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UCLA joins new center to study climate change in Southwest

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Shrinking Lake Mead along the increasingly arid border between Nevada and Arizona. Photo by Glen MacDonald. 
UCLA, through its Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES), will join five other universities in establishing a new center that will address current and future effects of climate change on the Southwest region of the country. A $3.1 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior will fund the new Southwest Climate Science Center, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Wednesday, Oct. 20.
 
No other region of the United States, save perhaps Alaska, is faced with as serious a climate challenge as California and the other Southwest states, according to climate scientists with the new center. The effects of climate change in this region have been well-documented, including rising temperatures, earlier snowmelt, northward-shifting winter storms, record-setting drought, plummeting Colorado River reservoir storage, widespread forest fires and the decline of wildlife.
 
“The Southwest Climate Science Center serves as an important new model of government and university cooperation aimed at tackling the most significant environmental challenge of the 21st century,” said Glen MacDonald, director of the IoES and a co-principal investigator for the new center.
 
MacDonald will join principal investigator Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona, who will spearhead the university portion of the initiative. Joining the team as co-principal investigators will be faculty members from UC Davis, the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev., the University of Colorado and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
 
Scientists at the Southwest Climate Science Center, one of nine existing or planned regional climate science hubs across the nation, will focus on understanding climate change, adapting to physical changes in the environment and ecosystem, coupled human-environment system response and adaptive management.
 
UCLA will play a key role, MacDonald said, with expertise in areas such as climatology and climate modeling, paleoclimatology, southern California terrestrial and marine systems, water and energy resources, environmental economics and public policy. The university already works closely with state and regional stakeholders on climate change research.
 
Affiliated organizations will also contribute to the enterprise: Arizona State University; Northern Arizona University; UC Merced; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; NASA Ames Research Center; and the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.
 
"The new center fosters partnerships with not only the federal government, but leading institutions across the Southwest,” MacDonald said. “This represents a new era in the climate science efforts of the U.S., and I am proud to see UCLA play an integral role."
 
View the U.S. Department of the Interior's news release.