Predicting climate on a seasonal basis can benefit decision makers in key sectors like energy, water resources, and agriculture, among others. A number of USGCRP agencies are working to improve the Nation’s seasonal forecasting capacity through major investments in innovative climate models that can bridge the needs of atmospheric research and operational forecasts. As one example, a new model developed by NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, known as...
Since 1989, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) has submitted annual reports to Congress called Our Changing Planet. The reports describe the status of USGCRP research activities, provide progress updates, and document recent accomplishments
In particular, Our Changing Planet highlights progress and accomplishments in interagency activities. These highlights represent the broad spectrum of USGCRP activities that extend from Earth system observations, modeling, and fundamental research through synthesis and assessment, decision support, education, and public engagement. Highlights describe the state of science at the time of publication of each yearly report, and may not reflect more recent advances in understanding. The date of publication of the source report is noted on each highlight page.
The Arctic is facing rapid climate and environmental change relative to many other parts of the world. In addition to long-lived greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, short-lived climate forcers—in the form of pollutants such as black carbon and trace gases— contribute to warming in this region. A new synthesis, recently published in BAMS, highlights the key results emerging from POLARCAT—an international effort initiated during the most recent International
In addition to emissions from human activities, natural emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane can affect the climate system, and vice versa. Quantifying these natural fluxes, especially in Arctic ecosystems, is critical to understanding how they may interact with human-driven changes to affect future climate. Some research has shown increased emissions of greenhouse gases from tundra and boreal forests during warming in the spring, but little is known about what causes this or whether its occurrence is widespread enough to influence
Although the volume and surface extent of Arctic sea ice varies between seasons and years, observations show a long-term down-ward trend over the last three decades. Variability in Arctic sea ice is an important indicator of global climate change, and also has implications for increasing human activity in the Arctic. In an effort to improve forecasts of Arctic sea ice on seasonal to interannual time scales, the Sea Ice Prediction Network (SIPN) was recently created with support from several USGCRP
La Niña is a periodic extreme phase of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle that brings wetter weather to certain parts of the world. The exceptional La Niña event of 2010–2011 led to heavy rainfall in the Southern Hemisphere and widespread flooding in Australia, where 35 people died, 30,000 homes and business were damaged, and an area the combined size of France, Germany, and Italy was submerged.
In May 2014, a study
The severe, sustained drought affecting the Central Valley of California has caused a shortage of water for irrigation and crop production. The effect of this shortage is most immediately evident as an increase in the extent of fallowed farmland (or land taken out of agricultural production), which in turn serves as a proxy for socioeconomic impacts. Decision makers can use information about fallowed land to better understand the severity of drought impacts and to support requests for USDA drought disaster designations or emergency proclamations. USDA
Climate change presents new challenges for managing water quality and quantity, particularly in areas where water resources are already stressed. Resource managers need scientifically sound, usable information and training to deal with changing patterns of water extremes and other climate-related issues facing the water sector.
To help meet this need, USACE and DOI’s Bureau of Reclamation have developed a training series titled Assessing Natural
The Nation’s energy infrastructure is vulnerable to a range of climate impacts, particularly in areas prone to severe storms or water shortages. These impacts may be exacerbated or mitigated by other systemic factors, such as increasing energy demands, infrastructure interdependencies, and changes in technology, demographics, land use and land cover, and regional industries and economies. Although existing models can capture some of these factors, there is a growing need for modeling frameworks and tools that can explore their collective behaviors.
Apart from serving scientists studying global change, output from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP; see related Highlight 7) can be useful to decision makers confronting regional and local climate impacts. A number of USGCRP agencies have supported the “downscaling” of CMIP output to provide climate information on scales of space and time that are relevant to decisions facing resource managers and planners. Downscaled data permit a range of analyses, such as evaluation of uncertainty in
The United States and other countries around the world are working together to implement Future Earth, an emerging global sustainability research program that emphasizes partnerships among scientific and stakeholder communities worldwide. Bringing together and in partnership with existing international research programs—including DIVERSITAS, the International Human Dimensions