Pacific RISA

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

Pacific RISA Phase II Final Report
(Period of Performance: 2010 - 2016) 

Pacific RISA Briefing Sheet (2017)

Lead Principal Investigator
Victoria W. Keener

Program Manager
Laura Brewington

H. Annamalai, International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawai‘i
Stephen Anthony, Pacific Islands Water Science Center, US Geological Survey
Aly El-Kadi, Associate Director, Water Resources Research Center, University of Hawai‘i
Melissa L. Finucane, Senior Fellow, East-West Center; Senior Behavioral and Social Scientist, RAND Corporation
Nancy D. Lewis, Director, Research Program, East-West Center
John Marra, NOAA NESDIS NCDC Regional Climate Services Director, Pacific Region; Director, Pacific Climate Information System 
Deanna Spooner, Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative
Ray Tanabe, Pacific ENSO Applications Climate Center, National Weather Service

Affiliated Institution
East-West Center
University of Hawai‘i

Dates Funded

Pacific RISA Website

Mission & Vision

The Pacific RISA mission includes the following objectives:
  • Meet critical climate information needs in the Pacific Region through multidisciplinary climate research, assessment, education, and training;
  • Provide integrated, locally relevant climate information to decision makers and communities in the Pacific Region;
  • Enhance regional and local capabilities to manage climate risks, build resilience in key sectors, and support sustainable development;
  • Promote collaboration among Pacific regional, US national and international institutions and programs providing climate information products and services.

The vision of the Pacific RISA is to support the development of resilient and sustainable Pacific communities using climate information to manage risks and support practical decision-making about climate variability and change.


The Pacific RISA is a Pacific Islands-focused interdisciplinary research program that supports the understanding of and addresses climate variability and change impacts in regional communities. We serve Hawaii and the US-Affiliated Pacific Islands, a region with over 2,000 islands and home to some of the populations most vulnerable to climate-related hazards due to their location, small size, and isolation. Our region also has significant human and environmental diversity that distinguishes it as a valuable and unique part of the US. The vulnerability of Pacific Islands to climate variability and change has been well documented, and encompasses impacts on natural resources, ecosystems, human health, economies, and communities. The Pacific RISA incorporates the needs of resource managers, policy makers, and communities throughout the Pacific to provide stakeholders with regionally relevant and sector specific climate knowledge at the seasonal, inter-annual, and decadal to end-of-century timescale to inform real-world adaptations.

Our work emphasizes integrated research that uses social and physical science methods to generate, analyze, interpret, and translate climate information at multiple spatial and temporal scales for diverse stakeholders. We build on dynamical projections of climate change and variability at appropriate island scales, which feed into projects that improve resilience, including evaluating the economics of natural resources and adaptation measures, assessing future impacts on freshwater quantity and quality, analyzing adaptive policies and the role of climate events on human migration, defining sector-specific decision thresholds, and improving our effectiveness in climate-related communication.

Learn more about Pacific RISA's most recent activities.

Building Partnerships

The level of understanding of the mission and values of the Pacific RISA project have increased as a result of the above outreach and strategic partnerships. Major regional organizations have valued scientific reports and contact with the Pacific RISA team and their collaborators.

PIRCA report visibility – Following on an external evaluation, the Pacific RISA has taken active steps to address the gap in PIRCA report visibility on the websites of regional organizations. The PIRCA report can now be accessed on the Pacific Climate Change Portal, Pacific Disaster Net (part of SPC), and Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development Knowledge Centre (part of USP) websites. PIRCA visibility has made the Pacific RISA the go-to institution for climate change information in the region, proving important and useful to researchers and practitioners as a comprehensive information source, as a consensus document in political/policy contexts where action needs scientific backing or justification, as a communication and education tool, and as a research agenda-setting document.

Strategic partnerships – Strategic partnerships have been strengthened with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP),based in Western Sāmoa, and USP through its 12 member countries, climate change projects, and in-country specialists. 

Select Projects

Current RISA research helps stakeholders and collaborators throughout the region plan for projected climate change impacts, identify priority research areas, and share information within and between broad interdisciplinary networks. 

Climate Downscaling
Pacific RISA International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) researchers created the Hawaiʻi Regional Climate Model (HRCM), a dynamically downscaled model that projects rainfall and other meteorological parameters for the island of Maui at a 1 km resolution, a spatial scale necessary to take into account steep topography and diverse microclimates. Downscaling continues for other Hawaiian Islands, Guam, and American Sāmoa.

Future Groundwater Recharge
Using HRCM projections, Pacific RISA partner researchers at the USGS Pacific Islands-Water Science Center (PI-WSC) and the University of Hawaii Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) used calibrated soil-water balance models for the island of Maui to calculate groundwater recharge under future land and water management scenarios. 

Climate Scenario Development
To ensure that results from the climate and hydrological models address the needs of Maui and state-level decision makers, Pacific RISA researchers worked with stakeholders to generate a set of feasible future Maui land use scenarios relevant to groundwater resource management. GIS-based land use maps represent future management decisions and providing the spatial environment across which groundwater recharge is calculated under future climate conditions. 

Regional Network Maps
To map flows of climate information and identify key hubs and potentially isolated groups in the greater Pacific Islands region, Pacific RISA researchers tracked communications patterns across different sectors and countries4. Survey analysis of over 300 climate change professionals revealed network connectedness and perceived community resiliency, climate change risk, and sense of community. 

3rd National Climate Assessment: Hawai’i and the US Affiliated Pacific Islands: Pacific RISA researchers Drs. Finucane and Marra were lead authors on the Hawaii and Pacific Islands chapter of the 3rd National Climate Assessment report. The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future.  

Decision Support Tools

Future Land Use Scenario Maps
Land use scenario maps have been generated for Maui island groundwater and climate modeling. These maps will be publicly available on Pacific RISA and state websites as a set of jointly-developed land use futures for planning. 

National Climate Assessment – The PIRCA
Independent evaluation found that the PIRCA is widely perceived as a high-quality, useful document that stakeholders view as salient, legitimate, and extremely credible, and that by leading the PIRCA, the Pacific RISA has had a traceable impact on planning and policy-making at state and federal levels.

Freshwater Resource Analyses
The USGS PI-WSC publishes technical reports evaluating sustainability of groundwater resources in the Hawaiian Islands and is working with the Pacific RISA to incorporate climate change projections into their next series of water budgets. The WRRC has centers in Hawaiʻi and American Sāmoa where they assess water quality impacts from climate in collaboration with local stakeholders, an engagement facilitated by Pacific RISA.

Other Resources

Pacific RISA on Facebook: A Facebook Page to connect and engage with Pacific RISA stakeholders and interested parties. Regularly updated with items about Pacific RISA research and related work in the entire Pacific region.

Pacific RISA on Twitter: A Twitter account for Pacific RISA sharing Pacific RISA and Pacific-related news.

Hawai’i-Pacific Highlights Briefing of the 3rd U.S. National Climate Assessment: On May 6th, 2014, A panel of experts who contributed to the Hawaii & Pacific Islands section of the 3rd U.S. National Climate Assessment discussed regional highlights of the assessment report.



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


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