Climate Change Leads to Rising Tides at NOAA

Yesterday's budget proposal for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would add $110 million to its budget for a total of  $4.48 billion. That's a big increase for an agency that for much of the past decade has had a mostly flat budget hovering at about $4 billion. NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco has focused the proposed increase on climate research, in line with President Barack Obama's clear priority toward climate research across his budget. (Even the State Department has become involved, holding a conference call this morning to highlight funding in its budget for assistance on energy and programs to protect rain forests abroad.)

Lubchenco wants to boost climate research at her agency by proposing an increase of $16 million in 2010 for efforts including comparisons of climate models, competitive research that academic scientists can compete for new studies to track rapid changes in the Arctic, and ocean-acidification monitoring. 

The increases come on the heels of $244 million that the government granted as part of the stimulus package for high-performance computing for climate modeling and climate sensors.

Meanwhile, the funding for NOAA's Sea Grant program is essentially flat, as is the request for ocean exploration and undersea research. "Climate and energy are clearly at the top of the list for this Administration," says Terrence Schaff, a lobbyist for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. But Schaff is eager to hear Lubchenco say more about how she wants to push the agency forward. "It's hard to know how much of this budget was in place before the Obama team got in," he says. "It can't fully represent her priorities because they only had a little time to work on it. I'm anxious to see where she's going with NOAA."