NOAA 2006-R302
Contact: Dave Miller
NOAA News Releases 2006
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Officials Commemorate 5th Anniversary of U.S. Climate Reference Network

George Briggs, executive director of the North Carolina Arboretum, received the prestigious NOAA Environmental Hero Award today at an Earth Day celebration in Asheville, N.C. Scott Rayder, chief of staff for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, presented the award, which highlights Briggs’ long service to the arboretum – serving as its first and only director.

“Your dedicated efforts and outstanding accomplishments serving as director of the Arboretum since its creation in 1987 have greatly benefited the environment throughout North Carolina,” Rayder said while presenting the award to Briggs. “This facility has become a center for education, research, conservation and economic development - issues that complement NOAA’s mission.”

The Environmental Hero Awards, established in 1996, are given in conjunction with Earth Day celebrations nationwide and honor those who volunteer their time and energy to help NOAA carry out its mission to protect our nation's environment.

Under Briggs’ leadership, the North Carolina Arboretum, which has 70 employees and more than 200 volunteers, and a budget exceeding $3 million, attracts over 200,000 visitors each year.

“George Briggs recognized the importance of collecting accurate climate data. Accordingly the arboretum was selected as the location for the first Climate Reference Network, a high-tech system designed to track the nation’s climate and precipitation trends,” said Gregory W. Withee, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

During the event, NOAA officials also marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Climate Reference Network, which measures real-time surface temperatures, precipitation, wind speed and solar radiation. Tom Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, is one of the world’s leading experts on climate change and developed the CRN. There are currently 80 CRN stations across the United States.

“The Climate Reference Network has injected more reliable data about how the climate is changing now, and how change will impact climate in the future,” Karl said. “We’ve already seen, within five years, how the CRN data benefits NOAA’s drought monitor, which closely assesses the status of drought nationwide. Also, the NOAA National Weather Service uses the CRN data to verify forecasts and monitor meteorological conditions.”

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, 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 the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, 61 countries and the European Commission to develop a global network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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