As part of the sustained National Climate Assessment, the U.S. Global Change Research Program has developed a set of indicators to communicate key aspects of our changing environment. These indicators—or observations that can be used to measure the status, trend, or performance of a given system—translates complex scientific data into an easily digestible format. The scientific information show trends in physical climate conditions, climate impacts, and vulnerabilities, as well as other ecological or societal metrics, which can be used to understand how our environment is changing, and ultimately inform decisions about climate change preparedness.
UNC Asheville’s NEMAC worked with the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and partners to develop a consistent graphical style for the indicators developed for the pilot project. This collaboration focused on how data should be represented in order to accurately and effectively communicate the message of the lead scientist and agency contributors, who provided the research and data for the indicator.
Key decisions in the development of the style guide included color scheme and graphic type, as well as explanatory text and the use of complimentary graphics to explain spatial trends. NEMAC then worked with the USGCRP team to develop graphic prototypes, which—once approved by the science leads—were then published as final versions for the pilot project. NEMAC contributed to over 30 indicator graphics over the project year. The final 14 indicator graphics of the pilot project are:
- Annual Greenhouse Gas Index
- Artic Sea Ice Extent
- Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
- Forest Cover
- Frost-Free Season
- Global Surface Temperatures
- Grassland, Shrubland, and Pasture Cover
- Heating and Cooling Degree Days
- Ocean Chlorophyll Concentrations
- Sea Surface Temperatures
- Start of Spring
- Terrestrial Carbon Storage
- U.S Surface Temperatures
- Vibrio Infections
Additionally, NEMAC collaborated with the USGCRP team to research ways of developing dynamic versions of the above graphics. The use of interactivity provides another avenue for user understanding of the data, and can provide deeper meaning to the scientific information. These animated and interactive versions of the data are still in prototype version, but will be released soon.
NEMAC provided an online internal work environment for the USGCRP Indicator graphics team using a Drupal content management system. This application allowed for easy collaboration among remote team members and provided a documented versioning system for each graphic.