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UMass awarded $7.5m grant to study regional climate change

By David Abel
Globe Staff / October 8, 2011

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The federal government yesterday awarded the University of Massachusetts Amherst a multimillion-dollar grant to host one of eight centers around the country to study the local effects of climate change.

The Northeast Climate Science Center will study how climate change affects ecosystems, wildlife, water, and other resources from the Great Lakes to Maine and down to Missouri. The $7.5 million grant over five years will sponsor research at UMass Amherst as well as at institutions in Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, and Massachusetts.

“The nationwide network of Climate Science Centers will provide the scientific talent and commitment necessary for understanding how climate change and other landscape stressors will change the face of the United States,’’ US Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.

Last month, the state’s Climate Change Adaptation Advisory Committee released a report that said temperatures in Massachusetts by the end of this century could spike to 90 degrees or more for 30 to 60 days every summer, ocean temperatures could be on average 8 degrees warmer, and winters are likely to have more rain and less snow.

And next month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international scientific panel convened by the United Nations, will release a major new study on the effects of climate change in recent years and what the latest evidence shows is likely to happen in coming decades.

UMass Amherst and its partners will study climate impacts on water resources, agriculture and grazing, fish and wildlife, forest resilience, invasive species, protecting migratory fish and waterfowl, sea-level rise, coastal erosion, flood management, and water quality.

“Most studies so far provide broad-scale assessments at the national level,’’ said Raymond Bradley, a university professor who will serve as one of the center’s principal investigators.

“Resource managers need more detailed information that is relevant to their specific problems,’’ he said. “One of our goals for the new center is to develop this capability.’’

In addition to UMass Amherst, the money will support research at the University of Wisconsin, University of Missouri, University of Minnesota, Columbia University, the College of the Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wis., and the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole.

The eight regional climate science centers extend from a hub at the National Climate Change and Wildlife Center at the US Geological Survey national headquarters.

Other centers focus on research in Alaska, the Southeast, Northwest, Southwest, North Central, South Central, and the Pacific Islands.

“This is a great opportunity for scientists with different backgrounds to talk with a common vocabulary about these very important national problems,’’ said Richard Palmer, chairman of the civil and environmental engineering department at UMass Amherst, who will also serve as a principal investigator.

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.