Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments

Download CISA's most recent annual progress report (Period of Performance: 6/1/16 - 5/31/17)

Download CISA's Phase I Final Report (Period of Performance: 2006 - 2012)

Principal Investigators
Kirstin Dow (lead)
Greg Carbone
Chip Konrad
Dan Tufford

Program Manager
Amanda Farris

Research Associate
Kirsten Lackstrom

Program Coordinator
Kerry Giuseppe

Climate Integration and Outreach Associate
Ashley Ward

Affiliated Institutions
University of South Carolina
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium

Dates Funded

CISA Website

CISA two-page information sheet

Project Summary

CISA was established in 2003 at a turning point in water resources management in the Carolinas. Initially conceived to work on water issues, CISA's research now extends to drought monitoring and assessment, watershed modeling, coastal climatology, adaptation, and climate assessment activities for the Carolinas. Researchers at CISA work in collaboration with stakeholders to  to identify and develop effective methods of providing climate science, data, and education around these issues.

Mission & Vision

The Carolinas Integrated Sciences & Assessments (CISA) works with a variety of stakeholders across North and South Carolina to incorporate climate information into water, public health, and coastal management and related decision-making processes. Efforts include working to improve drought planning and preparedness, supporting coastal climate adaptation, and assessing climate-related impacts to public health in the region. 

The success of our research depends on productive relationships established with our collaborating partners. Working with stakeholders in federal, state, and local agencies, resource managers, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, our activities range from research and outreach to consultation and information sharing on emerging climate issues. We seek synergy, not duplication, in these partnerships. We view our role as a RISA to identify user needs for climate information, to conduct research that is shaped by and done in collaboration with users, and to establish an iterative process that refines our investigations and leads to effective communication of results.


CISA’s core activities center on climate interactions with water, coasts, and public health. Within each of these areas, we pursue cross-cutting activities that seek to advance scientific understanding of climate and hydrological processes in the Carolinas, improve the assessment of climate-related vulnerabilities and impacts, and provide timely and relevant information and tools for decision makers. 

Focus Areas and Selected Projects

Climate and Water

CISA’s focus on water includes work to support drought planning and preparedness and linking climate variability and change to hydrological processes in Carolina watersheds. CISA collaborates with the National Drought Information System (NIDIS) on the Coastal Carolinas Drought Early Warning Pilot Program. Projects address needs for relevant and useful drought monitoring tools, a more comprehensive understanding of coastal impacts, and drought planning and early warning resources. CISA develops resources and tools for water and resource managers including: guidance for using downscaled climate model information, region-specific scenarios of temperature and precipitation change, and information about current and future salinity intrusion in coastal areas.

Coastal Climate

CISA helps stakeholders prepare for climate impacts on coastal communities and resources through projects which address waterfront management, sea level rise, saltwater intrusion, natural hazards, and community planning. The Carolinas Coastal Climate Outreach Initiative, a partnership with SC Sea Grant, assists coastal communities in evaluating climate-related concerns, assessing potential vulnerabilities to climate-related impacts, and incorporating climate information into planning and decision making. Projects in North Carolina and South Carolina have helped communities to: update zoning codes to encourage climate resilience, assess the vulnerability of water infrastructure to storms and sea level rise, identify strategies to address flooding and stormwater issues, and develop a climate education-outreach program and adaptation plan.

Coastal Climate Information Sheet

Climate and Public Health

CISA’s health work investigates the links between climate and human health.  Projects focus on: heat stress vulnerability in North Carolina and assessing methods to improve existing warning systems, identifying climate change impacts of air pollution on morbidity in vulnerable populations in North Carolina, and assessing the impacts of climate variability on water quality conditions and Vibrio in South Carolina estuaries.  

Climate Communications and Outreach

CISA is a regional resource for climate-related news and information. CISA supports state and local adaptation projects and capacity-building by providing opportunities for information exchange and translating scientific data into useable formats for decision makers and the public. The Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference, held in April 2014, drew nearly 200 practitioners and researchers to network, share, and learn about climate-related tools, resources, experiences, and activities ongoing in the region. 

