RENO, Nevada — Douglas Boyle has water on the brain these days.
As a watershed hydrologist, he has spent more than two decades studying water resources in arid lands ranging from Nevada's Great Basin to the plains of Tibet.
And now, as the state climatologist, Boyle is tracking the water conditions throughout Nevada.
"I get questions from people all the time asking me about the weather, but I'm not a meteorologist," Boyle said. "I look at the climate, which is really the weather averaged over a longer period of time."
Boyle, 47, said he looks at what might be happening weather-wise across Nevada from one to six months down the line.
"That really is where I'd like to head with this office, he said. "I want to help inform decision-makers. I think I can make a real impact in that way."
Boyle said there is so much information on the Internet about the current state of the climate and how it might change in the near term or long term, that it can be confusing.
"A lot of decision-makers don't know how to make sense of a lot of that information in the context of having to make a decision about something today," he said. "So, that's what I'm trying to do. I want to help with that process."
A graduate of Hug High School, Boyle also is an alumnus of the University of Nevada, Reno.
It was while Boyle was pursuing his master's degree in hydrology that he met his future wife, Mary Horvath, a hydrologist who works as a consulting civil engineer with Ch2M Hill in Reno.
"We actually met here at UNR," Boyle said. "We were both getting our master's degrees, and we had the same adviser. She followed me to the University of Arizona, where I eventually got my Ph.D. Then, we came right back here."
The couple still enjoy Nevada's wide-open spaces, where they hike and do some mountain biking.
This winter, they took Scout, their yellow lab, and Zephyr, a golden retriever, cross-country skiing with them.
"They have their own ski passes for Nordic skiing at Royal Gorge Ski resort this year with their photos on them so they can run alongside of us," Boyle said. "This is the first year we've been able to buy passes for our dogs. It's a really cool thing."
Last July, Boyle was chosen to head the Nevada Climate Office.
As the state climatologist, he is responsible for collecting and interpreting data on the Nevada's climate.
The state climatologist also is one of three members of the Nevada Drought Response Committee, along with a representative from the Nevada Division of Emergency Management and from the Division of Water Resources.
"If it appears we're moving into a drought situation, it's my role to call a meeting of the committee to look at the climate conditions throughout the state, and then, if warranted, recommend to the governor that he declare a drought emergency to help the people who need it," Boyle said.
Those people in need of help might include firefighting agencies, farmers, ranchers and municipal water companies, he said.
Currently, things are looking pretty dry in the Silver State.
"We had a great December in terms of precipitation, but then January, February and March were the driest on record in Tahoe City and the third-driest on record in Reno," Boyle said.
In terms of drought, Nevada is about where it was last fall, which does not bode well for this summer, he said.
"Much of the state is in what we call D-2, which is severe drought conditions," he said. "A good portion of the state in the northwest and a portion out east in Elko County actually is in D-3, which is extreme drought."
In addition to serving on the Drought Response Committee, Boyle said the work done by the state climatologist pretty much depends on what the person holding the office wants to focus on.
"It has evolved over the years, depending on who the state climatologist is at the time," he said of the office established in 1954, when it was part of the U.S. Weather Bureau's state climatologist program.
Boyle said his focus right now is on transferring into electronic form the decades of paper records on Nevada's climate that were compiled by John James, who served as the state's climatologist for 23 years before his death in 2007.
"We have file cabinets with tons of information that he, through his network of observers and unmanned precipitation stations, gathered, and it's all in hard copy paper form," he said.
Boyle, who also is a geography professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, has some of his students manually entering that information into a special database that will be posted on a website for the public to access, possibly by this summer.
Kelly Redmond, a climatologist with the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, describes Boyle as "a nice guy" who is very low-key.
"He doesn't seem to get real excited about stuff, even when he is," said Redmond, who used to be Oregon's state climatologist and has served as president for the American Association of State Climatologists.
"It just doesn't glow from his skin, I guess, but he's pretty competent and has a fairly wide-ranging set of interests," Redmond said.
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com