The enormity of the challenge posed by climate change makes it difficult to visualize and understand on the ground. Even though wide-ranging impacts are visible today, it’s hard to envision how tomorrow’s changes will take shape. What will the temperature be in Portland in the spring, or how much rain might Dallas get in the fall? The USGS has a tool that can help address that challenge.
The USGS National Climate Change Viewer (NCCV) is a web-based application that provides easy access to succinct information about possible future climate change. In the updated viewer, users can view, analyze, and download past and projected climate and hydrologic data for the period from 1950 through 2099 for two future greenhouse gas (GHG) emission scenarios. Its applications extend to resource managers, planners, and researchers, but it’s an interesting tool for any member of the public who wants to envision future scenarios.
The climate projections included in the USGS NCCV are based on global climate model simulations conducted by 20 worldwide modeling centers that contributed to the 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report (IPCC). The IPCC report represents some of the most comprehensive insights of the planet’s climate system and include various scenarios for future changes to the climate based on different levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
The viewer includes climate and hydrologic data for two GHG emissions scenarios in the IPCC report. These data come from Representative Concentration Pathways, RCPs, which are trajectories of the amount of GHGs that will be emitted during the 21st century. These trajectories are based on the IPCC report’s assumptions about societal choices, population growth, energy use, existing and future technology, and land-use change. One scenario, called RCP4.5, describes a situation in which GHG emissions begin to curtail and stabilize in the next few decades. The second, RCP8.5, explores outcomes if there are little to no reductions in GHG emissions—and thus represents an extreme case or upper-bound of what is possible.
A suite of improvements makes NCCV an even better tool for resource managers, as it can help them consider the context of climate change when developing strategic management plans. The latest NCCV updates feature new climate and hydrologic data and new statistical information in the data tables and graphs. Downloadable reports have been expanded for any given area of interest.
The viewer can be accessed here. More information about USGS research relating to climate change, including changing ecosystems, paleoclimate, land-use and land cover change, and the changing cryosphere, can be found here. To stay up-to-date on USGS climate research, sign-up for our newsletter.