UAlbany Partners with New York State on Weather Risk Communication Center
ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 12, 2023) — Gov. Hochul on Thursday announced the creation of the New York State Weather Risk Communication Center (SWRCC) 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 SWRCC 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.
In a segment taped last month that aired Thursday on the TODAY Show, Hochul gave Al Roker the first in-depth look at the SWRCC’s work at UAlbany’s ETEC research and development complex.
“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.”
A More Weather Resilient New York
The SWRCC will specifically focus on creating new decision-support products tailored to the needs of emergency managers, combining 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.
For example, during the massive September storm that dumped more than seven inches of rain in New York City in just 24 hours, the SWRCC would have been able to create real-time maps informed by advanced weather observations and data about the city’s sewer infrastructure and capacity to help pinpoint where and how flooding was likely to occur and 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.
Along with state-level emergency managers, the SWRCC’s resources and expertise will also 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.
When extreme weather is not in the forecast, 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.
“As New Yorkers confront more frequent episodes of extreme weather due to a changing climate, the University at Albany is honored to partner with New York State to ensure the expertise of our weather and climate researchers is fully available to the emergency managers and first responders charged with protecting lives and property,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez.
“The launch of the State Weather Risk Communication Center is a credit to Gov. Hochul’s forward-thinking approach to the risks posed by climate change, a model for how universities can translate research to the real world and a vital step toward building a safer, more informed and more resilient New York.”
Leveraging UAlbany’s Weather and Climate Resources
The SWRCC will be based inside UAlbany’s ETEC building, which is home to one of the nation’s largest clusters atmospheric and climate researchers, including the NWS and UAlbany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center.
In addition to being strategically located next to the NWS’ Albany Office, the center will also leverage key existing resources within ETEC including:
- The xCITE (ExTREME Collaboration, Innovation, & Technology) laboratory, a state-of-the-art data and visual analytics center that will serve as a base of operations for the SWRCC during severe weather events
- The New York State Mesonet, the most advanced statewide weather network in the nation, which UAlbany built and operates out of ETEC on the state’s behalf
- Related expertise in emergency preparedness, response and communication in UAlbany’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity.
The annual $1.5 million investment by New York State will fund approximately 10 full-time positions, hourly student employment and internship opportunities, as well as work with the Mesonet to develop new data computing products and to purchase equipment for the center’s operations hub.
"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,” said Nick Bassill, a meteorologist at UAlbany and director of the SWRCC. “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."
“As climate change continues to make extreme weather more frequent and intense, in New York State we are strengthening our preparedness, response capabilities and resilience to meet the moment,” said New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray. “Thanks to Gov. Hochul’s leadership on preparedness and emergency response, the expertise of our partners at UAlbany, and our ongoing critical partnership with the National Weather Service, this new Center will not only help us make the best decisions during extreme weather events but most critically will help us find ways to better communicate the risks of that weather with the public.”
Big Data to Improve Emergency Management
The State Weather Risk Communication Center will operate in parallel with a $3 million federal grant secured by the University to fund the Exploitation of Mesonets for Emergency Preparedness and Response in Weather Extremes (EMPOWER) project.
A partnership between UAlbany’s atmospheric scientists and College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, EMPOWER is exploring how to leverage real-time data from the New York State Mesonet and other advanced observation systems to create a suite of new support tools that are designed for emergency managers, first responders, and other key public and private stakeholders.
The pilot project, which is being supported through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, will serve as a regional testbed to explore the potential of using big data to improve emergency management outcomes nationwide. Through the SWRCC, New Yorkers will be among the first to benefit from the research advances achieved under EMPOWER.