Nebraska state climatologist resigns: ‘I didn’t have anything left to give’

Sept. 21, 2023, 1 p.m. ·

A woman smiles for a portrait.
Martha Durr has resigned from her position as Nebraska's state climatologist after spending nearly eight years leading the Nebraska State Climate Office at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (Photo courtesy of UNL)

Nebraska state climatologist Martha Durr has resigned from the position after spending nearly eight years in the role at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“It's important work and there are a lot of good activities going on,” she said. “But for me, personally, I didn't have anything left to give. I felt it was just professionally and personally time to move on and do something different in my career.”

Larkin Powell, UNL's director for the School of Natural Resources said Durr's time at the university had been "one of excellence and we would expect nothing else in her future career path."

"Martha has served as a trusted resource for all of Nebraska, delivering science-based weather and climate data that has shaped statewide initiatives and informed the public," Powell said in an email.

Durr led the first Nebraska State Climate office, which was established by UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2016.

In a press release, the university called the office Nebraska’s “primary source of climate information.”

The office took over the Nebraska Mesonet from the High Plains Regional Climate Center. The mesonet is a statewide network of unmanned weather stations that record data on temperature, precipitation, wind and other environmental indicators.

Farmers, emergency weather responders and researchers depend on the information, but the network has reckoned with station closures and a tight budget in recent years.

Ken Herz is a farmer and rancher who worked with Durr to shore up support for the network. The former Nebraska Cattlemen officer hopes the next leader can build on Durr’s advocacy as he and others work to find a sustainable funding model.

“Martha has been a real champion of the mesonet,” Herz said. “If her voice had been heard by more people, I think people would have really realized what a great system we have here in Nebraska.”

Durr also provided advice for projects like Lincoln’s plan to find a second water source for the capital city and appeared on panels discussing what climate change means for Nebraska’s future.

Durr said she has enjoyed her work distilling climate data into key messages to inform decisions on things like fire management, cropping systems or water resources.

“There’s a need for somebody to articulate climate change and what it means for Nebraskans,” she said. “Every opportunity I had to do that was meaningful and impactful."