The Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC) is a climate-science-to-climate-action team funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A mix of scientists from disciplines as varied as atmospheric and social science, CIRC is a proud member of NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program, a national leader in climate science and adaptation.

CIRC acts in a supporting role for communities, policy makers, and resource managers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and western Montana as they work to adapt to our changing climate. To do this, CIRC collaborates directly with Pacific Northwest communities as part of our Community Adaptation effort. To reach a broader audience, CIRC researchers are developing Climate Tools, a series of free online services and applications that allow users in the climate adaptation community to apply the latest climate science and data as they plan for climate change. CIRC is based at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. Our researchers can be found across the Pacific Northwest, including at the University of Idaho, the University of Washington, and the University of Oregon. We are hosted at Oregon State University by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences

Climate Science 

By the year 2100, CIRC research projects that the Pacific Northwest will be from 2 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was during the second half of the 20th century. These rising temperatures mean precipitation will be far more likely to fall as rain instead of as snow. As with much of the American West, mountain snow in the Pacific Northwest acts as a kind of natural reservoir, providing water via snowmelt during our region’s warm, dry summer months. Losing this snow to rising temperatures is expected to have far-reaching consequences for our region’s hydrology, consequences that range from drought and forest fires to increased flooding in some basins. At the same time, our region’s coastal communities face other challenges, from severe storms to rising sea levels—the result of melting polar ice and increasing ocean temperatures—that are expected to cause flooding and beach erosion.

CIRC researchers and staff are tackling these climate-related hazards through the creation of on-the-ground Community Adaptation projects as well as online Climate Tools designed to empower people and organizations in the Pacific Northwest to become more resilient in the face of change.

In our efforts to aid cutting-edge local resiliency, CIRC is also helping advance the sophistication of Climate Science by participating in a larger, global conversation among our fellow climate researchers. Our research can be found in peer-reviewed Academic Publications and in national and regional Climate Assessments.     

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Climate Tools

The Internet and advances in computing technology are a major part of our lives. We huddle around our computers and phones to play games, check our bank accounts, talk, text, and video chat with friends, family, and coworkers the world over. Yet when it comes to adapting to climate change, that same convenient computing has not been fully harnessed. We hope to change that. CIRC researchers are in the process of crafting a series of innovative, easy-to-use, free online Climate Tools designed specifically to help our region’s farmers and water managers deal with water scarcity as our climate changes.

Our goal is simple: we want to aid our Pacific Northwest communities as they incorporate climate information—from short-term climate forecasting (months) to long-term climate projections (decades)—into adaptation and resource management strategies that keep our region’s wilderness, communities, and businesses resilient and flexible under the changes we face now and into the future.   

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Community Adaptation

From resource managers and policy makers to farmers and city dwellers alike, everyone in the Pacific Northwest holds a stake in the climate changes now underway in our region. However, helping our fellow stakeholders adapt to climate change is a problem so vexingly complex that to do it successfully requires not only employing the latest Climate Science, it also means retooling that science into working strategies that include the desires, concerns, and knowledge of as many individuals and groups as possible. At CIRC, we do this through direct Community Adaptation efforts that engage Northwest stakeholders in a collaborative effort that we call the co-production of knowledge. What this term means in practice is that we listen.

From homeowners on the Oregon Coast concerned about rising sea levels to water utility managers in our largest cities concerned with serving their customers, CIRC researchers listen to the communities we work with. Through listening, CIRC researchers have been able tap into the extensive knowledge found all around us and in the process craft tailor-made adaptation strategies that are the right fit for the stakeholders we work with.   

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At CIRC, we understand that the vast scientific literature around climate change can take years to fully decipher, that’s why as part our goal to put the best available climate science into the hands our stakeholders CIRC has developed a series of communications projects that seek to distil the complexities of climate science. To do this, CIRC publishes The Climate CIRCulator, a free monthly newsletter summarizing the latest climate science covering the Northwest. The CIRCulator in turn informs our group’s contribution to national and regional climate assessments, including the The Northwest Chapter of the Third National Climate Assessment and the regional report Climate Change in the Northwest - Implications for Our Landscapes, Waters, and Communities. To make climate accessible to a still wider audience, CIRC, in a close partnership with the Northwest Climate Science Center and the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative, also publishes Northwest Climate Magazine, a yearly, magazine-style newsletter highlighting federally funded climate science and adaptation efforts now underway in the Northwest.

Stay up to date on the latest climate science news for the Northwest, subscribe to The Climate CIRCulator