As record drought and heat in Texas have garnered more and more attention over the last few years, so did Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, State Climatologist.
Nielsen-Gammon says his position is part researcher, part adviser. “Basically, the job is to make sure the state makes the best use of weather and climate information,” he tells StateImpact Texas.
Nielsen-Gammon is also a professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University, so he has additional duties teaching and researching for the school.
A&M is now requesting $284,000 from the state legislature to fully fund and expand the operations of the Office of the State Climatologist. Until now, the majority of the office’s funding came from the university and various research grants.
Although he’s held the position since 2000, Nielsen-Gammon says his responsibilities and his exposure have increased tremendously in the past three years.
“I’ve been doing a whole lot of outreach,” he says. “I get invitation for about 50 talks a month at state government workshops or industry groups, because there is so much interest and importance on what the current state of drought is, and more importantly what the outlook is for the future.”
Nielsen-Gammon says the funds would help support more researchers, and alleviate some of his ever-growing workload.
“We’ll hire an outreach specialist, who will be able to work with people and give talks and help out with education and also a researcher,” he says.
He says stable funding, like what would come from the legislature, would allow his office to more efficiently finish their work, improve their online services and expand their research.
“We will be able to give the climate needs to the state the attention it deserves,” Nielsen-Gammon says.
Nielsen-Gammon warned legislative natural resource committees last week of the dangers of continued drought conditions and climate change.
State Rep. Dawna Dukes, D-Austin, has also filed an unrelated bill regarding the qualifications of a state climatologist.
Nearly every state has a climatologist office that serves a similar purpose as Texas’.