“It allows you to visualize and explore climate change information for a specific area and then download that data for further analysis.”
The Nature Conservancy
When working in coastal areas to develop plans to adapt to climate change, many coastal resource managers wish for a simple way to depict how climate has or is projected to change in a given area. A new Internet tool is helping managers access, analyze, and interpret climate-change information at the state and regional scale.
“The idea behind the tool,” says Evan Girvetz, a senior scientist with The Nature Conservancy’s Global Climate Change Program, “is to take massive databases of climate change information and summarize it in useful and intuitive ways. It allows you to visualize and explore climate change information for a specific area and then download that data for further analysis.”
The Climate Wizard tool was launched in January 2009 at www.climatewizard.org. Developed by The Nature Conservancy, the University of Washington, and the University of Southern Mississippi, the tool generates color maps of projected temperature and precipitation changes using 16 of the world’s most prominent climate-change models.
Climate Wizard allows the user to choose a state or country and to quickly see how climate may change by month, season, or year under different emission scenarios.
“Climate Wizard represents the first time that the full range of climate history and impacts for a landscape have been brought together in a user-friendly format,” says Chris Zganjar, climate change ecologist and information specialist for The Nature Conservancy’s Global Climate Change Program.
Girvetz notes that managers have already used the tool to consider how habitat shifts will affect endangered species, to understand the potential impacts to a variety of conservation areas, and to evaluate and develop climate-resilient management strategies.
“When you know a specific ecosystem is becoming even drier as a result of climate change, then there are actions that can be implemented on the ground to be more resilient to those changes,” says Girvetz, who worked on the Climate Wizard tool during postdoctoral work at the University of Washington’s School of Forest Resources.
While Climate Wizard is a significant advancement in viewing climate data, Zganjar stresses that it is currently limited to atmospheric data and doesn’t include data on water temperatures or sea levels. He says that coast-relevant data will be added to Climate Wizard as more complete models are developed.
Another limitation is that the tool isn’t “able to tell coastal managers how local climate patterns will change. It only shows what the general patterns are in a region,” Zganjar says.
Girvetz says the response to the tool has been overwhelming, and efforts are already underway to incorporate the newest climate change models.
He adds, “We want to provide more data and continue to make the site better. It has to stay current and dynamic.”