Wednesday, August 23, 2006

So who pays Pat Michaels.....

A recent series of developments here, here, there and everywhere, everywhere, really everywhere, has lead the Commonwealth (almost said state) of Virginia to conclude, as reported in the Richmond Times Dispatch, that the Virginia State Climatologist is not a state position

Hanley's letter also addressed the question of whether Michaels' position as state climatologist is an appointment of the governor or of U.Va. Hanley does acknowledge that Michaels was originally appointed state climatologist by Gov. John Dalton in 1980.

However, she said the code of Virginia "does not provide for the governor to appoint a state climatologist."

She also asserted that the university assumed authority for the state climatologist's office and title in the 2000 certification application to the American Association of State Climatologists.

"Therefore, it is the prerogative of the university to make that appointment," Hanley wrote.

The university did not directly address that issue. But U.Va. spokeswoman Carol Wood provided this statement: "We are grateful to the secretary of the commonwealth for her letter about the state's relationship to the Office of the State Climatologist. As it has since 1978, the University will continue to operate the office as an institutional program in accord with the American Association of State Climatologists, the body that oversees state climatology offices nationwide."

There are several issues to be considered. The first is that the American Association of State Climatologists does NOT oversee state climatology offices nationwide. This is an organization of State Climatologists who work together on issues of common interest, not a designating or rule making group. The AASC web site specifically states:
Founded in 1976, the American Association of State Climatologists is a professional scientific organization composed of state climatologists (one per state), directors of the six Regional Climate Centers and associate members who are persons interested in the goals and activities of the Association. State Climatologists are individuals who have been identified by a state entity as the state's climatologist and who are also recognized by the Director of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as the state climatologist of a particular state
State Climatologists currently exist in 47 states and Puerto Rico. They are typically either employees of state agencies or are staff members of state-supported universities. Associate members may be assistant state climatologists or other climatologists under the employ of the state climatologist; representatives of federal climate agencies; retired state climatologists; or others interested in climate services.
So it is the NCDC and a state agency which BOTH must officially recognize the State Climatologist. Michaels is a member of the AASC, but at least in the early going he was not able to produce a letter from the NCDC. The letter from the Govenor's representative says that UVa certified Michaels in his application to the AASC.

Michaels has been "State Climatologist" since 1980. The AASC has existed since 1976. Why did he not previously apply for membership? What has his relationship been to the NCDC over the years?

Now it gets amusing. First, is UVa a state agency? Commonly state agencies are directly under the control of the executive. UVa is a state university, but recently it has become essentially independent under the Virginia Restructured Higher Education Financial and Administrative Operations Act

Second, and most important, is the clear implication that the position of State Climatologist ain't no more gonna be a line in the STATE budget, and that if UVa wants Michaels to continue in the position, they are going to have to come up with the $.

So, yes, UVirginia can designate Michaels as State Climatologist, but I see nothing that would prevent Virginia Tech designating its own State Climatologist. Hell, ODU has some good oceanographers that might want to be State Climatologist.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"if UVa wants Michaels to continue in the position, they are going to have to come up with the $."

It certainly does not seem that there exists an official State climatologist position at this point.

So, either the legislature or the University is going to have to create such a position and if they do, they are presumably also going to have to fill it based on an open and transparent process. Perhaps i am mistaken, but I serioulsy doubt they would be able to get away with a backdoor appointment after all the publicity.