Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments (CISA)

CISA Annual Report 2018 
(Period of Performance: 6/1/17 - 5/31/18)

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

CISA Briefing Sheet (2017)

Principal Investigators
Kirstin Dow (lead)
Greg Carbone
Chip Konrad

Program Manager
Amanda Farris

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 Team Info 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 and climate 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 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. 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. 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.

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 also develops resources and tools for water and resource managers including the Carolinas Precipitation Patterns and Probabilities atlas, which provides information about drought, heavy precipitation events, and related impacts to contextualize the information.:.

Climate and Water Information Sheet

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 the SC Sea Grant Consortium, 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 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 climate adaptation plans.

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. Building on the development of the North Carolina Heat Health Vulnerability Tool (HHVT), CISA team members are working with stakeholders to provide even more decision-relevant information about the connections between climate and health through the Convergence web portal.  

Climate and Health Information Sheet

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 bi-annual Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference draws practitioners and researchers from throughout the region to network, share, and learn about climate-related tools, resources, experiences, and ongoing activities to increase resilience. 

Decision Support Tools 

The Carolinas Precipitation Patterns and Probabilities Atlas is an online resource for drought response committees, water resource managers, and other decision makers who plan for and manage water-related climate risks. The Atlas includes a wide range of statistical information about precipitation extremes in the Carolinas at the state, climate division, and station level displayed through maps and graphics. In order to integrate the climatological data with the impacts to society, there are additional pages provide narratives about major events.

The CoCoRaHS Condition Monitoring Web Map was developed to improve drought impacts monitoring and reporting through citizen science and the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow (CoCoRaHS) network. Initially launched as a pilot project in the Carolinas, condition monitoring is now available to 20,000+ CoCoRaHS observers nationally. Observers’ reports are made available through this interactive web map to provide an efficient platform for drought decision makers to access the information.

The Convergence climate and health web portal provides links to research findings, information on climate extremes in the Carolinas and the populations most vulnerable to their impacts, and also houses the NC Heat Health Vulnerability Tool. This unique collaboration integrates research and community action to empower communities in their work to improve citizens’ lives.

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

Climate Connections Workshop Series (2017-2018): In collaboration with the SC State Climatology Office and the SC Water Resources Center, CISA is conducting a series of three one-day educational workshops in Greenville, Columbia, and Charleston, SC. The workshop series, entitled “Weathering the Storm: Impacts of Extremes to South Carolina’s Built and Natural Environment”, provides information relevant to stakeholders in each of these regions about responses to recent extremes and work to improve preparedness for future events.

South Carolina Drought & Water Shortage Tabletop Exercise (2017): Eighty participants met to review the plans and procedures that govern state-, basin-, and local-level responses to drought and water shortages. The tabletop allowed different agencies and water managers to walk through and discuss the effectiveness of drought response plans and procedures.

Hampton Roads, VA and Charleston, SC Coastal Resilience Knowledge Exchange (2017): The Hampton Roads, VA and Charleston, SC area share many similarities in issues they are facing related to sea level rise and persistent flooding. In June 2017, 60 planners, engineers, emergency managers, non-profit leaders, and corporate officials from the two coastal regions gathered to discuss strategies for dealing with their shared challenge. Organized by the Charleston Resilience Network, CISA provided travel support funds to allow these local stakeholders to come together for an invaluable in-person exchange.

Southeast & Caribbean Climate Community of Practice (SECCCoP) In-Person Meetings (2016, 2017): By providing leadership and support for the SECCCoP, CISA is supporting a broader network of climate adaptation practitioners in the region. CISA helps lead planning efforts for this bi-annual meeting to provide an opportunity for those conducting climate resilience work to meet in person and share their experiences.

Coastal Carolinas DEWS Strategic Plan Workshop (2016): In June 2016 CISA helped the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) organize a stakeholder workshop to gather input for the Coastal Carolinas Drought Early Warning System strategic plan. The agenda was designed to facilitate information sharing and dialogue among participants. Small-group discussions centered on identifying the drought early warning information needs of decision makers, reviewing and refining priorities for the Coastal Carolinas DEWS, and generating specific activity ideas for inclusion in the Coastal Carolinas DEWS Strategic Plan.

Connect with CISA

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. 

Carolinas Climate Listserv: The listserv is used to share information about current climate-related issues and news relevant to the Carolinas. 

Other Resources

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. 

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. 



Dr. Chelsea Combest-Friedman
Social Scientist, Program Director (Acting)
P: (301) 734-1240

Caitlin Simpson
Program Manager
P: (301) 734-1251

Dr. Ariela Zycherman
Social Scientist, Program Manager
P: (301) 734-1244

Sean Bath*
Program Specialist (UCAR)
P: (301) 734-1294


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. 


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