By Kimberly Keelor for The Island Eye News
Climate variability, risks and the advancement of solutions will be the focus of the Lt. Col. James B. Near Jr., USAF ’77 Center for Climate Studies at The Citadel.
Near, a member of The Citadel Class of 1977, career meteorologist for the Air Force and dedicated professor of physics at the college, passed away in March of 2020.
“Lt. Col. Near knew the importance of climate science work firsthand. He demonstrated extraordinary generosity by providing the college, through The Citadel Foundation, a $1.865 million gift to initiate the Center. Ever humble and not wanting to receive any recognition for his donation, Jim specified that his gift remain anonymous until his passing,” said Darin Zimmerman, Ph.D., dean for The Swain Family School of Science and Mathematics at The Citadel.
The Center’s mission will be to promote climate science through education, research, outreach and the development of public-private partnerships, according to Scott Curtis, who holds a Ph.D. in atmospheric and oceanic sciences. Curtis is the Dr. John Lining Professor of Physics and director of the Center for Climate Studies.
“There is a critical need for expanded climate work of this nature in the Lowcountry coastal areas and around the country as evidenced by flooding, increasing storm magnitude and climate driven wildfires,” said Curtis, who will teach atmospheric and oceanic physics in addition to directing the Center. “Once activated, the Center will be unique in South Carolina higher education. There are several centers that focus on water, the environment and hazards, but none have climate as their central mission like The Citadel’s new Center will.”
In his first month as director, Curtis met with several climate stakeholders in the Lowcountry, including city of Charleston Chief Resilience Officer Mark Wilbert and Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie, who graduated from The Citadel in 1983.
Curtis also recently released the second annual Climatological Research Studies Grant competition. The CRSG will fund up to $60,000 in research projects related to climate science. In addition, Curtis is preparing a proposal for the Center to the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, to be reviewed in early 2021.