A national climate change viewer that helps land managers and policy makers plan for climate change


The USGS National Climate Change Viewer (NCCV) is a web application that provides easy access to short information about possible future climate change. In the updated viewer, users can view, analyze and download past and projected climate and hydrological data for the period 1950 to 2099 for two future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions scenarios. Its applications extend to resource managers, planners and researchers, but it is an interesting tool for any member of the public who wishes to consider future scenarios.

The USGS National Climate Change Viewer.

(Public domain.)

The characteristics and usefulness of the spectator

The climate projections included in the USGS NCCV are based on global climate model simulations conducted by 20 global modeling centers that contributed to the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC report represents some of the most comprehensive information on the planet’s climate system and includes various scenarios of future climate changes based on different levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The viewer includes climatic and hydrological data for two GHG emission scenarios in the IPCC report. These data come from representative concentration pathways, RCP, which are trajectories of the amount of GHGs that will be emitted during the 21st century. These trajectories are based on the assumptions of the IPCC report regarding societal choices, population growth, energy consumption, existing and future technologies and land use change. One scenario, called RCP4.5, describes a situation in which GHG emissions begin to decline and stabilize over the next several decades. The second, RCP8.5, explores the results if there is little or no reduction in GHG emissions and therefore represents an extreme case or upper limit of what is possible.

Both scenarios are widely used by scientists to project the future climate and its potential impacts. Since there is a high degree of uncertainty about future greenhouse gas emissions in the 21st century and the choice of scenario determines the magnitude of climate change (i.e. the magnitude of global warming) by the end of the century), the two scenarios in the NCCV provide a plausible range of climate change for analysis and planning.

Image: Drought Vegetation

Warming temperatures are expected to increase the risk and intensity of drought. (Credit: USGS. Public domain.)

Planning for climate change

The ease of use and clear results of the USGS NCCV have already been put into practice by land and resource managers across the United States. For example, in the West, climate change is expected to increase the severity of drought, increase the risk of forest fires, negatively affect native fish and wildlife, and reduce water availability. A recently published climate assessment report led by USGS and Montana State University, which used climate and hydrological data from the NCCV, details some of the observed and projected impacts on the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, one of the last large and almost intact temperate ecosystems on Earth.

The NCCV is also used by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in species status assessments, by the USGS for climate research, and by the National Park Service to communicate climate change information to resource managers. state and federal, and as a college teacher. tool.

Many people place fire instruments wrapped in flame retardant coverings to record forest fire data

Warming temperatures are expected to increase the risk and intensity of forest fires. (Image credit: Rachel Loehman, USGS. Public domain.)

Recent updates and improvements

A series of improvements make the NCCV an even better tool for resource managers, as it can help them take into account the climate change context when developing strategic management plans. The latest updates to the NCCV feature new climate and hydrological data and new statistical information in data tables and graphs. Downloadable reports have been extended for any given area of ​​interest.

The viewer is accessible here. More information on USGS research related to climate change, including changing ecosystems, paleoclimate, land use and land cover changes, and evolution of the cryosphere, can be found here. To stay up to date on USGS climate research, subscribe to our bulletin.

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