7A.4
National Climate Indicators System: Utility of Information of Indicators

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 11:15 AM
226C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Melissa A. Kenney, University of Maryland, Washington, DC; and E. Clarke

The National Climate Assessment (NCA) is being conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), pursuant to the Global Change Research Act of 1990, Section 106, which requires a report to Congress every 4 years (http://globalchange.gov/what-we-do/assessment/). Part of the vision, which is now under development for the sustained National Climate Assessment (NCA) process, is a system of physical, ecological, and societal indicators that communicate key aspects of the physical climate, climate impacts, vulnerabilities, and preparedness for the purpose of informing both decision makers and the public with scientifically valid information. This information is useful to inform decision-making processes such as the development and implementation of climate adaptation strategies in a particular sector or region. These indicators will be tracked as a part of ongoing assessment activities, with adjustments made as needed to adapt to changing conditions and understanding. The indicators will be continually reviewed and updated so that the system adapts to new information. The idea of the indicators web information system is to provide up-to-date climate change information and trends for decision-makers at all levels of the process.

Before a full system is released in 2015-2016 (anticipated), we have collaborated with USGCRP to release a pilot indicator system. The pilot indicator system would be released on globalchange.gov and the metadata would be fully documented on the Global Change Information System (GCIS). The purpose of the pilot is to work with stakeholder communities to design an indicator system that will inform adaptation and mitigation decisions. Specifically, we would like to evaluate the understandability of individual indicators and learn how users are combining indicators for their own understanding or decision needs through this multiple Federal agency decision support platform.

This prototype system provides the perfect test bed for evaluating the translation of scientific data observations, remote sensing, and citizen science data -- and data products, such as indicators, for decision-making audiences. Often translation of scientific information into decision support products is developed and improved given intuition and feedback. Though this can be useful in many cases, more rigorous testing using social science methodologies would provide greater assurance that the data products are useful for the intended audiences. I will present some initial research using surveys to assess the understandability of indicators and whether that understanding is influenced by one's attitude toward climate change. Such information is critical to assess whether products developed for scientists by scientists have been appropriately translated for non-scientists, thus assuring that the data will have some value for the intended audience. Such survey information will provide a data driven approach to further develop and improve the National Climate Indicators System and could be applied to improve other decision support systems.