Regional climate modeling and decision aids

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Monday, 18 January 2010: 11:00 AM
B216 (GWCC)
Glenn Higgins, Northrop Grumann TASC, Chantilly, VA; and D. Apling, R. Alliss, and H. Kiley

The potential for significant, human-induced climate change is a looming issue for the nation and the world. The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report stated that warming of the climate system is unequivocal and that the climate change observed since approximately 1950 is, with 90% certainty, due to human activity. Future IPCC climate projections depend on human activities going forward, but because of the long lifetime of atmospheric CO2 the minimum projected temperature change by the end of the 21st century ranges from 1.1 to 6.4 deg C. The magnitude of the temperature increase depends upon the assumed Green House Gas (GHG) scenario. It is also associated with changes in precipitation patterns and relative increases in severe weather and sea level. Such changes may have major impacts on health, food and water resources, energy demand, transportation and land use.

Scientific research thus far has focused primarily on the broad, large-scale magnitude of climate change expressed in scientific terms. Because of the scale of the models used by the IPCC, regional impacts are less understood and considerable research is being conducted to apply climate models regionally. Even with more regional information, there remains a gap between the scientific products that climate models produce and the “engineering” products that planners need to help their constituencies adapt to climate change. Although the IPCC research has been extremely valuable, it is difficult for planners to apply to real, concrete problems. How should regional and local planners incorporate climate change into their strategic and action plans? What mitigation and adaption steps should be taken and when? If climate change is real and to some extent inevitable, what actions should be taken by local and regional planners now to ensure their communities are prepared, rather than surprised, 10, 20 or 30 years from now?

This paper provides examples of regional climate decision aids and their products. Regional climate decision aids translate regional climate data into actionable information for use by local and regional planners in their adaption and mitigation efforts. They combine regional climate data with other information and data to provide products focused at the problems of a specific group of users. A framework is presented that puts the decision aids in context with global and regional climate modeling activities and with the end-users of the decision aid products. For the decision aid examples, regional climate data are provided through North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP). Decision aids and products are shown in the health, energy, and agriculture areas. Issues encountered with applying climate data to these purposes are discussed.