Strategic Climate Objective: II Assess Climate and Its Impacts

NOAA has strong core capabilities (observing systems, models, and integrated services) that enable the agency to deliver climate services for informed decision-making. Over the next five years, the agency will leverage its core capabilities and engage with key partners on three types of climate assessments: (i) national and international science assessments, (ii) problem-focused assessments, and (iii) needs assessments.

NOAA's current and planned investment in these three types of assessments will help clarify the nature and causes of current and expected climate impacts. It will also improve understanding of the United States' vulnerability to climate and its impacts and, through continuous engagement with stakeholders, will inform climate adaptation and mitigation strategies at all levels of society.

National and International Climate Science Assessments

These assessments generally address problems and issues of broad interest (such as issues that affect large regions, including the entire globe) and are often of national and international policy relevance, and occur on a time frame established by national and international panels. National and International Climate Science assessments are deliberative and focus on a broad set of peer-reviewed and open-source material. The primary goal is to assess the state of knowledge in areas of climate science and impacts relevant to climate change adaptation and mitigation. These assessments tend to take a substantial amount of time to complete because of the thorough review processes.

Problem-Focused Climate Science Assessments

These assessments are often time-sensitive and address specific climate-sensitive issues, are in response to significant changes in environmental conditions, and support policy, planning and decision-making at local to regional levels. They can also be embedded in larger scale National and International assessments. Problem-Focused Climate Science Assessments often use National and International Climate Science Assessments as a starting point, but generally require additional analyses, reprocessing, interpretation, and information to focus more tightly on a specific problem, or place. Problem-Focused Climate Science Assessments also can address the efficacy of current or planned climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Examples of Problem-Focused Climate Science Assessment include: (i) the rapid evaluation of recent changes and trends in extreme climate events, especially their impacts, (ii) the analysis of whether or not these changes and trends portend future impacts especially as related to specific aspects of a region's infrastructure, ecosystems, or economics, and (iii) the review of whether current adaptation or mitigation efforts are meeting intended goals. This kind of assessment can lead to the development of easy-to-use decision-support tools and the timely flow of data and information to support such tools.

Needs Assessments

NOAA is partnering with other agencies, academia, policy advisors, decision makers, and the public in the development of Needs Assessments. The goal is to conduct systematic investigations of stakeholder needs and capacity in order to identify aspects of individual knowledge, skill, interest, attitude and/or abilities relevant to climate and climate issues. Needs assessments are done on an ongoing basis to continue to evaluate stakeholder needs for information, products, and services. These assessments can include stakeholder analysis, surveys, interviews, workshops/focus groups, cost-benefit analysis, content analysis, and/or non-market valuation. Methods are based on current social science techniques for determining needs and vulnerability, and follow standard procedures for transparency, openness, and reproducibility.

Needs Assessments can lead to targeted new products and services, including decision-support tools for addressing climate risk and vulnerability at local and regional levels. Over the next 5 years, NOAA's Needs Assessments will focus on four societal challenges:

  1. climate impacts on water resources
  2. coasts and climate resilience to local sea level
  3. sustainability of marine ecosystems
  4. changes in the extremes of weather and climate

Objective Lead:

Anne Waple, Climate Assessment Program Manager
NOAA National Climatic Data Center

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    Americans’ health, security and economic wellbeing are tied to climate and weather. Every day, we see communities grappling with environmental challenges due to unusual or extreme events related to climate and weather. In 2011, the United States experienced a record high number (14) of climate- and weather-related disasters where overall costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. Combined, these events claimed 670 lives, caused more than 6,000 injuries, and cost $55 billion in damages. Businesses, policy leaders, resource managers and citizens are increasingly asking for information to help them address such challenges.