U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit
The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit—a Webby Award-nominated website—provides scientific tools, information, and expertise to help people manage their climate-related risks and opportunities, and improve their resilience to extreme events. The site is designed to serve interested citizens, communities, businesses, resource managers, planners, and policy leaders at all levels of government.
A Climate-Smart Approach to Taking Action
To built the Toolkit, U.S. federal government agencies gathered resources that can help people take action to build their climate resilience. The impacts of climate change—including higher temperatures, heavier downpours, more frequent and intense droughts, wildfires, and floods, and sea level rise—are affecting communities, businesses, and natural resources across the nation.
Now is the time to act. For some, taking a business-as-usual approach has become more risky than taking steps to build their climate resilience. People who recognize they are vulnerable to climate variability and change can work to reduce their vulnerabilities, and find win-win opportunities that simultaneously boost local economies, create new jobs, and improve the health of ecosystems. This is a climate-smart approach—investing in activities that build resilience and capacity while reducing risk.
What’s in the Toolkit? How can it help?
Using plain language and easy-to-use tools, the Climate Resilience Toolkit illustrates climate-related vulnerabilities that people face, from national to local scales, and summarizes specific steps they can take to become more resilient. The site offers the following resources:
- Steps to Resilience—a five-step process you can follow to initiate, plan, and implement projects to become more resilient to climate-related hazards.
- Real-world Case Studies describing climate-related risks and opportunities that communities and businesses face, steps they’re taking to plan and respond, and tools and techniques they’re using to improve resilience.
- A catalog of freely available Tools for accessing and analyzing climate data, generating visualizations, exploring climate projections, estimating hazards, and engaging stakeholders in resilience-building efforts.
- Climate Explorer—a visualization tool that offers maps of climate projects at the county scale. The legacy version of this tool includes climate stressors and impacts and interactive graphs showing daily observations and long-term averages from thousands of weather stations.
- Topic narratives that explain how climate variability and change can impact particular regions of the country and sectors of society.
- A beta version of a Regional section with a focus on climate impacts and building climate resilience in Alaska and the Arctic, Hawai’i and Pacific Islands, and the Northeast.
- Pointers to free, federally developed training courses that can build skills for using climate tools and data.
- Maps highlighting the locations of centers where federal and state agencies can provide regional climate information.
- The ability to Search the entire federal government’s climate science domain and filter results according to your interests.
Toolkit Development and Management
This inter-agency initiative operates under the auspices of the United States Global Change Research Program. The site is managed by NOAA’s Climate Program Office and is hosted by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
The Toolkit is built in the Drupal content management system. It was developed over a six-month period by a partnership of federal agencies and organizations led by NOAA and initially launched on November 17, 2014. Version 1.5—with a clean, mobile-friendly design—was launched in July 2016.
UNC Asheville’s NEMAC is an integral part of the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit development and editorial team. NEMAC staff partnered with NOAA personnel for the site’s initial conception and development, working from the brainstorming stage through design, content development, and initial launch. We continue to work closely with NOAA’s Climate Program Office to manage the site’s design, development, and content.
In addition to the Toolkit’s website, NEMAC staff also developed the initial version of its featured tool: Climate Explorer. Climate Explorer is a visualization tool that offers maps of climate stressors and impacts, as well as interactive graphs showing daily observations and long-term averages from thousands of weather stations across the nation.
Coastal exposure analysis
As sea levels rise and heavy precipitation events occur with increased intensity and frequency, many coastal communities—both human and natural—become more vulnerable to the impacts caused by our changing climate: coastal erosion, flooding, impaired water quality, and storm surge, to name a few.
To identify landscapes where community and natural assets are potentially exposed to damage caused by impacts of these climate hazards, NEMAC partnered with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to develop a strategy to increase the resilience of valued coastal communities and fish and wildlife habitats.
Through the integration of GIS analysis and spatial modeling with a vulnerability assessment methodology, the resulting products aim to expand the understanding of coastal resilience needs for areas in North Carolina’s Cape Fear River Basin—and also more broadly in the coastal watersheds of the South Atlantic, the North Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico—and can assist stakeholders in determining priority areas where valued assets are most vulnerable.
Identifying Exposure to Severe Storm and Flood Events
This analysis focuses on the concept of exposure, defined as the location of a community’s asset—such as a school, a home, or its people—in relation to an area potentially impacted by a threat or hazard. Community resilience (or vulnerability) to natural hazards and threats is dependent upon both exposure and the capacity the community has to cope.
To identify places where assets are most exposed to flood hazards, two models were created:
- Threat Index: a model spatially depicting relevant hazards and their potential intensities
- Community Asset Index: a model spatially depicting the presence and quantity of relevant assets
The two models were then combined to understand where and at what intensity assets are potentially impacted by hazards. The result of these combined models is the Exposure Index. Areas with the highest presence of threats and the highest presence of valued community assets were determined as being the most exposed.
Applying the Exposure Analysis
Using the Exposure Index, different landscape types—such as open spaces, protected areas, and human communities—can then be further analyzed to identify vulnerabilities to flooding and storm events.
The following is a preview of the models created in this analysis:
Landscape dynamics assessment tool | LanDAT
Landscape resilience can be thought of as a landscape’s capacity to maintain its defining characteristics and functions, even while landscape change is ongoing. To assist planners and resource managers in understanding this ongoing change and allow them to incorporate landscape resilience and vulnerability into planning, NEMAC is supporting the U.S. Forest Service Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center in the delivery of the Landscape Dynamics Assessment Tool (LanDAT), a tool to assess landscape dynamics based on satellite-observed vegetation change.
Landscapes are usually a complex mix of different kinds of land uses and vegetation types, aspects of the natural and built environments, and edges between various patch types. These characteristics are constantly changing as a result of both human and natural influences—potentially changing the ways in which people are able to benefit from the land’s natural productivity and conservation values.
With LanDAT, resource managers and planners should be able to measure and assess the changing capacities of landscapes to sustain important ecosystem services, taking into account land use change, climate variability, and other stressors.
Supporting Resource Managers and Planners
LanDAT can be used to support resource managers and planners as they identify opportunities for restoration and other conservation actions, help spatially model for species and resources of concern, help understand drivers of landscape change, and assist in the interpretation of the shifting landscape mosaic through a “systems” lens.
The concept of resilience helps to frame LanDAT’s efforts, allowing for a better understanding of how habitat change impacts the ecological services beneficial to people and their communities.
LanDAT launched in 2017.