WWETAC Projects

Project Title: Downscaling meteorological datasets for climate change assessments

Principal Investigator: John Abatzoglou, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID

Collaborator: Alan Ager, Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center

Status: Ongoing

E-mail Contact: John Abatzoglou, jabatzaglou[at]uidaho.edu

Summary: Climate and weather are key abiotic drivers of ecosystems and disturbance. While ecosystems have evolved and adapted to the historical range of variability of these abiotic influences, projected changes in climate over the 21st century have the potential to produce abiotic conditions that exceed the historic range of variability, with widespread implications across the Western US. To better understand the impacts of climate change on natural disturbances including wildlife and bark beetles projected changes in climate need to be incorporated into models at spatial and temporal scales relevant to the process of interest.  This includes addressing potential extreme weather and climate events beyond the natural range of variability, which are likely to pose significant threats to ecosystems already at-risk, and illustrates the need for datasets that encompass a spectrum of timescales and incorporate changes in variability. While the production of downscaled climate datasets has exploded in recent years, most of these datasets are limited by temporal resolution (i.e., they are typically monthly resolution), output variables (i.e., they typically only produce temperature and precipitation projections), and methods (i.e., they typically cannot incorporate changes in higher-order statistical moments or spatial patterns).  Models for key disturbances, including wildfire and bark beetles require finer temporal resolution data to capture their potential effects on forest ecosystems.

This project proposes a novel approach to downscaling meteorological data for climate change risk assessment. The methods described herein overcome the known limitations of available downscaling methodologies and provide the ability to assess extreme weather and climate events as well as additional meteorological variables relevant to ecological impacts. The resulting datasets can be utilized for existing WWETAC projects concerning climate change impacts that ultimately will lead to a climate change framework that allows land managers to identify potentially vulnerable areas; prioritize investment in projects to increase the resilience of forests and grasslands; and incorporate projected changes in fire danger into development of fire management plans, State forest assessments, and other strategic land management plans.

Product: Daily and monthly gridded at 8-km horizontal resolution climate data covering the time slices for the middle and late 21st century (SRES-A1B) runs as well as late 20th century (20C3M) runs, in addition to the daily historical observations (1980-2008) for the Pacific Northwest.

Project ID: FY10AA76