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RISA-NCAR Similar Missions, Complementary Goals
RISA-NCAR Collaboration Proposal

RISA-NCAR Meetings
Tuscon, AZ - March 20, 2006
Meeting Notes


Susi Moser (NCAR), Holy Hartman (CLIMAS), David Yates (NCAR), Hannah Campbell (NOAA-RISA), Brad Udall (WW), Keith Ingram (SE), Gregg Garfin (CLIMAS), Dan White (AK), Barbara Morehouse (CLIMAS), Linda Mearns (NCAR), Eileen Shea (PI), Kathy Jacobs (CLIMAS, SARAH), and Niina Haas (CLIMAS).

Introductory Discussion

We began the workshop with a round of introductions and overviews of the three topics we decided to focus our collaboration on initially.

  1. NARCCAP Overview
    • Presentation by Linda Mearns (will be made available) – provided technical overview, goals, spatial domain, time periods for which model simulations will be produced, timeline for producing results. Followed by Q&A:
    • What are the chances for expanding the spatial domain over Alaska? Currently, the Canadian model will provide downscaled data up to the pole (using three AOGCMs) and time slice experiments; don’t know how likely it is to get additional regionally downscaled data, but Linda Mearns will bring this up with the NARCCAP group
    • Time slice experiments will also be available for Hawaii
    • Why are not all AOGCMs included in NARCCAP? – would be ideal to include more, but not possible with available resources; the current line-up is the best they could do to meet various user groups’ needs and with the $$ they could obtain.
    • AOGCMs included are those preferred by most of the regional climate modelers.
    • All have participated in the IPCC AR4 runs.
    • Statisticians will develop probabilistic information for the simulations, and put those in the context of the full suite of model outputs currently available.
    • The current choice of AOGCMs sample models from the middle of the range of climate sensitivity
    • What’s the issue with the mismatch of the physics between AOGCMs and RCMs? The fundamental argument is: one camp – all physics should be the same in the AOGCM and RCM - other camp – this basically doesn’t matter – schemes used by the models can be different. For some processes that are very scale dependent (e.g. convection parameterizations) one may want to use different schemes for the different models (coarse and fine resolution). This is a long-standing debate in the modeling community, and NARCCAP may well help to get resolution on some of the key questions.
    • How far into northern Mexico does the domain reach? And how good is the model output on the edges of the domain? There is an area of about 5 grid points around the edges of the domain that would not be valid for analysis – this is the area where the boundaries from the AOGCM and the calculations of the RCM are ‘blended.’ CLIMAS is interested in the region from the southern tip of Baja California north, and that region should be covered well by the RCM projections.
    • There will be several research groups that will further downscale the RCM outputs (from 50km resolution to 10 or even smaller; “double nesting”)

  2. Water-Weather-Climate Connection

  3. Everyone talked about their past work and current/future interests in working on water-related issues in their regions.

