Extension partners with State Climate Office of Ohio

The new State Climate Office of Ohio (SCOO) will expand access to agricultural weather and data. It serves as the steward of climate data and education, research and outreach for Ohioans and includes a team of researchers, educators, climatologists and meteorologists with more than 25 years of experience and expertise from Ohio State’s Department of Geography and the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center (BPCRC).

“Having access to accurate climate information is critical for farmers, regional planners, policy makers and all sectors of Ohio’s economy,” said Bryan Mark, professor of geography and Ohio’s new state climatologist. “It directly impacts quality of life, health, food and water security.”

In 2016, Mark started as Ohio’s state climatologist and immediately began assembling a team of weather and climate experts to help broaden his mission to connect Ohioans with transformative climate information. Though historically the state climatologist has been a volunteer position held by a member of the geography faculty, growing concerns about climate impact underscored the need for a more comprehensive effort to gather, prepare and disseminate information and engage the public in education and training.

The new SCOO team includes Jim DeGrand, assistant state climatologist and senior researcher, Department of Geography; Jason Cervenec, education and outreach director, BPCRC; Aaron Wilson, senior research associate, BPCRC-OSU Extension; Andy Londo, assistant director, agriculture and natural resources, OSU Extension; Steve Quiring, professor of geography and atmospheric sciences; Wesley Haines, alumnus and meteorologist; and Jeff Rogers, professor emeritus of geography, and former Ohio state climatologist.

“With this new office, we will greatly expand our agricultural weather outreach, enhance reporting of key data to individual farmers, planners and local officials, and mobilize resources on campus, across the state and within the region to address climate change in Ohio,” said Mark.

According to Mark, a significant amount of meteorological and climatological data is available, but it is not tailored to the needs of public and private stakeholders nor is it available on an intuitive and applicable platform for farmers, resource managers and policy makers to utilize effectively. A new grant is about to change that. 

In December, Mark was awarded $45,000 from OSU Extension, in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and Ohio State’s Office of Energy and Environment and Office of Outreach and Engagement to develop a web-based climate data portal and decision design tools, create a strong network of campus and statewide partners and a more reliable and accurate network of climate stations, and expand outreach to a larger agricultural audience. 

“This grant will lead to a multiplatform prototype tool consisting of the FARM (Fertilizer Application and Resource Monitor) mobile and web app and climate database,” Mark explained. “This tool will provide farmers with the real-time weather and climate information needed to assess and plan field applications, better comply with state regulations and reduce nutrient runoff to streams.”

SCOO’s continued vitality depends on the strength of its connections with diverse stakeholders across the state, including those in health, food and water security, emergency management and agriculture. They have already forged strong relationships that are yielding positive impacts. 

One such relationship is with OSU Extension, a statewide network with a presence in all 88 counties in Ohio that links communities, businesses and the general population to intensive research and development resources of Ohio State. 

“The partnership between OSU Extension and SCOO provides invaluable guidance to farmers,” said Ken Martin, associate director of programs and department chair of OSU Extension. “We coordinate drought and flood monitoring that directly impacts the agricultural cycle; we are working to develop a streamlined approach to collecting field soil conditions that will aid in the creation and dissemination of drought and precipitation information across Ohio.”

What will be the impact of climate variability on our economy, food security, natural resources, energy infrastructure, health and well-being? What are the chances and potential manifestations of extreme floods and droughts? How can Ohioans build resilience to actual and future climate disruptions? The State Climate Office of Ohio, under Bryan Mark’s leadership, hopes to be a leader in climate data stewardship to ensure a healthy and growing agricultural community of Ohio.