"It takes this esoteric realm of climate modeling and it brings it down to Earth"—Chris Zganjar, Nature Conservancy Applied Climate Change Scientist
Global climate change is happening — but how will it affect your neck of the woods? When the weather goes weird, how do we know if it’s climate change — and when can we expect today’s unexpected to be the new norm?
Meet Climate Wizard. Developed by Nature Conservancy scientists along with our partners at the University of Washington and the University of Southern Mississippi, Climate Wizard allows anyone to access climate change data and visualize temperature and precipitation impacts anywhere on Earth at a local scale.
Scientists have modeled climate change for many years, and they've developed dozens of models to understand its affects on temperature and precipitation. But the information has been largely inaccessible to people outside the scientific community.
Climate Wizard makes that climate data more widely available in a user-friendly format to city planners, conservationists, farmers — anyone that wants to understand the potential impacts of climate change.
“It provides a loose road map for the future in terms of climate change,” says Climate Wizard developer and Conservancy scientist Chris Zganjar. “It gives you something right now to visualize it and develop concrete ways to plan for the future.”
Climate Wizard allows users to drill down in both time and space and see the climate change that has occurred to date and the climate change expected to come — at a resolution of 12 or 50-square kilometers anywhere in the world.
This ability to scale down global climate data to specific locations makes Climate Wizard a path-breaking tool for informing climate dilemmas as diverse as:
- Assessing the dangers of extreme floods to dam operations in Chile;
- Helping the U.S. Department of Defense determine the future water balance of the Tigris and Euphrates River systems;
- Predicting vegetation shifts in Southeast Colorado; and
- Developing climate resilient irrigation schedules in southern Spain.
Most recently, the World Bank has adopted Climate Wizard technology to assess and model changes in a) water availability, b) flood and drought stress and associated changes in agricultural productivity, and c) flood damage and heat stress. Nature Conservancy scientists will derive additional data on soil moisture, groundwater recharge, and changes in growing seasons. By the end of the year, Climate Wizard will also be able to put extreme events occurring today — like an extended heat wave across the Eastern seaboard — in a climate-change context.
“You can’t look at one weather event, but you can look at frequency,” says Zganjar. “The data set we’re developing with The World Bank will allow Climate Wizard to say how frequently we can expect a heat wave occurring now will occur again — maybe even when to expect it.”