This project brought together a team of researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and universities to develop a comprehensive web-based dataset of high-resolution (or ‘downscaled’) climate change projections, to enable scientists and decision-makers to better assess climate related ecosystem impacts. Currently, scientists and resource managers often find it difficult to use downscaled climate projections because of the multiple methodologies used to produce them and the time-consuming process required to obtain model output. In response, the research team implemented a three-part plan to provide high resolution climate data for the impact modeling community. First, a database was developed of up-to-date and state-of-the-art downscaled climate projections for the U.S., using a range of plausible future greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Second, a series of workshops were held to solicit input about climate-related data needs and to discuss best practices for accessing and using downscaled climate projections. Finally, downscaled projections were made available as an enterprise-level web-based source. Users are able to freely access the data via an interactive, easily manageable interface, in formats which are familiar to ecosystem and impact modelers. The climate dataset was generated by applying advanced statistical downscaling methods to a comprehensive selection of global climate model simulations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment (IPCC AR4) database, with the capability of rapidly updating results as new climate model output becomes available. The workshops involved key stakeholders from the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) modeling community and decision-makers and managers from the USGS and our partnering Department of the Interior agencies, such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. This project: (1) allows for consistent impact assessments at the scale of the most critical ecosystem processes through downscaling projections of daily temperature and precipitation across the continental U.S.; (2) enables scientists and managers to easily access, manipulate and download data relevant to modeling climate change impacts on ecosystems through a common web-based data portal; and (3) explores ways to reduce redundant efforts to obtain and produce downscaled climate projections by soliciting feedback from the NCCWSC research community. Most importantly, this work enables impact assessments to be based on the same common data set, allowing researchers and resource managers to compare results and projections across regions and ecosystems. This work is a collaborative effort between scientists and researchers at the USGS, the USGS Cooperative Research Units Program, North Carolina State University, and Texas Tech University.
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“Jupiter Island, FL - Credit: Alan Cressler”