CPO Works with Partners Across Sectors to Provide Useful and Timely Climate Information
Americans' health, security, and economic well-being are impacted by extreme weather and climate events. The NOAA Climate Program office works with partners across sectors to provide useful and timely information that helps our nation build its climate resilience.
Below are just some examples of how CPO programs and the projects they fund help states, citizens, and businesses in the face of a changing climate.
1. Improving Preparedness with Improved 3-4 Week Forecasts
Management decisions in agriculture, food security, water resources, and disaster risk are often made several weeks in advance. This is a difficult timeframe for accurate predictions as it is longer than weather forecasts, but shorter than seasonal predictions. Researchers supported by CPO’s Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) program showed that an ensemble of NOAA predictions leads to more accurate U.S. temperature and precipitation predictions at 3-4 weeks during both winter and summer.
Learn More about MAPP.
2. Water and Drought Planning in the Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest was mired in drought from 2012 to 2016, with 2015 being the worst of these years by far. But not everyone was surprised by the drought. Since 2010, Seattle Public Utility (SPU) and the Portland Water Bureau (PWB), the region’s two largest water providers, were ready for it. To help keep water flowing to their combined 2.4 million customers now and into the future, SPU and PWB worked with CPO’s CIRC program to model the utilities’ watersheds and how water supply is expected to change as rising temperatures produce more droughts similar to the one in 2015. By leveraging CIRC expertise, these utility companies built their in-house capacity and improved the water resilience of the region.
Learn more about the CIRC RISA.
3. Drought Planning in California
California’s historic drought in 2015 cost the state almost $3 billion and resulted in 21,000 jobs lost. Since 2006, the congressionally mandated and CPO-supported National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) has provided the best available information and tools to manage risk, assess, and prepare for the effects of drought. NIDIS established regional early warning systems across the country, including one covering California and Nevada to include locally-relevant data and tools to detect, understand, and communicate drought risks to decision makers.
Visit Drought.gov to learn more about NIDIS.
4. Preparing for Atmospheric Rivers
On average, about 30-50% of the West Coast’s annual precipitation occurs in just a few “atmospheric river” events, which sustain the region’s water supply but can also produce damaging floods. By studying tropical disturbances, such as the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), CPO’s Climate Variability and Predictability (CVP) program is improving the accuracy and lead time of heavy precipitation forecasts over the U.S., thus improving people’s ability to prepare for dangerous floods.
Learn more about CVP.
5. Understanding and Predicting the MJO
Since 2011, CPO’s Climate Variability and Predictability Program (CVP) has sponsored research projects focused on improving scientific understanding of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), a 30- to 90-day natural climate variability pattern that starts in the Indian Ocean and propagates around the world. Improvements in our understanding of the MJO—how it is initiated and how it travels around the globe—will increase our prediction skill within the 2-week to 3-month time window where there is currently a skill gap. Better forecasts within this time window are important for emergency responders, farmers and land managers, hydro-electric dam managers, shipping companies, and many other commercial sectors
Learn more about CVP.
6. Commercial Maritime Hazard Alerts
Maritime operators that work in Alaska waters and the surrounding seas—such as commercial shippers, fishing vessel operators, and the offshore oil and gas industry—are especially sensitive to weather impacts. Marine operators need more information to help them make “go/no go” decisions over the next several days as well as outlook products to help them plan months in advance. Thus, the Alaska RISA is establishing a storminess indicator for the Alaska Region that will help industry professionals make more informed decisions related to scheduling and routing to avoid hazards and save time and money.
Learn more about the ACCAP RISA.
7. Monitoring and Forecasts for Maritime in the Arctic
As sea ice retreats, opportunities for Arctic transportation, shipping, and resource exploration expand. But the rapidity of these changes introduces new challenges: increased storminess, migration of animals and diseases, and changes in weather patterns (such as the “polar vortex.”) CPO’s Climate Variability & Predictability (CVP) program focuses the brightest scientific minds at research labs and universities around the country on scientific research that improves our understanding, modeling, and prediction of changes in the Arctic. Oil companies, shipping companies, and fishing vessels require improved predictions of sea ice and Arctic weather to stay ahead of the competition and protect their employees and assets. CVP-sponsored research enables more accurate predictions with longer lead times.
Learn more about CVP.
8. Wildfires Adversely Affecting Air Quality
Wildfires are becoming larger and more frequent, and these trends are projected to increase. Smoke from wildfires increases Emergency Room visits and is a major cause of health complications such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. The costs of these and other air quality impacts in the U.S. amount to over $100 billion per year. CPO’s Atmospheric Chemistry, Carbon Cycle, & Climate (AC4) program supports atmospheric research to identify the causes of the poor air quality associated with these wildfires.