    • CLIMAS has focused much of its work on
      • drought planning;
      • evaluation of seasonal and shorter-term climate and hydrological forecasts (and how to effectively communicate these forecasts and evaluations); this is critical for many users (whether they know it yet or not) – giving them quantitative information on how good forecasts are; RISAs are developing a shared understanding with users what information means
      • development of decision support tools (e.g., near- to real-time forecasting of stream flows) and distributing these forecasts and “alerts” via email lists to various users;
      • information management – making lots of information efficiently available in customized formats;
      • linking longer-term scenarios (climate, development, population etc.) to short-term, current operational management;
      • water markets and the economic side of irrigation efficiency
    • many of the insights gained in these projects are or may be transferable to other projects and regions
    • the forecast evaluation issue raises a number of challenging liability issues – something RISAs specifically and the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) in general, despite it’s growing emphasis on decision support, have not yet addressed; liability protection should maybe be addressed at this higher level
    • PACIFIC ISLANDS has not had much money to do original research, and also hasn’t had much money to develop tools;
      • is still interested in working with NCAR on developing better precipitation forecasts in the island context
      • focal interest in that region are extremes (droughts and floods, and related hazards)
    • ALASKA – in this region, water and precipitation mediate many of the expected impacts from climate change
      • Water for drinking, especially in rural areas
      • Water for transportation (e.g., travel over tundra, permafrost, frozen rivers, ice roads); has many implications for subsistence activities and for exploitation of other economic resources (e.g., oil); greatest interest is in changing timing of precipitation, freezing, ice out etc., and to a somewhat lesser extent changes in amount of precipitation
      • Changes in sea ice – critical for coastal communities and subsistence
      • Changes in river flows and temperatures (e.g., impact on salmon)
      • Changes in permafrost and relationship to changes in surface water resources given the semi-/arid cold climate
    • SOUTHEAST has mostly focused on agricultural issues, but of course, water is relevant here, too, in particular water quality issues. Hope to work more with water utilities in the future
      • In the Lake Okechobee area, did a survey of stakeholders in terms of what kinds of forecasts they want on water resources
      • Trying to leverage other ongoing work in the Flint River (GA, FL) area by bringing in a climate variability perspective and link to economic impacts on communities
      • Interested in forecasting droughts
      • They have worked in the past to link crop models with hydrologic models – obvious next step to link to climate models; goal is to propose some best management practice (BMP) recommendations; if adopted by farmers and other decision-makers, they are somewhat shielded from audits and other requirements; trying to make the BMPs phase-specific (i.e., reflecting the strong ENSO-signal in the SE)
      • They also already have some web-based decision-support tool (, and eventually would like to have a similar one for water resource managers
    • WESTERN WATER works along various time-scales
      • Streamflow reconstruction (paleo timescale) over 400-500 years in the Colorado River basin was a good way to gain traction with stakeholders; showed that not mean, but variability is the key story for management along the Colorado River
      • Seasonal forecasting is focused on disentangling the very complex ENSO signal that the Rocky Mountain region has
      • Would have a great interest in seeing RISAs collaborate with NCAR in the Colorado River Basin (CRB); the basin includes politically very different states (total of 7) vis-à-vis climate change (California-Utah…) in terms of people’s understanding, willingness to act etc; could reach huge population centers; could make important new scientific contributions beyond the four main studies already out there in the CRB (University of Washington, 2002; Peter Gleick, two studies; and Revelle/Wagonner, 1980s); also Bureau of Reclamation – there is also – in Colorado – an important, but narrow window of opportunity with the reauthorization of operational plan to be completed by 2008, Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) getting underway now.
    • Yates highlighted several pieces of work relevant here:
      • Work with the Denver-based American Water Works Association Resources Foundation (AWWARF) and their member water utilities (Primer on climate change for utilities by Miller and Yates), now going into a second phase, additional research; whereas they could barely interest them a few years back in climate change, now they can barely meet their interest
      • Work in California on dam reauthorization
      • Building decision tools for longer-range forecasts at the regional/basin scale

  4. Capturing and Evaluation of RISA Experience

  5. This project was proposed initially by Eileen Shea. It is also of great interest to Susi who did an evaluation of the stakeholder involvement in the First US National Assessment for the National Academies. There are a number of reasons why an evaluation (scope to be defined) would be a good idea, including:

    • pretty soon, OGP will have to “defend” the RISAs, simply because they have become somewhat the poster child for climate services; do they actually accomplish what they were designed to do?
    • RISAs may very well also have to defend themselves vis-à-vis other groups who may compete to become RISAs or who want to offer similar services in the same regions
    • RISAs are currently set up as a natural experiment for comparison and insight: they vary in age, design, size, regional role, management, and topical foci
    • One could also think of such an evaluation exercise as a way to think ahead: identify gaps, develop some foundation from which other future collaborative projects could emerge
    • The PACIFIC ISLAND RISA has a very specific near-term need for such an evaluation as it needs to submit a new proposal for funding its the next phase (was asked to do an evaluation in preparation for this proposal), and because – as part of an emerging Pacific Climate Information System – will need to fit into a larger yet-to-be-developed plan for the PCIS.
    • The ALSKA RISA – just about to get started – also offers a unique opportunity to take stock of “initial conditions”, plans, designs, etc. and then observe its evolution over time, observe its impact on users, and thus maybe have an opportunity to see some causal connections between a RISA’s existence and workings and its relevance and impact on the ground.
    • From NOAA’s perspective, the Climate Program Office has a priority to find out how well we are doing in communicating climate services to stakeholders, how context-specific is a particular model of doing so? Which lessons are transferable? Can we identify gaps in what we should focus on? Always an interest in identifying metrics to measure the impact of RISAs. So, NOAA would very much welcome such an evaluation.
    • Overall, such an evaluation project should be designed as a partnership between the RISAs and NCAR so that it does not just produce some interesting research article, but truly meet the needs of the RISAs (individually and collectively). The trick will be to maintain balance such active partnership with the need for a somewhat objective assessment of RISAs.

