The University of Maryland has had a long-standing collaboration with NOAA. The Cooperative Institute for Climate Studies was founded in 1984 to foster collaborative research between NOAA and the University in studies of satellite climatology, climate diagnostics, modeling, and prediction. The Institute also was a center at which scientists and engineers working on problems of mutual interest could focus on studies contributing to the understanding of the earth-ocean-atmosphere climate system, climate modeling, climate prediction, and satellite climatology. The Institute was managed by the Department of Meteorology until 2001 and then by the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center.

In 2008 NOAA announced its intention to develop a new cooperative institute with dual and potentially multiple lead institutions. The University of Maryland and North Carolina State University partnered to pursue this opportunity proposing two main loci (College Park, MD, and Asheville, NC). They were selected in the spring of 2009 in a competition to form the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites (CICS) and, as the previous institute, managed by ESSIC.

The Principal Investigators for CICS are Dr. Philip A. Arkin and Prof. Antonio J. Busalacchi. Dr. Arkin was the Executive Director of CICS until July 2013, when Dr. Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm took over. Dr. Arkin was also the Director of CICS-MD until 2012. Dr. E. Hugo Berbery became Associate Director of CICS-MD in 2011 and then was named CICS-MD Director in 2012. Otis Brown has been the Director of CICS-NC since 2009.

In 2019, Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, Hugo Berbery, and Otis Brown were chosen by NOAA to form the Cooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies (CISESS).

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