather how fast and how devastating the
warming will be.

“The problem is not documenting it. The problem comes when
people start discussing what are we going to do about it,” Bhatt
said.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline
University partnerships enable crucial NOAA climate research
on
Jun 16, 2019.

Source: FS – All – Science – News
University partnerships enable crucial NOAA climate research