Reader Profile: Deke Arndt

Nov. 11, 2016

“It hasn’t been the easiest decade to be a government climatologist,” says Deke Arndt. For a man who’s got his finger on the pulse of a changing global climate, Arndt is humble and humorous. “I succeed with, and because of, others,” he says of his position as chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, NC.

His LinkedIn profile lists “being nice” and “believing in people” alongside weather-related skills. “I like people, and people solve problems,” he says. “I’m super proud of the people I work with who are under a lot of pressure and scrutiny that I feel they don’t deserve. To see the grace and professionalism of this team is inspiring.”

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago is seeking a visionary Executive Director. The District is an award-winning wastewater agency which has been a leader in protecting the Chicago area water environment for over a 120 years. For information and to apply, click here or contact [email protected]The District is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

The branch of 18 scientists and developers is responsible for climate monitoring analyses and hosts the US Drought Portal. “I work with wonderful, beautiful people who come from all over the country representing a multitude of viewpoints on climate and the world,” he says.

Acknowledging that the topic of climate is controversial for some, Arndt often uses humor as a mechanism to help people feel comfortable with the message and its deliverer. Arndt credits his hero Will Rogers for “approaching prickly topics by making salient points through humor and allowing a deeper conversation to happen.”

Join us in Atlanta August 18–22, 2019  for StormCon, a five-day special event to learn from experts in various water-related arenas.  Share ideas with peers in your field and across industries—exploring new stormwater management practices and technologies.  Click here for details

A Roman Catholic, Arndt shares his climate outreach in his parish, St. Eugene Church, which recently installed solar panels on its roof. Arndt views spirituality and science as “constructs to help us explain things we don’t intuitively know on our own. They are sometimes in competition, but don’t necessarily need to be in conflict.”

As Arndt’s team tracks the extremes of too much water on one end of the spectrum and drought on the other, stormwater managers can mine that data to better understand their own regions, such as those east of the Mississippi, where big storms are getting bigger and assuming a greater percentage of the annual water budget.

What He Does Day to Day
Arndt oversees a team engaging in a “play by play” of the world climate’s performance in trends, temperature, precipitation, drought, and other variables, comparing current and historical data to produce daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly analyses, such as the State of the Climate series. The country’s drought status is analyzed weekly for the US Drought Monitor. Arndt’s team fields more questions now than it did five years ago as people express a deeper curiosity about climate change. Arndt also teaches an introduction to meteorology course for the American Military University.

What Led Him Into This Line of Work
At six years old, Arndt wanted to be a meteorologist. In his home state of Oklahoma, Arndt “grew up in that environment where weather is disproportionately important. People just don’t talk about the weather, they stress about it,” he says. “It changes rapidly and has an impact on agriculture and energy. I liked maps, too. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

He earned a B.S. and M.S. in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma. He took a job in drought work, which he says “helped connect the science of meteorology with the needs and experiences of the people around me.” Prior to his current post, Arndt served as associate state climatologist for the Oklahoma Climatological Survey in Norman, OK.

What He Likes Best About His Work
Arndt says he enjoys spending time working on “meaty issues” with people he admires. “We have to get it right,” he says. “I like the pressure—it’s kind of fun.”

His Greatest Challenge
“The fact that so many people come to the climate issue with their own preconceived and politically charged ideas about what we do” is his greatest challenge, says Arndt. “We recognize and respect that people hold deeply seated values, but we have to be true to the data and the science. We have a big, complex country interested in what we do for a bunch of different reasons. That’s invigorating and intimidating and provides a level of pressure that keeps it interesting almost every day. Climate isn’t remote—we are all embedded in the issue. It’s becoming more and more important.”