Central Region

NOAA Central Region includes the “bread basket” of the Nation. A significant portion of the Nation’s agriculture, particularly wheat and corn, comes from the Region. In addition to agriculture, an integrated advanced technology corridor stretches along the Front Range of the Rockies, with assets and commercial interests in climate research and space environment.

NOAA’s Central Region represents 13 states and 51 federally recognized Tribal Governments that make up the Heartland of the United States, with a population of just over 39 million. Water plays a critical role in the Central Region; the four largest watersheds in the Nation (Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas and Ohio Rivers) flow through NOAA Central Region and represent the “inner coast” of the United States. Conversely, water is a commodity in the western part of the region.

Geography and Environment

The NOAA Central Region consists of over 773,064 miles of land area within 13 states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. The Region stretches from the Rocky Mountains on the western edge over the plains to rolling hills on the eastern edge. The unique geography of the region makes it a focus for high-impact weather events. Severe winter storms, flooding, drought, heat and cold pose significant impacts to the regionThe Central Region includes the four largest watersheds in the United States: Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Arkansas River watersheds. The water that drains from these large watersheds makes up the balance of the fresh water flow into the Gulf of Mexico and has a profound effect on the Gulf’s complex ecosystems. Agricultural runoff and effects of transportation can affect the rivers and thus the coastal areas and oceans.

Social and Economic Context

The Central Region is responsible for a significant portion of the nation’s agriculture, transportation networks and technology. A better understanding of the Heartland impacts everything from national food and fuel prices to ecology and conservation. Navigation routes for goods and services are a strong part of the economy in the Central Region. The Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio Rivers represent major transportation networks. Serving as the “bread basket” of the world, the effects of climate change and water issues have great economic impacts worldwide.The unique geography of the region makes it a focus for high-impact weather events. Severe winter storms, flooding, drought, heat and cold pose significant impacts to the region. High-impact weather events paint a strong social context within NOAA Central Region, as the damage produced by these events represent a significant economic impact each year. The greatest concentration of the strongest tornadoes in the world occurs most frequently across the States of Oklahoma, eastern Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Iowa (“Tornado Alley”). The largest U.S. floods of record have occurred in the region. Those of note include the Great Flood of 1993, the Red River Flood of 1997, and the Iowa / Illinois Floods of 2008.

Capabilities and Challenges

The largest challenge for the Central Region is to identify and specify Central Region ecosystems (such as the Mississippi River). The ecosystem identification will have a profound impact on NOAA’s products and services as our goal is to connect the impact of the “inner coastal areas” to the coastal areas. The Central Region is responsible for coordination of fresh watersheds in not only the 13 states that comprise it, but also New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The strong connection with NOAA’s National Weather Service helps the NOAA Central Region Team coordinate these watersheds.

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