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Indiana fortunate to host Midwest climate center

With both a regional climate center and the state climate office, Hoosiers have lots of weather information available to them.

November 8, 2021

3 Min Read
snow-covered ground and house
REMEMBER THIS SURPRISE? This scene greeted many Hoosiers on April 21, 2021. Snowfall and temperature information for that day are now data in the Midwestern Regional Climate Center at Purdue. Tom J. Bechman

Unless you’re a weather guru, you may not know that a major shift occurred within federal weather agencies this year. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center, responsible for recording weather and climate data for nine states, moved from the University of Illinois to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. The transition in staffing is still underway, but Beth Hall, the new MRCC director, says she hopes to soon make better use of data collected by the MRCC to help everyone in the nine-state region, including Hoosiers.

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Hall cites this example: “Someone in agronomy at Purdue is working on a decision tool that would help farmers decide when it’s safe to apply anhydrous ammonia in the fall,” she says. “It needs to be 50 degrees F or below at 4 inches below the surface, with a good probability of staying there, to minimize potential losses.

“We have the data within MRCC to help provide such a tool on climate. Now, we also have federal funds which come along with hosting the MRCC to support building those types of tools.

“If people tell us what kind of weather information and tools they need, I hope we can accommodate them and develop decision-making tools that will help farmers be more profitable, or help those who just want to enjoy the outdoors make better decisions.”

Acquiring the MRCC

Hall is also the Indiana state climatologist, and a member of the Purdue faculty. She was previously director of the MRCC from 2012 to 2019, when it was in Illinois.

MRCC was the first regional climate center, started in Illinois in the early 1980s. Today, there are six regional climate centers. Hall explains that the contract to operate the center comes up for bid at set intervals, but usually no one else offers a bid, so it stayed in Illinois.

“I was interested in bringing it here because I believe there is potential to use the data to do so much more for farmers and citizens, so we put together a bid, and were awarded the contract,” she says.

Why is it important that this data-collecting arm of the federal weather service is in Indiana? “We treat everyone equally in the nine-state area, but by being here, we are more aware of how weather conditions affect agriculture and other segments of society where we are,” Hall says. “If someone has a good idea for a weather-based tool, we are going to listen. If we build it, it will be available to everyone in the nine states.”

Hall notes that the purpose of a regional climate center is to collect data and then use that data to build weather-based tools that serve a purpose. Data feeds into the MRCC from a cooperative network of federal observers that has existed for a long time. It will also receive data from the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, known as CoCoRaHS. This is a volunteer network of weather reporters who make local weather observations and measurements. The state climate office, she says, collects data, but spends more time doing research and analyzing data rather than building tools to use it.

Check out the MRCC website, with direct access to tools, maps and graphs.

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