Asheville, North Carolina, known for its vibrant culture, has also become an important hub of climate expertise.

ON A warm October afternoon, the day after Hurricane Michael passed through North Carolina, meteorologist Greg Hammer stands in the basement of the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) in downtown Asheville – a cavernous room filled with file boxes stacked to the ceiling, a scene right out of “The X-Files.”

“We are the scorekeeper for the nation’s weather, from the seafloor to the surface of the sun,” says Hammer, who has worked for the federal center for nearly three decades. In laid-back Asheville form, he’s wearing a short-sleeved shirt, jeans and sandals. He flips the pages of a leather-bound log book with weather reports from Fort Sisseton, a prairie outpost in what was once the Dakota Territories. Columns of flowery script list temperature and precipitation. Feb. 1, 1887 was particularly frigid, at one point dipping down to 35 below.