Tennessee’s official climate office, housed at East Tennessee State University, is one of only nine such sites in the nation selected for a pilot funding proposal aimed at helping communities better understand and utilize climate data and resources to address long-term extreme weather vulnerabilities.  

It’s a prestigious and important honor that means officials at ETSU will work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the state emergency management agency and other organizations to develop a Community Resilience Academy focused chiefly on flooding and extreme temperatures.  

“From flash drought and flash flood events to record-breaking temperatures, extreme weather has a range of effects, including on human health in our region,” said Dr. Andrew Joyner, a member of ETSU’s Department of Geosciences and Tennessee’s official climatologist. “Our work will develop an active learning approach to resilience education and training with the community, and I am grateful to Assistant State Climatologist Wil Tollefson and the TCO’s Chief Public Health Officer Matt Beer, and all who helped us secure this.”     

Funding is guaranteed for the first year at $112,000, and financial support of $125,000 is likely for a second year depending on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget.  

During the first year, Joyner said, ETSU will focus on developing an academy in Johnson City/Washington County that will contribute to an update of the local hazard mitigation plan. In the second year, Joyner and state officials will replicate efforts in Nashville.     

Work, with additional announcements, will begin in the coming weeks.   

“Dr. Joyner and his staff have worked incredibly hard for this honor,” said Dr. Joe Bidwell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Our role as one of the pilot sites underscores ETSU’s leadership in climate science. By working with NOAA and other key agencies, we are dedicated to creating actionable strategies that enhance the resilience and safety of our communities.” 

Extreme weather is increasing in both the world and Appalachia, as a range of data make plain. ETSU is playing a major role in ensuring that plans exist in Tennessee when extreme weather and natural disasters happen.   

Because the university houses the state’s climate office, ETSU is playing an outsized role in climate research, as well as educating the area with seasonal outlooks.   

“Being chosen as one of only nine pilot sites highlights ETSU’s leadership in climate research and community preparedness,” said Dr. Kimberly D. McCorkle, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “Our efforts will not only foster resilience but also provide critical insights into mitigating the effects of extreme weather.”   

East Tennessee State University was founded in 1911 with a singular mission: to improve the quality of life for people in the region and beyond. Through its world-class health sciences programs and interprofessional approach to health care education, ETSU is a highly respected leader in rural health research and practices. The university also boasts nationally ranked programs in the arts, technology, computing, and media studies. ETSU serves approximately 14,000 students each year and is ranked among the top 10 percent of colleges in the nation for students graduating with the least amount of debt.

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