The sciences produce lots of data. In fact, we find ourselves with a contradiction; while the amount of data has increased the amount of usable data appears to be decreasing. This is especially true of climate science data, which often suffers from a distribution problem. These data tend to accumulate in academia but rarely filter down to the farmers, business owners, city planners, and natural resource managers who are in a position to take action and plan for climate change. So how do we translate climate data into climate action? How do we turn scientific discovery into social change? CIRC researchers are now working on a solution to account for the data we’ve created.
In the fall of 2015, CIRC embarked on an ambitious new effort: We are developing a series of free, online services and applications that will sort through, sift, systematize, classify, catalog, and otherwise deal with and declutter the volumes of data that has resulted from our research. We are calling this effort Climate Tools.
The goal of Climate Tools is simple: we want to aid our fellow Pacific Northwest residents as they incorporate climate information—from short-term climate forecasting (months) to long-term climate projections (decades)—into adaptation and resource management strategies designed to keep our region’s wildernesses, communities, and businesses resilient and flexible under the changes we face now and into the future.
Northwest Climate Toolbox
Let’s say you want to visualize how warm it will most likely be on your farm next December, or how warm your farm is likely to be in the Decembers of the end of this century, or how cold your farm got in the Decembers of the 1980s, The Northwest Climate Toolbox can help you do all that.
The Toolbox transforms raw climatological, meteorological, and hydrological information into a series of easy-to-navigate tools that allow users to plug in their location on a map and visualize data for that location. Tools in the Toolbox include visualizations of historical data (going back decades); short-term, seasonal forecasts (on the order of months); and long-term, future projections (on the order of decades to the year 2100). Still more tools track wildfire danger and track how plant growing zones are expected to shift as the climate warms.
Designed with farmers as well as forest and water managers in mind, the Toolbox is intended to help the Pacific Northwest respond to and prepare for potentially costly impacts to its agriculture and natural resources both today and under future climate change.
The Toolbox is a joint effort between CIRC and our friends and colleagues at the Northwest Knowledge Network, USDA Northwest Climate Hub, and US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Integrated Scenarios of the Future Northwest Environment (Integrated Scenarios) employs the latest climate science to understand what the Pacific Northwest will look like under climate change throughout this century. Results from the project are available through a series of free, web-based tools that allow users to visualize changes in climate, hydrology, and vegetation across the Pacific Northwest’s many and varied landscape. Integrated Scenarios data may also be downloaded for free online. The project is a joint venture between CIRC, the Conservation Biology Institute, and the Northwest Climate Science Center.
A partnership between Google, the Desert Research Institute, and CIRC researchers at the University of Idaho, Climate Engine is a free web-based application that allows users to intuitively interact with high-resolution climate and remotely sensed data. Climate Engine leverages the technology behind the Google Earth Engine cloud-computing platform. Similar to Google Earth and Google Maps, Climate Engine’s users can ‘zoom in’ on a given locale. Once there, users can examine various climate factors, including differing measures of precipitation and temperature, drought, and wildfire risk. Climate Engine provides near real-time calculations allowing monitoring and early warning of climate impacts. Climate Engine was developed in response to the White House Climate Data Initiative.
Big Wood Data Explorer
The Big Wood Data Explorer results from CIRC’s Big Wood Basin Alternative Futures project, a multi-year Community Adaptation effort coordinated by CIRC in Idaho’s Big Wood River Basin. A stakeholder driven effort, the Big Wood Alternative Futures project explored how climate impacts and other drivers of change—including population growth and changes in land use, especially farming methods—could affect local water resources. The idea behind the project was simple: give local stakeholders a glimpse into the many possible future paths they might take as their climate changes, and allow them to fully explore the policy and resource management paths that are right for them by employing powerful computer simulations. The Big Wood Data Explorer illustrates this path-finding project, allowing anyone with a computer to explore the complex factors and interactions at play in the Big Wood River Basin.
Climate Data Mining
What are the potential impacts of climate change on our agriculture, forestry, and recreation? Are some Pacific Northwest regions more prone to landslides than others? Does climate change affect crop insurance rates? How do climate hazards, such as drought, impact differing aspects of our society? These are the sorts of the questions CIRC’s Data Mining team hopes to answer. To do this, the team is collecting data from federal, state, and municipal repositories and then sifting through that information using sophisticated data mining techniques empowered by machine learning. The goal is to discover useful patterns and relationships and turn them into science that can be put to work for our fellow Pacific Northwest community members as we plan for climate change. The Data Mining team is currently creating predictive models and what we’re calling decision support tools, that is tools that will aid regional decision makers from municipal utilities to farmers and rangers, as they respond to climate change and its potential hazards in our region. Our Data Mining effort is being created in close partnership with the Regional Approaches to Climate Change for Pacific Northwest Agriculture project (REACCH), and the Northwest Knowledge Network (NKN).
UW Pacific Northwest Drought Monitor
The work of CIRC hydrologists at the University of Washington, the UW Pacific Northwest Drought Monitor tracks moisture levels across the Northwest. Updated daily, the Monitor processes weather observations into computer models that track soil moisture and water stored as snow. The results of these computer simulations are combined into what’s called the total moisture percentile (TMP). TMP combines measures of current moisture conditions compared to past conditions for the same time of year. A percentile of 50 percent signifies that half of the previous years were drier for that date and half were wetter. A percentile of 90 percent implies wet conditions (9 out of 10 years were drier) and 10 percent implies dry conditions (1 out of 10 years was drier). Data from the Monitor are currently being used in the US Drought Monitor, a comprehensive national drought monitoring effort and online climate tool.
Tribal Climate Change Funding Guide
An effort of the Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Project, the Tribal Climate Change Funding Guide assists Pacific Northwest American Indian tribes as they respond to climate change’s impacts on their cultural and natural resources. From raging forest fires and rising atmospheric temperatures that threaten traditionally gathered plants to warming stream temperatures further endangering already endangered salmon, Pacific Northwest tribal members’ cultures, identities, and sovereign treaty rights are threatened by climate change. The Tribal Climate Change Funding Guide is designed to help tribal members plan for these impacts by providing them with up-to-date information on everything from climate scientists working in the Pacific Northwest to federal and state grants as they become available.
Climate Change Adaptation Library for the Western United States (USDA Forest Service)