User-Friendly Climate Change Prediction Tool Available

June 10, 2009

Localizing predictions of climate change remains tenuous. But a team of researchers from the Univ. of Washington, the Univ. of Southern Mississippi, and the Nature Conservancy has given it a shot.

Their tool, called ClimateWizard, was announced May 29, 2009. The Nature Conservancy and a few other sources funded the project. The team says this is the most user-friendly version for this type of predicted climate change information. It includes some of the data that has been provided to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The zoomable site lets you see their prognostications for the globe's temperature and precipitation at a relatively small scale, such as that of a state. You can also choose one of three points on the spectrum of predicted change -- low, medium, or high -- for either mid-century or end of the century, and compare those to conditions half a century ago.

Their projections are based on a range of government, university, and organization information that they document on their Web site. This team then consolidated information and made their best estimates of small-scale effects.

Keep in mind that, although the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its Fourth Assessment Report, released Nov. 17, 2007, that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal," the IPCC also acknowledged a host of limitations in its overall projections, particularly predictions at anything smaller than the continental scale. These limitations include a lack of numerous kinds of data, the effects of local human adaptation and land use changes, and non-climatic forces such as pollution.

  • IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Synthesis Report, Topic 6 (Robust Findings, Key Uncertainties), page 72.

In an earlier report published about a decade ago, additional limiting factors noted were the variable effects of mountains, narrow land masses, and large bodies of water that aren't well accounted for.

In addition, the science that has been developed since the 2007 report was released has provided more information, and many experts are saying that the report was too conservative, with temperature increases likely to be greater.

With these caveats in mind, ClimateWizard may still be a useful takeoff point for covering estimated temperature and precipitation changes in your area.