UW scientists say new online tool aims to take world's temperature
How much warmer could Washington's summers be in 100 years? Will June rainfall in Australia change by midcentury? Climate experts today will...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Try using ClimateWizard: If you want to see how climate change could affect your local area and other parts of the world, go to www.climatewizard.org
How much warmer could Washington's summers be in 100 years?
Will June rainfall in Australia change by midcentury?
Climate experts today will unveil an online tool that shows how global warming could affect the entire world, including changes within cities, states and countries.
The tool, called ClimateWizard, allows natural-resource managers, lawmakers, scientists and residents to see historical temperature and precipitation data in their local areas. They also can view projections of how these factors might change as the Earth continues to warm.
Scientists say this tool is the first of its kind to present vast amounts of climate-change information to the public in a way that's easy to use and understand. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) data used in this tool are already available but often difficult to access and cumbersome to sort through.
"We needed a tool that could bring that data to the desktops of people who can use it," said Jon Hoekstra, climate-change-program director at the Nature Conservancy, which funded this project. "The power of visualization is extraordinary."
ClimateWizard is a joint effort among the Nature Conservancy, the University of Washington and the University of Southern Mississippi. It lets users zoom in on specific cities or regions to track temperature and precipitation changes. Maps with color-coded information show where changes are likely to happen, and how severe they could be.
For example, in the next century, the average temperature is expected to increase by about 7 degrees Fahrenheit over much of Western Washington if our carbon emissions are high. That could mean less mountain snowpack, greater demand for water and more coastal flooding as sea levels rise. Under a low-emission scenario, the temperature increase would be slightly less.
Climate experts say this tool could be especially useful for natural-resource and wildlife managers as they plan for the future. Many are asked to consider changes in climate when drafting management plans, but specific information isn't always available, said Joshua Lawler, an assistant professor in UW's College of Forest Resources who was involved in developing this tool.
Managers can see how temperature or rainfall might change in their specific area, then plan accordingly. Climate information on the Web site incorporates data from local weather stations to help with forecasting.
Still, all of the scenarios displayed through ClimateWizard are projections — not facts — about what will happen as the Earth warms, said Evan Girvetz, the UW's ClimateWizard developer and a postdoctoral research associate in the College of Forest Resources.
"Part of this is communicating what we do know, and what we don't know," Girvetz said.
Right now, temperature and precipitation are the only two factors analyzed by ClimateWizard, but Girvetz said the tool likely will evolve to show how climate change could affect snowpack and water runoff, among other factors.
The data expressed visually on ClimateWizard come from the IPCC, an international organization that compiles peer-reviewed studies and scientific literature, and produces reports on climate change that are used in policymaking.
Michelle Ma: 206-464-2303 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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