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Western Landscapes

Climate Centers

Western Regional Climate Center

Established in 1986 the Western Regional Climate Center (WRCC) delivers climate services at national, regional and state levels as one of six regional climate centers in the country.  It is a consortium comprised of eleven states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and the Pacific Islands.  The climate data output and activities concentrates on water, wildfire, agriculture and energy.

The Western Regional Climate Center is governed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and presided over by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS).

The center utilizes applied research to identify climate concerns that affect the Western United States.  Key areas of focus involve impacts of climate variability; El Nino climate patterns and their impacts on western climate, climatic patterns, trends and fluctuations in the western U.S. and ensuring quality control of western climate databases.

The Western Regional Climate Center is a nexus for orchestrating applied climate activities in the West and administers applied research on climate issues impacting the West.  This integrated approach produces collaboratively developed products, services, and capacity that improve the transmission of climate information to partners and the public.

USGS Climate Science Centers

The dramatic effect of climate change from Alaska to the Everglades threatens human populations, native species and their habitats.  The United States Geological Survey (USGS) under the Department of Interior operates a National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center in Washington D.C. Their purpose is to address the impacts of climate change on the nations water, land, and other natural and cultural resources.  In 2009, a paradigm shift marked a change on how to best manage the effects of climate change by disseminating strategic scientific research hubs were established across the nation down to the local level.

Organ Pipe Cactus

Organ Pipe Cactus (Miles Hemstrom)

The result was the establishment of 8 Regional Climate Science Centers (CSC) given the responsibility to increase the understanding of climate change and to deliver information at the regional and local level. This includes scientific data, response strategies and planning for future impacts.  Successful information sharing and planning efforts has been accomplished through partnerships involving public, private and academic sectors at the local level within a CSC region.  The nexus of these partnerships at the local level is the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC).  This sequence of partnerships has ensured a tailored approach to each community’s unique set of challenges posed by the impacts of climate change.

The purpose of each CSC is to provide the best available scientific data, tools and practices in resource management.  This comprehensive approach integrates land use changes and impacts such as drought, wildfire, habitat fragmentation, contaminants, pollution, invasive species, disease and rapidly changing climate.  These challenges can threaten human populations, native species and their habitats.  Current regional projects involving state, federal, academic and industry participants are addressing:

  • Adapting water management strategies to droughts and shrinking water supplies.
  • Restoring natural systems and constructing infrastructure to mitigate flood risks.
  • Planning new wildlife corridors due to shifting wildlife populations.
  • Managing invasive exotic plant and animal species.
  • Preventing and managing increased wildfire threats.

Climate Science Centers (CSCs) focus on understanding landscape climate variability and change to improve coordination and delivery of information.  Improved data sharing and communication has led to better preparation for unpredictable events and debilitating weather disasters.

Global ecosystems are undergoing significant changes from increased temperatures, fluctuating precipitation and rising sea levels often induced by the driving force of climate change.  These changes have devastated local communities, economies and the ecology of landscapes across the United States.  Climate Science Centers are integral to the climate change stratagem set forth by the Department of Interior with community partnerships at the heart of its success.

Relevant Links

NOAA Western Regional Climate Center

USDI Regional Climate Science Centers (CSCs)

USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Center

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives


Authored by Luca De Stefanis, Institute For Natural Resources (2012)