Monday, January 26, 2015

Climate Assessment for the Southwest

Project Summary

The mission of CLIMAS is to improve the ability of communities and individuals in the southwestern United States to respond sufficiently and appropriately to climatic events and climate changes. The program promotes participatory, iterative research involving scientists, decision makers, resource users, educators, and others who need more and better information about climate and its impacts. 

CLIMAS investigators conduct research on the nature, causes, and consequences of climate change and variability in the Southwest. Their research cuts across nine themes: drought, climate science, decision support, livelihoods, science communication, human and ecosystem health, water, and climate adaptation.

Select Successes
  • Within the Southwest, tribal lands are some of the most vulnerable to the impacts of drought. In 2010, members of CLIMAS held a workshop in partnership with the National Integrated Drought Information System for tribes in the region identify specific tribal needs and probe the feasibility of a knowledge network. The workshop had roughly 40 participants from six tribes, six federal agencies, and three academic institutions. As a result of the workshop, another more in-depth workshop on tribal climate adaptation planning and coordination, a tribal climate change website and database, a prototype of, and a new SARP project to improve drought monitoring and prediction for the region. The workshop report can be downloaded from the CLIMAS website (pdf).

  • Tree rings can tell a story of past climate. Those stories can help water managers plan for the future. Treeflow is a project started by CLIMAS and with contributions from Western Water Assessment and the Climate Impacts Group. It currently houses tree ring climate reconstructions and information for nine hydrologic basins in the U.S. Researchers maintaining the site have also done a survey to understand how water managers are using the information. The majority are using it to broaden their understanding of variability as well as informing planning decision making and educating the public and policymakers. A presentation on these and other findings can be downloaded from Treeflow (pdf) or below.

Decision Support Tools
  • Arizona DroughtWatch: A collection of timely and up-to-date observations of drought impacts across Arizona. The tool was developed to support drought monitoring efforts spearheaded by county-level Local Drought Impact Groups.

  • Forecast Evaluation Tool: A map-based tool that shows forecast skill of CPC forecasts for different indicators and lead times.

  • New Mexico AgroClimate: A interactive web tool with climate info geared for the agricultural sector in New Mexico including a pecan-specific tool. Created with open source software from Southeastern Climate Consortium.

  • Paleoclimate Tool: 1000-year precipitation records for 17 subregions within Arizona, New Mexico, and eastern California.

  • WestMap: An interactive map-based toolbox developed in response to stakeholder requests for new forms of data and tools that help convey climate variability and its context for specific planning and management efforts. This project has also received funding from TRACS.

Recent Workshops
  • Climate and Poverty (2011): Roughly 20 participants from local government agencies and non-profit organizations in southern Arizona gathered for an invite-only workshop to talk about the connections between climate and poverty, areas for collaboration, and involvement with the 2013 National Climate Assessment.

  • Science and Water Management Workshop (2011): Twenty participants took part in "ground truthing" the findings of SARP Water project Knowledge to Action: An Assessment of the Transfer of Climate Science to Decision Making.

Outreach and Climate Literacy
  • Border Climate Summary: Bilingual seasonal summary of recent temperature, precipitation, and drought indices as well as forecasts for temperature, precipitation, and ENSO. Also includes a featured article. Currently on hiatus.

  • Southwest Climate Change Network: A website and project designed to inspire discussion between scientists, natural resource managers, utility providers, policy- and decision-makers, community groups, the public, and the media about climate change in the Southwest.

  • La Niña Drought Tracker: La Niña-specific drought outlook. Provides update on drought conditions, snowpack, and ENSO forecasts. Uses info and graphics from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center forecasts and the TRACS-funded WestMap. 

  • Southwest Climate Outlook: A monthly update on currrent climate and drought conditions in the Southwest, reservoirs levels, ENSO status, and seasonal phenomenon such as monsoons or wildfire. Also includes seasonal forecasts for ENSO, climate, and seasonal phenomenon as well as a seasonally-focused featured article.

  • Southwest Monsoon Tracker: Provides a monsoon-specific outlook and forecast for the region during the summer monsoon season. Currently on hiatus.

  • Water Year in Review: A yearly review released each October with information about precipitation, temperature, reservoir levels, drought, wildfire, and ENSO over the course of the water. Also features top five "headlines" for the Water Year.

Principal Investigator

Johnathan Overpeck

Program Managers

Dan Ferguson


Bonnie Colby
Andrew Comrie
Michael Crimmins
David DuBois
George Frisvold
Gregg Garfin
Holly Hartman
Katie Hirschboeck
Margaret Wilder
Connie Woodhouse

Affiliated Institutions

New Mexico State University
University of Arizona

Dates Funded


Project Website