Learn about AC4’s contributions to FIREX.
9. Pasture and Rangeland Insurance in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming
Pasture, rangeland, and forage land occupy roughly 55% of the land in the United States—the largest extent of managed land in the country. With nearly 43 million acres insured and nearly $71 million in indemnities paid out in 2016, the USDA’s Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage (PRF) insurance program is the nation’s 3rd largest agricultural insurance program. Insurance claims are linked to NOAA’s gridded precipitation data. CPO’s Western Water Assessment RISA worked with partners to develop drought decision-support tools that help ranchers understand how the PRF insurance program and drought adaptation investments can help them keep their herds, their rangeland, and their livelihoods in the best possible condition.
Learn more about the WWA RISA.
10. Energy & Water Utility Planning in Arizona and New Mexico
Electric power contracts tend to be long-term and inflexible, but persistent drought and climate change affect energy and water management operations, especially in the arid and semi-arid regions of the U.S. Southwest. CPO’s CLIMAS program works with energy utilities and water supply organizations in the Southwest, alerting them to the impacts of climate change on peak electricity and water demand during the region’s hot, dry summer. Using data from 1987-2008, the research team investigated the influence of drought on the market price of water and produced several tools and guidebooks aimed to enhance water supply reliability and help agencies manage high water demand and competing water needs.
Learn more about the CLIMAS RISA.
11. ENSO Monitoring and Forecasts
CPO’s Ocean Observing and Monitoring Division provided ocean observation data from the tropical oceans that are used every day in NOAA’s weather and climate forecast suite. Experts use this data to track El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events and forecast their impacts on regional U.S. weather. Improving these forecasts can increase agricultural production and benefits to the U.S. economy by up to $300 million annually. This data proves useful in forecasts of seasonal droughts, which cost the nation roughly $3.5 billion in 2016.
Learn more about the OOM Division.
12. Water Planning in Hawai’i
Hawai’i is home to 1.4 million people and has a GDP of more than $80 billion a year. The Aloha State is experiencing declining rainfall, reduced streamflow, increasing temperature, and rising sea level. In 2014, when Hawai’i’s Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM) began the process of updating the state’s water planning policy, they looked to CPO’s Pacific RISA for input and guidance. The Commission worked with the RISA team to update its drought plans and its stakeholder engagement process. By helping policymakers understand how climate variability affects Hawai’i’s water resources, the Pacific RISA is helping Hawai’i become more resilient.
Learn more about the Pacific RISA.
13. Drought in the Great Plains
The 2012 Central Great Plains “flash drought” had an adverse effect on over two-thirds of the contiguous U.S. and cost an estimated $30 billion in the agriculture sector. However, thanks to NIDIS support and MAPP’s Drought Task Force research, the Evaporative Stress Index (ESI) was transitioned to operations in 2016, which can detect drought several weeks ahead of most other available drought indicators. The owners of the Cooksley Ranch in Nebraska, who suffered devastating livestock losses during the 2012 drought, now use the extra time the ESI provides to plan whether to relocate livestock, buy more feed, or reduce the size of their herds in the face of upcoming drought conditions.
Learn more about the MAPP Drought Task Force.
14. Storm Surge Preparedness in Texas
The Port of Houston is home to a $15 billion petrochemical complex, handles 65% of all major U.S. cargo, and adds about $175 billion a year to Texas’ economy. CPO’s SCIPP RISA found that the port is extremely vulnerable to storm surge inundation. Using historical storm surge data, SCIPP is working closely with several Texas universities to develop research-based solutions for flood protection for the port, including: constructing retractable flood gates near the Houston Ship Channel entry; elevating coastal roads to function as levees; elevating new developments; and building oyster pilings in Galveston Bay. The proposed flood protection could save $45 billion in avoiding storm surge damages, according to Rice U. researchers.
Learn More about SCIPP RISA.
15. Seasonal forecasts and NMME Research
The National Multi-Model Ensemble is a seasonal prediction system that produces more skillful and reliable seasonal predictions like temperature, precipitation, and ENSO, on average than other available prediction systems. After four years of research with both public- and private-sector partners, CPO’s Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) program transitioned NMME to operations in 2016. The Weather Company uses the NMME’s ENSO forecasts to help its energy and utility clients predict how natural gas prices will change. In the winter of 2015-2016, a strong El Nino event caused above normal temperatures in the northern U.S. These warm temperatures decreased the heating demand in cities like Boston and Chicago and caused natural gas prices to drop to 17-year lows.
Learn more about the NMME.
