Toolbox Workbook

CIRC has just released “The Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook,” a step-by-step guide for using CIRC’s Northwest Climate Toolbox.

The Workbook was created as an instructional aid for CIRC’s Community Adaptation project in Spokane, Washington. The Spokane community is currently using Toolbox data to better understand climate impacts. (More on that below.) We’ve taken that original community-specific work and expanded it into a full-blown how-to guide to using the Toolbox.

The Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook

Our wish is that the Workbook can help organizations and individuals who may not be familiar with online climate tools. Ultimately, the CIRC team hopes the Workbook will help stakeholders in the Pacific Northwest and beyond analyze and apply Toolbox data to help them prepare their communities for climate variability and change.

This post provides a breakdown of what’s included in the Workbook and how it came about.

What’s in the Workbook

We created the Workbook as a guidebook for the Northwest Climate Toolbox’s many tools. Currently 15 Toolbox tools are online and available to use for free. These range from tools that monitor current climate conditions to tools that provide future projections based on different emissions scenarios.

Toolbox tools also differ in how they track climate conditions. Some allow users to look at specific locations, others allow users to track changes at specific locations and across entire landscapes. The tools also track a wide range of variables; from variables related to fire danger to variables that track changes to water supply.

The variety of tools and the range of variables they track can make mastering the Toolbox seem like a daunting task. The Workbook was created to make things a little less daunting. It does this not only by providing step-by-step instructions to finding and using the Toolbox’s tools, it provides advice on how to present and communicate those data. And it provides practice sheets with specific examples of how the Toolbox can be used.

The Goal of the Workbook

The goal of the Workbook is to get Toolbox users to create what we are calling climate data stories.

Similar to CIRC’s climate updates, climate data stories are narratives that outline climate facts and impacts specific to individual communities. The goal, in other words, is to meaningfully frame the Toolbox’s data around community concerns.

The idea here is simple: if communities put data into a local context, that data can be used to empower them to understand, track, and respond to climate variability and change. In this way, the goal of the Workbook—like CIRC, the Toolbox, and the NOAA RISA program generally—is to put climate science to work for the taxpayers who fund our efforts. CIRC’s commitment to deliver on this goal is how the Workbook came about.

How the Workbook Came About (or a Shout-Out to the Community of Spokane, Washington)

This workbook was originally created for the community of Spokane, Washington as part of CIRC’s Spokane Community Adaptation Project (SCAP). SCAP, CIRC’s latest Community Adaptation effort, began in late 2017 when CIRC began meeting with community members in Spokane who expressed an interest in creating a climate vulnerability assessment for their region.

A climate vulnerability assessment is an analysis of the climate impacts faced by a community combined with an assessment of that community’s capacity to respond to those impacts.

During a meeting in May 2018, SCAP participants organized themselves into a series of teams. The teams identified key climate impacts they wanted to include in their assessment. Key climate impacts identified ranged from impacts related to rising temperatures (such as heat stroke) to impacts related to the local water supply and impacts to the local ecology. The teams then set about researching those impacts.

Photo: Spokane community members at the May 21st, 2018 meeting of the Spokane Community Adaptation Project. (Photo Credit: Ann Mooney, all rights reserved.)

During the May 2018 meeting we introduced SCAP participants to the Toolbox and how it could aid their work. As we continued to work with the Spokane community over the summer, it began apparent that we needed to create an instructional guide to Toolbox.

At a SCAP meeting in September of last year, we shared our first draft of what would become “The Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook.” The meeting’s participants found the guide useful and we were encouraged to expand our initial draft into a formal guide.

We are grateful to SCAP participants for all their work with us. Thanks for being our beta–testers!

Why Have Community Members Develop Climate Data Stories?

One of the goals of CIRC is to make climate science accessible to our Pacific Northwest stakeholders. To do this, we have found that it pays dividends to work directly with communities in our region.

Because local communities know their needs and concerns better than we ever could, we’ve found that it matters that they discover for themselves what the latest climate science means for them. This creates something more than just a climate assessment; it creates a group of individuals with the skills and determination to put climate science to work directly for them. The Toolbox, Workbook, and the narrative framing we are calling climate data stories are simply tools to this end.

So, What’s in Climate Data Story?

Unfortunately, we can’t show you just yet. The SCAP teams are currently developing their climate data stories. The teams plan on presenting their stories this April at the upcoming 2019 Spokane River Forum, Building Resilience conference.

If you’re interested in attending the 2019 Spokane River Forum, just follow this link to register and we’ll see you there.

(A Note on Dr. Mote: CIRC’s long-time former co-lead, Phil Mote will be the keynote speaker at the Spokane River Forum.)

Let us know what you think of the Workbook and Toolbox how you are using them your climate adaptation efforts. Email us at

Lastly, we would like to thank Crystal Barnes and Abby Metzger for design. You both rock!

OSU_icon_pencil_Black Rotated Publication: Mooney, Ann, Nathan Gilles, Katherine Hegewisch, John Abatzoglou, and Meghan Dalton. “The Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook: Discovering and applying your climate data story for climate adaptation planning,” Corvallis, Oregon: The Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC), College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 2019.

OSU_icon_key_01Key Terms:

  • Climate data story—a narrative outlining climate facts and impacts specific to your community.
  • Climate vulnerability assessment—an analysis of the climate impacts faced by a community combined with an assessment of that community’s capacity to respond to those impacts.

Ann Mooney

Ann Mooney is CIRC’s Project Manager and Stakeholder Engagement Specialist. She is the lead author of “The Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook.” A native of Spokane, Washington, Ann joined CIRC in January 2018. She is currently leading CIRC’s Spokane Community Adaptation Effort. Prior to CIRC, Ann worked with communities in Southeast Asia as part of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) efforts to protect local fishing communities and the coastal ecosystems they depend on.

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