NOAA 2004-089
Contact: John Leslie

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Meteorologists, emergency managers, scientists and members of the private sector are meeting at “Challenges in Urban Meteorology: A Forum for Users and Providers” at the Doubletree Hotel in Rockville, Md., to discuss strategies to meet emerging problems and the unique challenges in ensuring the safety and health of people living in densely populated areas. The forum, which began today, is organized and directed by the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology.

“With nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population living in urban areas, there is a rapidly growing need to understand and predict meteorological conditions in these areas,” said Dr. James Mahoney, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator. “Special concerns in urban areas include severe weather, air quality, dispersion characteristics, climate and urban runoff, most of which impose new demands on forecast models. Several of NOAA’s research laboratories are already engaged in experimental program partnerships focusing on urban areas.”

Damages averaging more than $11 billion occur from hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other severe weather each year. America’s vulnerability to severe weather, homeland security incidents and risks from air and water quality and climatic variations are rising as more of the population moves into areas prone to these hazardsEmergency response plans require real-time decisions about evacuations affecting thousands of households in a single incident.

Urban meteorology – a specialized, interdisciplinary approach to studying natural environmental interactions with urban communities – provides an integrated response to demands for better, more useful information for managing cities and responding to natural and human-caused crises.

“Urban meteorology holds a huge potential value for a variety of stakeholders from urban decision makers and residents to business and transportation sector planners,” said Samuel P. Williamson, federal coordinator for meteorological services and supporting research. “Through this forum, we hope to initiate and encourage a continuing dialog among all interested parties to share strategies and objectives, and build solutions to common problems that face densely populated urban areas.”

The forum focuses on the five integral parts of urban meteorology: severe weather, homeland security, air quality, water quality and climate, where panelists discuss current strengths and identify potential areas for improvement.

A number of factors have made urban meteorology a pertinent issue, and have supported its emergence as an integrated science based on the various underlying disciplines. Technological advances in remote sensing and other observing platforms have made urban observations on the sub-regional scale possibleMore extensive observations improve modeling of atmospheric, soil, ocean and biosphere conditions. Improvements in the models lead to greater applicability to assess and predict the state of urban environments.

Recent national and international events have heightened attention to potential acts of terrorism, particularly in urban centers with large populations. Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear releases, whether intentional or accidental, threaten public health and safety. Atmospheric transport and diffusion models for predicting behavior of these harmful dispersions depend upon inputs from urban environmental observations.

Health problems associated with extremes in urban weather and climate can threaten human health and strain response servicesIn addition to acute events, there are other urban conditions that have long-term cumulative effects on health, such as air and water pollution.

As a result of improvements in the ability to observe, monitor and forecast urban meteorology, public officials have a wealth of specialized data to draw from that will help to save lives, improve living conditions and support the local economy.

Speakers and attendees at the forum represent a number of federal, state and local agencies, as well as broadcast media, universities, the American Meteorological Society and Meteorological Services of CanadaThe forum will continue until Thursday.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resourcesTo learn more about NOAA, please visit: