Highlighting applications of climate tools to decision-making

Katherine Hegewisch, John Abatzoglou, and Erica Fleishman

The Climate Impacts Research Consortium is pleased to introduce two new series of documents that increase accessibility of the Climate Toolbox: the Climate Toolbox Summaries series, which provides overviews of tools, and the Climate Toolbox Case Studies series, which highlights how users are applying the tools to decision-making. The documents in both series are straightforward, two-page summaries that are available for viewing and downloading from the Climate Toolbox website.

The Climate Toolbox Summaries series presents the Climate Toolbox itself and six of the newest tools in the Toolbox. Readers will discover that the Climate Toolbox is a collection of 19 tools that map and graph climate and hydrology data without requiring users to download or process those data. The accompanying six documents each describe the purpose of a given tool, its major outputs, and the underlying data, and illustrate how the tool might be used. For example, the series highlights two tools for past and real-time drought monitoring: the Drought Stripes and U.S. Water Watcher tools. The Drought Stripes tool offers a colored time series of current and past drought, with standardized metrics computed for different time periods that represent short-term to long-term drought. The U.S. Water Watcher tool (Fig. 1) presents maps that facilitate comparison among metrics that represent different types of current and past drought and past maps from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Four other tools highlighted in the series visualize future climate projections related to agriculture, vegetation cover, National Park Service lands, and regions of interest to Tribes. The Future Crop Suitability tool explores how projected changes in climate may affect the feasibility of cultivating five specialty crops: Bing cherries, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes, Highbush blueberries, and Nonpareil almonds. The Climate Analogs tool illustrates where the current climate is similar to the projected climate at locations managed by the National Park Service across the contiguous United States. The Future Vegetation tool provides access to future projections of five types of vegetation across the contiguous United States: grassland, shrubland, deciduous forest, coniferous forest, and subtropical forest. The Tribal Climate tool summarizes snow cover, streamflow and temperatures, fire danger, sea level rise, and vegetation cover within boundaries relevant to more than 84 Tribes in the Pacific Northwest and Great Basin, such as reservations, watersheds, and usual and accustomed areas.

The Climate Toolbox Case Study series highlights how six tools are being applied to decisions about drought and water monitoring, fire danger, agriculture, species assessments, climate education, and community engagement. Each of the six case studies explains the context in which decisions are being made, the data and analyses needed to inform those decisions, how users are capitalizing on the Climate Toolbox to meet those needs, and the ways in which the Climate Toolbox optimizes accessibility and usability of information. For example, the series highlights three ways in which the toolbox is being used to monitor agriculture, drought, and fire danger. The Agriculture case study explores how commercial peach growers use the Climate Mapper and Historical Climate Tracker to monitor potential frosts and cold temperatures, which affect not only the quality of peaches but the need for heating and overhead irrigation. A case study on drought and water monitoring addresses use of the Climate Mapper, Seasonal Progression, and other tools to inform drought declarations in Washington. The Fire Danger case study explains how diverse tools are being applied to decisions about seasonal fire restrictions and allocation of fire suppression resources by the Washington Department of Natural Resources.  

The last three case studies in the series explain how projections of future climate from the Toolbox are being applied to species conservation, education, and community engagement. The Species Assessments case study illustrates use of the Future Boxplots and Future Climate Scatter tools by the North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to characterize some elements of habitat for different species and to inform conservation actions. The University Climate Education case study demonstrates integration of climate visualizations and statistical summaries into student research on places and family histories. In the Community Engagement case study (Fig. 2), readers learn how the Spokane Community Adaptation Project is using the Climate Mapper, Future Streamflows, and other tools to evaluate regional vulnerabilities and inform creation of an action plan for increasing Spokane’s environmental sustainability and economic, environmental, and community resilience.

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