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.
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.
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
In 2014, NASA launched two new satellite missions that will enable fundamental advancements in our understanding of climate and global change. The Global Precipitation Measurement satellite, launched in February in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), carries state-of-the-art instrumentation that will collect unparalleled observations of rain and snow worldwide every three hours. Such high-resolution data will improve forecasts of extreme weather and climate events, lead to a better understanding of the global water and energy
Advancing science in the Arctic is crucial to understanding global climate dynamics, supporting policy decisions, and managing nationally and internationally important resources. In coordination with the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) and USGEO, USGCRP member agencies observe and monitor the Arctic environment to understand the impacts of global change on this ecologically, culturally, and economically significant region. Polar orbiting satellites provide data that are combined with information from surface-based measurement networks, airborne and...
Reducing the rate of biodiversity loss and averting precipitous ecosystem changes are internationally shared goals. Through its funding to DIVERSITAS, USGCRP supports the international Group on Earth Observation’s Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) in building a global, scientifically robust framework for detecting biodiversity change, intended to fill gaps in existing data and create links between globally dispersed observing systems. To meet...
The continual cycling of carbon through the atmosphere, oceans, soil, and living organisms is an essential function of the Earth system. The U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program (under the auspices of USGCRP; carboncyclescience.us) and USGCRP agencies are working to understand how climate change and human activities are altering this foundational component of the environment, and how these alterations feed back to affect climate change. Some examples are highlighted below:
At least two thirds of the world’s land-based organic carbon is stored in
Society derives many benefits from biodiversity and ecosystems, including clean air and water, as well as a host of recreational and culturally valued services. Climate change and nitrogen pollution—or excess nitrogen in the air and water, usually caused by human activities—are two major stressors affecting ecosystems nationwide, leading to shifts in habitat ranges, loss of species, and increased soil acidity. A partnership of researchers from EPA, USDA-FS, USGS, and academia are collaborating to assess the interacting impacts of nitrogen and climate change
Paleoclimate studies extend records of climate beyond the time period for which we have instrumental measurements. Such research not only answers questions about what Earth was like in the past, but also provides context for the climate changes that we are experiencing today and informs our understanding of how climate is likely to change in the future. In 2013, an international team of researchers published the most comprehensive reconstruction of past temperature changes ever generated at the continental scale....
Pollution from the combustion of fossil fuels and wood has contributed to climate change in complex ways, with some pollutants causing cooling and others causing warming, accompanied by effects on patterns of atmospheric circulation and precipitation. To better understand these complex relationships, the Atmospheric Chemistry Climate Model Intercomparison Project, part of the international 5th-phase Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), conducted a series of pollution-focused modeling experiments to reveal spatial patterns, sectoral influences,