Goodbye, Denial: Free Tools Expose Localized Climate Realities
Just as people began suffering through last summer’s heat waves and bracing for hurricane season, the Biden administration published a press release touting its resilience efforts, including Heat.gov, the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, and the National Climate Resilience Framework. The White House also pointed to a rapidly expanding resilience toolkit overflowing with step-by-step assessment guidance, case studies, and tools. These resources include two visualization tools, Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation (CMRA) and the Climate Explorer, both of which can help building practitioners make the case for resilient design while also aiding them with assessments of climate change exposure, vulnerability, and risk.
Each tool leverages downscaled, highly localized climate projections to present astonishing visualizations of what the future holds, drawing data from the representative concentration pathways (RCPs, which we explain in our primer on climate change lingo). The two RCPs considered are 4.5, a low-emission scenario but not the best case, and 8.5, the worst-case scenario.
CMRA was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Department of Interior for the purpose of identifying exposure to climate hazards at the level of U.S. counties, census tracts, or Tribal lands.
The tool features plenty of buttons and knobs, comparing two different climate scenarios and displaying results for three different time periods and five different hazards—extreme heat, drought, wildfire, flooding, and coastal inundation. Users can also explore relationships between these localized climate projections and information from other federally managed tools—namely databases tracking climate justice and resilient-building-code adoption.
The Climate Explorer, also supported by NOAA but created and hosted by private-sector partners, features arresting maps whose purpose is to visualize the difference between the past and the two possible futures under consideration.
In addition to these maps, the Climate Explorer includes within its climate graphs a unique “hindcasting” feature. Hindcasts are a way to test forward-looking climate models by applying the model’s methodology to past climate conditions. That way, the modeler can assess how close their backward-looking “predictions” came to what actually happened in the past. Users of the tool can see how close the model came to recorded weather observations and can adjust expectations accordingly.
Both these tools can be used as part of a resilient design process, adding detail and granularity to considerations of hazard exposure, vulnerability, and risk at the scale of a building or an entire community.
More on resilience assessments and planning
For more information:
U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit
Melton, P. (2023, October 9). Goodbye, Denial: Free Tools Expose Localized Climate Realities. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/newsbrief/goodbye-denial-free-tools-expose-localized-climate-realities