Decision Support Tools 

The Vulnerability and Consequences Adaptation Planning Scenarios Process (VCAPS) process supports planning by local decision makers concerned about coastal management and climate change vulnerability and adaptation by integrating local knowledge and experience with scientific knowledge in a participatory modeling process. 

Past Workshops

  • Supporting Improved Natural Resource Planning through Climate (2012): A webinar with background on the National Climate Assessment, actions that will be taken in the Southeast, and the benefits to the region of participating in the Assessment. The webinar was presented in concert with SCIPP.
  • Carolinas Drought Early Warning Scoping Workshop (2012): The National Integrated Drought Information System and the Carolinas Integrated Sciences & Assessments (CISA) are partnering to develop a Carolinas pilot project. The purpose of the workshop was to identify potential partners and vulnerabilities to be addressed.
  • Helping Coastal Communities Strategize Adaptations to Climate Change (2011): A workshop at the Coastal Zone 11 Conference showcasing the vulnerability assessment techniques being used in local communities to assess flood risk. This research is also being carried out as part of a COCA project, Informing Coastal Management Adaptation Planning and Decision Making for Climate Change Using an Interactive Risk-Based Vulnerability Assessment Tool.
  • National Climate Assessment in the Southeast Region (2011): A webinar with background on the National Climate Assessment, actions that will be taken in the Southeast, and the benefits to the region of participating in the Assessment. The webinar was presented in concert with SCIPP.
  • Understanding Needs for a Drought Early Warning System: Urban Water Systems in North Carolina (pdf) (2011): Results from an online survey and meeting with the North Carolina Urban Water Consortium, a member organization representing the state’s 12 largest water systems looking at their current use of drought data and information, exploring drought impacts and concerns of urban water systems, and identifying needs and preferences for new drought-related tools and information.

Other Resources

  • Carolinas Coastal Climate Outreach Initiative: A partnership between CISA and the North and South Carolina Sea Grant programs that educates stakeholders and the public on the impact climate can have on their daily lives and decisions.
  • Coastal Climate Impacts (pdf): Four page brochure put out through North Carolina and South Carolina's Sea Grant Offices that provides information on coastal climate, its impacts on society and the environment, and data and information sources for the Carolinas coast.
  • The Impact of Drought on Coastal Ecosystems in the Carolinas (pdf): A report prepared on the recommendations of coastal managers that covers the state of the knowledge of drought impacts on the Carolinas coasts.
  • CISA on Facebook and Twitter: CISA utilizes social media to share program news, upcoming events, and other relevant climate-related information for stakeholders throughout the region. Carolinas Climate Connection: CISA’s quarterly newsletter includes syntheses of recent publications, information on relevant resources and tools, highlights of CISA’s work, and links to upcoming events, funding opportunities, and other stakeholder-relevant news. 
  • CISA Library: Links to articles, reports, webinars, and presentations by CISA team members are available through the CISA Library. 
  • South Carolina Water Resources Video Series: Interviews with water resource managers and users across South Carolina provide different perspectives about how climate impacts valuable water resources in the state. 
  • Carolinas Climate Listserv: The listserv is used to share information about current climate-related issues and news relevant to the Carolinas. 


Climate Program Office
1315 East-West Hwy, Suite 1100
Silver Spring, MD 20910


Americans’ health, security and economic wellbeing are tied to climate and weather. Every day, we see communities grappling with environmental challenges due to unusual or extreme events related to climate and weather. In 2011, the United States experienced a record high number (14) of climate- and weather-related disasters where overall costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. Combined, these events claimed 670 lives, caused more than 6,000 injuries, and cost $55 billion in damages. Businesses, policy leaders, resource managers and citizens are increasingly asking for information to help them address such challenges.