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USGS Climate Change Viewer opens window on our future

"Want to see something really scary?" the demon disguised as a human asks before he reveals himself and consumes his companion in Twilight Zone: The Movie. 

I was reminded of that scene when I jumped into the new USGS Climate Change Viewer and took a look at what was projected to happen to the snowpack in my home state of Washington over the next 90 years.  By 2040, it would be 25 percent less than today.  And by 2100, it would be virtually nothing.

The U.S. Geological Survey launched the Climate Change Viewer last December with temperature and precipitation data.  Just last month, USGS added data on projected changes in snowpack, soil moisture, runoff and evaporative deficit for U.S. states and counties. 

According to Steve Hostetler, a USGS hydrologist and one of the developers of the Climate Change Viewer, the original temperature and precipitation data comes from NASA, while the climate change models that are applied come from IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Fifth Assessment Report.

The Flash-based viewer offers an initial view of the entire continental United States, though users can zoom into individual state or counties.  Alternatively, users can choose to work with watershed boundaries.

Seven variables are available for display: maximum temperature, minimum temperature, precipitation, snow, runoff, soil storage and evaporation deficit.  And beneath the map, a row of tabs lets users drill down into and display the data underlying the map, including time series that project the chosen variable through 2100.  That’s the scary stuff.

sample image from climate viewer

A PDF tutorial is also provided for those of us who may not understand the differences among the 30 mean models provided.

Hostetler and his colleague Jay Alder began building the viewer three years ago.  "We started working with Fish and Wildlife Service and the Great Northern Land Conservation Cooperative," Hostetler said.  "One thing led to another, and we decided we should actually put it into a viewer so that not only planners but also the public could access it."

Hostetler said there has been much positive response since the first release in December, which created a lot of public interest.  "I think we are up to almost 150,000 maps being generated," he said.  "The second release attracted more public interest but also more interest from federal agencies, states and universities." 

Hostetler said planners are using the tool in order to plan adaptation and mitigation strategies in their jurisdictions.  "Also, we do know universities are using it for teaching," he said.  "It's an added way for people to look at climate change."

And the USGS itself is using the viewer and its underlying data for research.  "We're starting to use the data for research," Hostetler said. "That's what we intended to do from the beginning." 

Posted by Patrick Marshall on Jun 03, 2014 at 11:43 AM

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Reader Comments

Thu, Jun 5, 2014 Scribe with a Stylus

Vice President Gore said that Manhattan would be under water by 2010. The DoD 2003 report said that regional disasters would be happening by 2010. But note their interesting caveat "but caution that the scenario depicted is extreme in two fundamental ways. First, they suggest the occurrences we outline would most likely happen in a few regions, rather than on globally. Second, they say the magnitude of the event may be considerably smaller." In other words, no matter what happens, they can claim that they were right AND they can continue to blame it on man-made causes. How can you successfully argue with that kind of approach. All regional weather disasters are caused by global warming and all moderate weather is just natural variation. - We have had 15 or 17 years of more or less level temperatures depending on whether you start the year before or the year after the super El Nino year of 1998. I would pick the 15 year number just for debate sake. This level temperature period occurred during a 15 year continued rise in CO2 levels. Similarly, during the "Coming Ice Age" period of the 1960s and 1970s, CO2 was rising. There is a rule in statistics, "correlation is not a proof of causation but lack of correlation is a proof of lack of causation." We have one period with negative correlation, one period with positive correlation and one period with zero correlation. I will let you draw your conclusions. Scribe with a Stylus

Thu, Jun 5, 2014 Shrimper

You are so right DH.... This is just the latest in the arsenal of the AGW fraudsters, to keep the fraud going, and more importantly, to further deceive the public; following the old Nazi/socialist doctine of "repeat the lie often enough and it becomes the truth". Hard to fight this fraud, when the corruption and deceit are so nearing universal presence.

Wed, Jun 4, 2014 D H

"the climate change models that are applied come from IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Fifth Assessment Report."

In other words, it's a bogus prediction designed to frighten you with junk science based on models that still fail to "predict" the last 15 years. Okay.

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