The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officially opened its newest outpost today, a gleaming, $76.5 million research and operations center on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. The new Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, Maryland, will house more than 800 NOAA scientists, forecasters, and data wranglers in a state-of-the-art building designed to foster collaboration.
The center will also help create "one of the greatest concentrations of earth scientists in the world," said meteorologist Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. That's because it sits just a short walk from the University of Maryland's earth science classrooms, and a short drive from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
More than 13 years in the making, the center is designed to be the U.S. government's nerve center for a range of activities, including predicting hurricane tracks and forecasting ocean currents. It is equipped to collect vast streams of data from satellites, buoys, and other platforms; crunch it in computer models; and then distribute the results to users that include the U.S. military and The Weather Channel. Another dedicated fan: Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who played a major role in the 13-year effort to fund and build the center. In the event of a weather disaster, she joked, "I have my protein bars, but most of all I have my NOAA weather channel."