FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Keli Tarp
News Releases 2003
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Officials from NOAA, the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of Oklahoma have announced the completion of a lease agreement for the National Weather Center, a $67 million, 244,000-square-foot building to be built on OU's Norman campus that will combine the five NOAA organizations in Norman with several key weather organizations at the university.
The agreement represents a major milestone toward completion of the building, which will be one of the largest research centers in the world and the premier facility for severe storm research, prediction, forecasting and warning.
"The unique world-class weather center provides an opportunity to strengthen and extend the existing partnership between NOAA and the university," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "The new building will increase collaboration and communication for the weather forecasters and researchers engaged in complimentary efforts toward better forecasts and warnings of severe and hazardous weather."
"As we look back many years from now, the formation of this internationally important research center will be viewed by historians as a major milestone in changing the Oklahoma economy," said OU President David L. Boren. "In addition to helping to save thousands of lives through improved severe storm research, it will help move our economy to one based upon intellectual property which provides higher paying jobs."
The lease agreement allows the university to obtain bonding authority needed to complete the financing for the NOAA portion of the building. Construction is expected to begin in July 2003.
The NOAA Weather Partners to be located in the building are the National Severe Storms Laboratory, Storm Prediction Center, National Weather Service Norman Forecast Office, Warning Decision Training Branch and Radar Operations Center's Application Branch.
The OU units to be housed in the building are the School of Meteorology, Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms, Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, Environmental Verification and Analysis Center, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, International Center for Natural Hazards and Disaster Research, and Center for Spatial Analysis.
Since the creation of the OU School of Meteorology in 1960, it has become a fusion of more than 12 different university, state and federal organizations collectively known as the Oklahoma Weather Center. With the construction of the National Weather Center, those organizations will be housed under the same roof, enabling them to interact and collaborate more effectively on critical operations, research and education. Students will be exposed to real world problems encountered by people who forecast the weather on a day-to-day basis. Collaboration among the organizations has been credited with saving many lives all across the nation through early warning of tornadoes and severe storms, including the deadly tornadoes that ripped through Oklahoma and Kansas in May 1999.
"The one-of-a-kind weather center will bring research and operations under one roof in support of NOAA's strategic goal of improving short-range forecasts and warnings," Lautenbacher said. "In addition, consolidation will leverage personnel and facilities resources, create synergy, and shorten the time for bringing research advancements into operations."
The new building solves urgent facilities problems and provides an opportunity to bring NOAA's staff into improved facilities, Lautenbacher added.
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