Tennessee has a diverse climate attributable to its size and landscape and is often geographically and culturally defined by three “grand divisions:” East Tennessee (Appalachian Mountains, Cumberland Mountains, and the ridge-and-valley region), Middle Tennessee (rolling hills), and West Tennessee (flat topography part of the Gulf Coastal Plain). Tennessee is further separated into four "climate divisions" with the Cumberland Mountains and Appalachian Mountains/Ridge & Valley region forming two different divisions. As the climate of the state varies greatly from west to east, it has wide-ranging impacts on many parts of our economy daily.
The state climate office for Tennessee was originally established under the direction of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), however it ceased operations in 2006. Over ten years later, in 2016, the Tennessee Climate Office (TCO) at East Tennessee State University was established to fullfil the basic reponsibilities of a state climate office. In January 2021, the TCO, in coordination with the American Association of State Climatologists (AASC: https://stateclimate.org/), became the official climate office for the state. Climate influences various sectors of our state economy including agriculture, transportation, tourism, recreation, and the environment. The mission of the TCO is to provide climate-related services to state, local and federal agencies, businesses, and the citizens of Tennessee.
The TCO is housed in the Geosciences complex within Ross Hall on the main campus of East Tennessee State University, where university researchers, government agencies, and private industries come together and create a unique environment for interaction and advancement. The TCO will be actively involved in research that enhances its capabilities to provide public service.
- Analyses of climate hazards in Tennessee
- Natural hazard risk assessment and mitigation
- Seasonal weather forecast dissemination
- Drought monitoring
- El Niño/La Niña effects on Tennessee weather and climate
- Agricultural and water resource management
- Air quality and environmental management
The TCO derives its expertise from:
- Department of Geosciences at East Tennessee State University
- University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
- Department of Geography at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville
- Department of Agriculture, Geosciences, and Natural Resources at the University of Tennessee-Martin
- Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Vanderbilt University
- Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Memphis.
Undergraduate and graduate students from different universities will participate in the research and extension activities at the TCO every year.
Partnerships with the following agencies are ongoing/expected:
- Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
- Tennessee Emergency Management Agency
- Tennessee Department of Transportation
National Weather Service (all four locations serving TN)
- Southern Regional Climate Center
- Southeast Regional Climate Center
- The NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
- American Association of State Climatologists
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Interaction with these organizations enhances our outreach activities.
- Provide the most accurate climate information to the citizens of Tennessee.
- Assist Tennessee state agencies in climate-environment interaction issues and related applications.
- Establish, operate, and maintain an extensive meteorological network across Tennessee and archive and disseminate data to the public in a timely fashion.
- Assist other extension scientists by integrating climate information into applications such as agricultural and environmental models.
- Increase public awareness of variations in Tennessee climate and environment to aid in long-range planning.
- Study Tennessee’s climate and its interaction with the environment.
- Investigate the effects of climatic variations on agriculture, air pollution, and natural resources and develop forecasts that assist in resource management.
- Interact with K-12 schools, community college and university teachers and students, and with other community organizations on different aspects of Tennessee climate and environment.