16. Protecting Municipal Infrastructure in the Great Lakes Region
Extreme weather and climate events in the U.S. midwest are becoming more frequent and severe. In 2011 alone, 11 of the nation’s 14 billion-dollar weather disasters affected this region. CPO’s GLISA program worked with the city of Gary, IN, on a pilot program for the Climate-Ready Infrastructure and Strategic Sites Protocol (CRISSP)—an adaptation tool that evaluates the vulnerability of a municipality’s critical infrastructure to weather and climate impacts. CRISSP helps city planners identify risks, and it provides guidance on securing vulnerable infrastructure in both the short- and long-term. Thanks to this project, Gary’s annual capital investment planning now includes infrastructure improvements. Next, the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative plans to expand the CRISSP methodology beyond Gary to its 110 member cities in an effort to scale up adaptation actions in the region.
Learn more about the GLISA RISA.
17. Protecting Critical Infrastructure on the Gulf Coast
The U.S. Gulf Coast is home to hundreds of energy and utilities facilities, including oil refineries and coastal power plants. CPO’s Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP) RISA collaborated with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to conduct a study on the vulnerability of critical energy infrastructure to storm surge along the Gulf Coast. Oak Ridge provided the location and elevation of the facilities and SCIPP provided storm surge levels. Together, they found that 72% of coastal refineries and 64% of coastal power plants are vulnerable to a 100-year storm surge.
Learn more about the SCIPP RISA.
18. Assessing Heat Health Vulnerability in the Carolinas
The Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments (CISA) team conducts applied research to answer stakeholders’ questions about climate variability, extremes, and other climate-related impacts. CISA’s research to improve the understanding of heat-related illness was used in the development of the NC Heat Health Vulnerability Tool, which predicts emergency department visits for heat-related illness based on historical data. This tool is housed on the new Convergence website, a climate and health information portal for the Carolinas developed in collaboration with health decision makers and stakeholders in the region.
Learn more about the CISA RISA.
19. Water and Wastewater Infrastructure in the Carolinas
Researchers supported by CPO’s Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications program helped coastal communities in Morehead City, NC, and Charleston, SC, assess public health risks related to failures in water and wastewater infrastructure. Researchers integrated nuisance flooding, storm surge, and sea level data from NOAA and the private sector to create map visualizations of threats to infrastructure and wastewater treatment from inundation or groundwater disturbance related to sea level changes. These maps identify the populations at most risk and focus on valuable assets such as property parcels, marinas, shellfish harvesting zones, and wastewater treatment systems.
Learn more about COCA.
20. Heat and Public Health in New York City
A week-long heat wave hit New York in 2013, killing four elderly citizens and breaking residential power use records. Before, a four-day heat wave in 2011 that reached temperatures as high as 104 degrees caused 31 heat stroke deaths. To prevent similar deaths, the health community needs to understand when mortality rates during heat waves could increase. To this end, researchers from the Consortium on Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN) developed an automated temperature anomaly forecast tool to provide a 24-hour advance prediction of the amplitude of mid-afternoon temperature anomalies in New York City.
Learn more about the CCRUN RISA.
Access the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS).
21. Assessing Fisheries Vulnerabilities in Northeast
The rapid warming in marine waters off the Northeast U.S. over the past decade represents an increased risk for fisheries. Fishing communities recognize the need for tools and data to better understand the impacts of climate variability and change and to identify adaptation options at local scales and within time frames relevant for decision-making. A CPO-funded project led by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute provides tools for vulnerability evaluations of fishing communities as well as on-the-ground benefits of different adaptation strategies. This framework can be used to guide other communities across the U.S.
Learn more about COCA’s partnership with NMFS.
22. Protecting Staten Island from Storm Surge and Erosion
New York’s Staten Island is vulnerable to wave action and erosion, particularly on its south shore in Tottenville, which experienced severe erosion from Hurricane Sandy. Researchers from the CCRUN RISA partnered with local private and nonprofit organizations on “Living Breakwaters,” a prize-winning adaptation collaboration that seeks to reduce the risks of coastal flooding and improve ecological resiliency by constructing stone breakwater barriers. Living Breakwaters will create a “necklace” of offshore breakwaters that will reduce risk, revive ecologies, and connect residents and educators to Staten Island’s southeast shoreline.
Learn more about CCRUN.
23. Building Resilience Against Hurricanes in the East and Gulf Coasts
Since 1980, hurricanes have caused over $550 billion in damages in the United States. CPO’s ocean observations are essential to NOAA reaching its goal of reducing average hurricane track and intensity error by 50 percent over the decade from 2009-19.
Learn more about CPO’s OOM Division.