CHAMPAIGN, Ill., 11/14/18: Jim Angel, Illinois State Climatologist, has announced that he will retire in December 2018 after 34 years at the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS). In his current position, Angel has served as the primary source of science-based weather and climate information and services for the state of Illinois since 1997.
As state climatologist, Angel conducted research projects on topics related to weather and climate, particularly drought, extreme rainfall events, Great Lakes storms, and weather impacts. He also maintained an extensive archive of historical climate data dating back to the mid-1800s.
Early in his career, Angel co-authored Bulletin 70: Frequency Distributions and Hydroclimatic Characteristics of Heavy Rainstorms in Illinois, published in 1989, with his mentor, scientist Floyd Huff. The publication provides the expected rainfall amounts for select storm durations and return periods, such as the 1 percent, or 100-year storm.
These data have been particularly valuable for city engineers in weighing the costs and benefits of building infrastructure that mitigates the damage from severe rainstorms while minimizing costs. Thirty years later, many state and local agencies still mandate that engineering firms use Bulletin 70 for design projects.
The publication has been considered one of the most valuable ISWS contributions to the economy and welfare of Illinois in terms of the enormous amount of money saved over the past three decades due to improved protection against heavy rainfall for properties, businesses, and other structures. As a fitting final project for his career, Angel has written an update for Bulletin 70 to be published in early 2019.
In another notable project, Angel helped to develop a corn degree day tool as part of a multi-university research and extension project, Useful to Useable (U2U), designed to improve farm profitability. With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the tool integrates corn development stages with local weather and climate data to help producers make informed decisions about planting and harvest.
One of the most important aspects of the state climatologist’s position is to transfer scientific research and data to real-world applications. Angel’s information is frequently cited in the media for the public benefit. Angel estimates that he provided weather and climate conditions to reporters across Illinois about 100 times a year, or as much as 300 times in drought and flood years.
Particularly notable in recent years were the droughts in 2005 and 2012, when the State Climatologist’s office was inundated with requests for information. Angel has served as a primary source of weather information for newspapers across Illinois, as well as farm publications and radio stations. He spoke frequently to groups, including producers, horticulturists, other scientists, homeowners, students, and local, state, and federal officials.
Climate change has been one of Angel’s interests and areas of expertise throughout his career. When Angel started in his field in the early 1980s, scientists considered climate the “poor cousin” to meteorology because the study of droughts and long-term records wasn’t dynamic compared to the tornadoes and snowstorms occurring each year. Further, grant funding for climate research was scarce.
As funding grew, more scientists tackled the issue, but public interest still lagged behind, at least until recent years. Early on, scientists had to convince the public that climate change is real.
Today, Angel says that scientists in Illinois have moved beyond that debate. The focus now is on how to adapt and prepare for a climate that will continue to change in the future.
During his tenure at ISWS, Angel has been affiliated with the American Meteorological Society’s Committee on Applied Climatology and Committee on Hydrometeorology, American Geophysical Union, Interim National Drought Council’s Monitoring and Prediction Task Group, and the U.S. Drought Monitor discussion group.
He has also served as president of the American Association of State Climatologists and adjunct professor with the University of Illinois’ Department of Geography and Department of Atmospheric Science and the Northern Illinois University Department of Geography.
“Dr. Angel’s contributions have created great value to Illinoisans and the Illinois economy,” said Kevin OBrien, director of ISWS. “He exemplifies the spirit of the Water Survey.”
“Jim Angel and the climate of Illinois are inextricably linked, said Mark Ryan, executive director of the Prairie Research Institute, which houses the ISWS. “For over 20 years he has educated, informed, and explained the complex issue that is weather. The state and our citizens have benefited immensely from his professionalism and dedication.”
Jim Angel, State Climatologist, (217) 333-0729, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tricia Barker, Associate Director for Strategic Communications, 217-300-2327, email@example.com