Director of the Utah Climate Center
Utah State University
Dr. Robert R. Gillies is the Director of the Utah Climate Center at Utah State University (USU) and State Climatologist for the State of Utah. He is an associate professor in meteorology in the Department of Plants, Soils and Climate (PSC), College of Agricultural Sciences at USU. Prior to the position of Director, he held a joint position in PSC and the Department of Watershed Sciences in the College of Natural Resources at USU. Dr. Gillies came to USU from The Pennsylvania State University. After completing his PhD in meteorology and remote sensing, Dr. Gillies continued his research as a research associate in the Department of Meteorology and the Earth System Science Center at Penn State. Dr. Gillies was a member of Gov. Jon Huntsman’s scientific panel that compiled a report on climate change as it pertains to Utah for the Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel.
Title: Dealing with Climate Needs of a Dry State
Abstract: Utah is the 2nd driest state in the USA. Utah has also experienced twice the warming rate as the global average. However, the state of Utah supports a large ski industry, is experiencing a thriving tech sector expansion, significant increasing population growth, the highest water-use per capita, while at the same time maintaining an average conservative mindset towards global warming. Providing climate information and services for Utah has been challenging and demands a high level of communication in science and policy. The Director of Utah Climate Center will talk about his experience in servicing the state through two governors and various task forces, in the face of diminishing water resources (i.e. snowpack instability), unique air quality problem (winter smog), agricultural dependence (freeze and evapotranspiration), legal sectors, and the emerging capability of drought informatics – a case study to be presented.
Following consecutive drought conditions in Utah, many entities that rely on the federal drought monitor felt that the ground conditions they experienced were not adequately represented. Due to the set of circumstances around inadequate reporting, the Division of Water Resources and the Utah Department of Agriculture convened a Utah Drought Monitor Workgroup (UDMW) has been tasked with identifying and assessing deficiencies in the analysis and reporting of drought conditions over Utah. The end result of numerous meetings is that the Utah Climate Center is now tasked with the synthesis of drought information towards producing guidance for the UDMW; whose experts will finalize the designations of drought conditions in Utah. A drought informatics system, developed by Utah State University researchers and Utah Climate Center’s IT team, is currently underway.