University of North Carolina Asheville Offers a Climate and Culture Class Unlike Any Other

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Scientists from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center will be among the guest lecturers.

Just like temperatures around the globe, the number of climate-related classes at the nation’s universities are on the rise, but none can match what the University of North Carolina Asheville has to offer: a masters-level Climate and Culture class featuring guest lectures from some of the top climate scientists in the world, including scientists from NOAA’s Asheville-based National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), the world’s largest archive of environmental data. Two of the guest lecturers were lead authors of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report.

UNC Asheville has developed a multidisciplinary course to enable students to understand and deal with the concept of sudden climate change. Topics include decision-making and adaptation; the impact of climate change on developing countries; national resources and climate; how the interaction between the oceans and atmosphere influences climate; uncertainty in science and decision-making; international policymaking and strategies; international negotiations regarding climate change; climate and economics, transportation and agriculture; history and climate; climate in the media; and urban and regional planning for climate change.

The Climate and Culture class is offered in connection with UNC Asheville’s Master of Liberal Arts Program, which promotes a broad experience in the study of the human condition, exploring human nature, human values and the quality of human life.

“The overarching goal of the course is to instill in each student an understanding of climate, its effect on society — both current and past — and the potential impacts of a changing climate,” said Dr. Gerard Voos, the course instructor and Program Director of UNC Asheville’s Environmental Quality Institute. “We are very fortunate to work closely with the National Climatic Data Center and other climate experts in the Asheville area to introduce students to climate science and the history of climate adaptation to climate. We want to help students decipher the often bewildering array of predictions about what might happen as the Earth’s average temperature climbs over the next few decades.”

“With the recent conclusions by the IPCC that the evidence clearly points to a changing climate caused largely by human activities, there is increased emphasis on developing information relevant to policy- and decision-makers,” said David Easterling, chief of NCDC’s Scientific Services Division. “This class is a wonderful step in that direction, since it provides not only a background in the science behind climate change, but also links that science to the societal issues that are of the greatest concern.”

In addition to Easterling, guest lecturers from NOAA include Ko Barrett, a UNC Asheville alumnus who is Acting Division Chief of NOAA’s Climate Assessments Services Division; Richard Heim, a drought expert in NCDC’s Climate Monitoring Branch; Jay Lawrimore, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch; Richard Reynolds, an ocean temperature expert in NCDC’s Remote Sensing and Applications Division; and Karsten Shein, a climate and aviation expert in NCDC’s Data Operations Division.

Other guest lecturers are Dr. Leonard Bernstein, a consultant who advises companies and trade associations on climate change and other global environmental issues; James Fox, operations director for the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center at UNC Asheville; Susan Fox, assistant director of planning and applications for the Southern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service; Paul Llanso, a leader in the World Meteorological Organization’s Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Program until his recent retirement; and Scott Shuford, formerly the director of planning for the City of Asheville, who is currently collaborating with NCDC on a climate change manual for urban and rural planners.

Easterling and Bernstein were lead authors on the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report.

Climate Collaboration Stems from Asheville’s HUB Project

The close, ongoing collaboration between NCDC and UNC Asheville exemplified by the Climate and Culture course is an outcome of the Asheville HUB Project, a partnership involving public, educational and private organizations in Asheville and Buncombe County, NC, who are pursuing specific strategies for economic development. The HUB Project includes a major initiative to make Western North Carolina a national leader in the application of global climate data to effect global adaptation and climate solutions. The centerpiece of the climate initiative is an effort to attract other government and private organizations with climate-related missions to Asheville. For more information, see

About UNC Asheville

UNC Asheville (, a public liberal arts university, has earned a national reputation for its programs in the humanities, undergraduate research, atmospheric sciences and environmental studies. The University is also a leader in climate and environmental sustainability education and research. Atmospheric science faculty and students are currently at work on groundbreaking investigations of local winter weather patterns, rainfall in the Appalachian Mountains and calculating hurricane wind speeds. UNC Asheville is partnering with the Renaissance Computing Institute in Chapel Hill to develop 3-D weather models for better disaster planning and response in the region, which has a history of devastating floods and mudslides. The National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center, a national center for the modeling and analysis of environmental data, was established at UNC Asheville in 2004 to coordinate basic and applied research projects.

About NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center

NCDC ( is the world's largest active archive of weather data. Its mission is to provide access and stewardship to the U.S. resource of global climate and weather related data and information, and assess and monitor climate variation and change. This effort requires the acquisition, quality control, processing, summarization, dissemination, and preservation of a vast array of climate data generated by the national and international meteorological services. NCDC's mission is global in nature and provides the U.S. climate representative to the World Meteorological Organization, the World Data Center System, and other international scientific programs.

For More Information, Contact

Merianne Epstein, UNC Asheville


Nancy Foltz, Asheville HUB Project



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Merianne Epstein

Nancy Foltz
Asheville HUB Project
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