CISA Integrating Climate Science & Decision Making in the Carolinas
A wide range of stakeholders are increasingly asking questions that require state-of-the-art information about climate variability and extremes, projections of future climate, and climate-related impacts on the Carolinas’ resources and communities. These projects seek to advance understanding of climate processes and impacts in contexts specific to these stakeholder inquiries.
CISA is collaborating with the Southeast Regional Climate Center (SERCC) to investigate linkages between climate and human health, with respect to heat stress vulnerability and waterborne disease. Working with data from the North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT), researchers are developing empirical relationships which can be exploited to build a public health toolbox that translates recent, current, and predicted weather conditions (e.g., temperature and precipitation) across the Carolinas into useful information regarding the probability of public health emergencies.
The NC Heat Health Vulnerability Tool was developed in partnership with the NC State Climate Office based on heat-related research findings. This tool has the capacity to predict heat-related ED visits at the county level based on National Weather Service daily maximum temperature forecasts. Expansion of the tool to incorporate precipitation data will extend prediction to waterborne disease-related ED visits.
Climate & Health
CISA works to develop regional scale climate information to answer questions stakeholders have about historic climate variability in the Southeast and future climate projections. Some of CISA’s contributions to these efforts were summarized in an article for the SC Water Resources Journal entitled “Climate and Water Resources in the Carolinas: Approaches to Applying Global Climate Change Information to Local Decisions.” The article provides guidance for addressing climate and water resources questions most relevant to audiences in the Carolinas.
• Assessing climate model simulation of heavy rainfall events.
In order to better understand potential change in precipitation extremes, team members evaluated the ability of downscaled regional climate models to reproduce the intensity, duration, and frequency of heavy rainfall events at a regional scale across the US. The researchers used a unique method to develop 12 regions with similar annual maximum 24-hour rainfall patterns in order to better assess regional rainfall patterns. This work can help to inform infrastructure design standards needed to manage stormwater under future climate conditions, in which heavy rainfall events are expected to intensify.
• Assessing climate sensitivity and long-term water supply reliability.
In collaboration with utility representatives from the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) in Carrboro, NC, team members are assessing the raw water supply available to determine its vulnerability to changing climatic conditions. The project is informed by the “decision scaling” approach where focus is placed on modeling a system’s response to climate in order to understand its vulnerability, rather than starting with a top-down impact assessment based on climate change projections. As a result, this project is expected to facilitate the consideration of climate change in the utility’s long-range planning.
• Climate and water resources: Climate change information for local decisions.
While recent droughts, floods, and tropical storms in the Carolinas have drawn attention to the vulnerability of the region’s water resources to climate events, decision makers are increasingly asking for information regarding how climate change will affect freshwater and coastal resources in the future. CISA researchers developed a synthesis article to provide guidance for addressing climate and water resources questions most relevant to audiences in the Carolinas. Our approach is to encourage use of a variety of climate information and resources, including the historical record, to improve overall understanding of the systems in question, the linkages to climate, and variables (climate or non-climate) of greatest concern. We also work to clearly communicate the various levels of uncertainty associated with different climate variables and help decision makers and scientists determine which tools are most appropriate for specific questions.