RENCI part of Asheville partnership to target climate-related businesses

Community leaders in Asheville aim to build on the area’s history in climate analysis and digital arts to build Western North Carolina into a center for climate-related services. RENCI’s engagement center in Asheville is expected to play a key role in that effort.

In November, the Asheville Hub, a community-based effort to promote new economic development and build on the region’s strengths in climatology, media arts and other fields, launched the Centers for Environmental and Climatic Interaction (CECI). Led by George Briggs, who also directs the North Carolina Arboretum, CECI will focus on growing service businesses related to climate issues and climate change. Much of CECI’s initial focus will be on securing federal and state grants and on building partnerships with government agencies, businesses and academia to develop Ashville as an area with the expertise and resources to turn climatic data into services that can be used in decision making.

CECI will work closely with NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, which is home to the world’s largest collection of environmental data, as well as with the Asheville Hub, RENCI at UNC Asheville, the North Carolina Arboretum, the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center at UNC Asheville, the Media Arts Projects, the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Research Stations and private technology companies. By bringing together this diverse group with expertise in environmental sciences, data management and modeling, data visualization, education and outreach, CECI seeks to give Asheville a national reputation for providing services that use the climate data to develop tools for making decisions about adapting to and mitigating climate change.

“Asheville is a natural laboratory where we are experiencing the convergence of climate change, sustainability, development and the natural ecology,” said Briggs in a recent Asheville Hub news release. “CECI’s next steps include engaging our teams around the action plans that have been formulated during the past few months of intensive strategy development to capitalize on Asheville’s unique assets and opportunities.”

RENCI at UNC Asheville focuses on research and education related to disaster planning and mitigation. The center already has helped the local Flood Control Task Force develop visualizations of floods that ravaged the area in 2004. Those visualizations will serve as a tool in determining development strategies for mountainous areas prone to flooding and mudslides. RENCI also works directly with NCDC to develop user interfaces designed to give decision makers and researchers easy access to NCDC’s climate data. The RENCI center’s visualization capabilities include a 14-x 6-foot display wall capable of visualizing data at a resolution of 3 million pixels and a portable digital dome, capable of visualizing data in the three dimensions.

For more on CECI, including a video on its vision and goals, see