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Climate Impact Visualization Tools/Toolbox for City/Town Planning and Outreach


Small and medium-sized towns and cities need access to actionable information on local climate change impacts to better understand and visualize climate impacts on their jurisdictions, enhance their ability to visualize and show climate-related risks and impacts to their constituents and their governing bodies, send and receive real-time communications to and from their constituents in a timely manner, and use all the gathered information to improve planning and decision-making.


Large cities such as New York City and Chicago have staff devoted to studying and communicating climate impacts in their jurisdictions.  These cities have climate adaptation plans and have projects aimed at adapting infrastructure and social systems to a changing climate.  Smaller jurisdictions lack the resources and the expertise for similar activities, yet they face similar risks and challenges.


Funding will be used to develop new and innovative climate visualization tools and/or toolboxes containing virtual tools in response to these jurisdictional needs.  These tools will improve jurisdictions’ ability to understand, plan for and adapt to climate variability and change and will also ensure that they have an ability to communicate data and information in a timely manner, even during natural disasters when conventional means of communications become unavailable due to gridlock or system overload.


There are a variety of freely available climate impact visualization tools available (e.g.,,,  However there is a need to better integrate these existing data visualization tools with the mapping and planning tools that local planners currently use, in order to make climate information useful for actionable local decision-making.


Project Goals:  In the last decade, there has been an increased awareness and understanding of global, regional, and local-scale impacts of climate variability and change.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. government, through national climate assessments, have alerted the public that we will continue to see changes in our climate through more intense precipitation and temperature-related weather and climate events as well as longer droughts and more devastating floods.  Those living in coastal areas are also more aware of the potential for a rising sea and many have personally witnessed increased storm surges.


Increasingly, local municipal authorities realize that they need to make plans to cope with and adapt to these changes, and a number of organizations and federal agencies have begun to provide tools and services to support this planning.  For example, the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) is studying how to best provide information on drought; and the NOAA Coastal Services Center has a number of tools for coastal planners on their website (e.g.,,,


However, these planning tools and services are not always integrated effectively or used optimally because local planners may not: (a) be aware the tools exist, (b) know what information they need, and where or how to access it, (c) have information at a usable spatial or temporal scale, and/or (d) have skills needed to use or manipulate the tools.


The goal of this project is to develop new and innovative climate visualization tools and/or toolboxes that help local urban planners understand and plan for ongoing and future climate impacts.  Included in the scope of this project is a guaranteed ability for local government official and decision makers to send and receive communications to and from their constituents in a very timely manner (within seconds) during weather- and climate-related disasters and extreme events.


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:

·      Identify a sector to target tool

·      Evaluate existing tools and websites used by city and urban planners

·      Work with advisory board to assess needs for tools

·      Develop list of modules and parameters that are necessary for visualization tool or toolbox (with help of advisory board) – some potential sections might include (but are not limited to) direct links to other cities’ plans, the ability to produce a briefing packet for outreach, ability to analyze discreet problems and suggestions for adaptation strategies

·      List all input parameters

·      Identify any information or data that will require significant manipulation for inclusion in tool

·      Identify robust communication pathways or networks that will remain viable even during times of “bandwidth gridlock”; characterize the database and transmission protocols that will be needed; and describe any programming and/or integration work that will be necessary.

·      Complete a work plan and design for prototype visualization tool or toolbox.


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

  • Develop prototype visualization tool or toolbox with help of person knowledgeable in communication of information
  • Test tool with advisory board or local jurisdiction
  • Revise tool after testing
  • Test tool with another jurisdiction
  • Revise accordingly, develop production-ready prototype
  • Identify professional organizations and trade magazines in which to market tool, as part of overall market strategy
  • Demonstrate proof-of-concept tools and network that ensures very timely communications will remain viable even during times of conventional telecommunication “gridlock.”
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