    Breakout Group Discussions

    Much of the rest of the day was spent rotating from breakout group to breakout group, so that everyone had a chance to help shape and offer input into these three themes/project areas. There were about 3-4 people in each subgroup per breakout session. [The notes below are pretty much raw discussion notes.]

  6. NARCCAP Overview

  7. - discussion of needed/supplied variables (seems like the NARCCAPers are already saving the right variables); a few additional variables (or frequency) would be useful

    - discussion of domain expansion over Alaska; had further discussion on that

    - mutual education about NARCCAP at RISA PI and NARCCAP user meeting. The NARCCAP user meeting is being planned for the fall (likely late October).

    - NCAR and RISAs can write grants together based on some NARCCAP outputs (e.g., on Colorado River) which can help solidify this partnership

    - we have something to offer to Hawaii with the time slice experiments, can then go on to downscale even further – which is critical given the complex island topography > add into her program plan – Eileen and Linda will discuss further and come up with detailed plan.

    Next Steps:

      1. Need to further develop some of the specific regional ideas (e.g., AK, PI)
      2. Linda Mearns will communicate back to NARCCAP team on needs for specific variables and domain size issues
      3. Linda will involve RISAs (and their stakeholders) in users group workshop for NARCCAP outputs (~October 2006).
      4. NARCCAP can make specific contributions to a river basin-focused NCAR-RISA project (see water theme)

  8. Water-Weather-Climate Connection

  9. Key issues RISAs could gain from collaboration with NCAR. What are cross RISA/NCAR issues that will benefit all?

    - Southwest and Alaska

    - Notes from first breakout group session:

    • Focus on small communities
    • water resources reliability-
    • alternative evaluation/management
    • quality/quantity
    • water re-use
    • evaluation of vulnerabilities
    • Understanding precipitation
    • Climate change and climate variability
    • What is best approach mechanism
      • Tools, adaptation, response
      • Tools for evaluating various options
    • Weather modification
      • Re-use
      • Watershed modification
      • Rainfall enhancement
      • Snow fall enhancement
      • Conditions for Ag.
      • Climate Responsive Management
    • Conservation
    • Quantity vs. quality and relationship to ecology
    • Ecosystem response
    • Threshold of managed systems...where are they and how can things be re-managed?
      • Power production capacity
      • Hydro-power and energy
      • Water and energy nexus

    - Notes from second breakout group session

    • Understanding Precipitation - The “Character of Precipitation” and teaming with the NCAR Water Cycle Initiative. (perhaps get at how climate change could lead to changes in the nature of rainfall at the local level).
      • Weather generators with spatial coherence
      • 2-week forecast model
    • Climate Variability and Climate Change
      • Drought, water quality and the cost of desalinization
    • Coastal Resources
      • Gulf and East Coasts
      • California
    • Vegetation and ecological gradients – From Grand Canyon to Arizona peaks.
    • Population growth projections
    • FERC reliscencing process ( Carolina very active already, others not yet)

    - Notes from third breakout group session

    • Collaboration among RISA’s on the Colorado River with NCAR. To address high priority issue (e.g. drought). A bit of money from the OGP.. multi-RISA collaboration.
    • Small Islands- Getting the rainfall “right”. How long will it last.. wet or dry season. Rainfall projections that reflect the changing ENSO conditions.
    • Water/Tourism/Agriculture: 3 main economic drivers.

    - Summary:

    • collaboration among RISAs on the Colorado River basin; address high-priority issue, such as drought
    • NCAR doesn’t do mid-range forecasts (but good at very short-term and long-term); strategic decision because IRI and Scripps are doing that >> role of NCAR to bring communities together to discuss intermediate forecasting
    • maybe try to reach out more to Western Governors

    Next Steps:

      1. Work toward collaborative project on Colorado River Basin; too good to pass up
      2. Involve a couple of RISAs in AWWARF proposal; deadline 4/15; almost every RISA should be interested in that (e.g., integrated resource plans)

  10. Evaluation Project
    • maybe focus more narrowly on stakeholder interaction, rather than on all of RISA
    • building profiles of RISAs (rather than “evaluation”)
    • compare RISAs in different stages (Phase 0 - AK, I - PI, II-other)
    • after three years there is a program review, as lead up to the next funding proposal for the 5-year proposal; not done again officially at end of 5-yr proposal (only internal review)
    • annual reports to NOAA are good reality checks
    • CLIMAS does annual retreat to help integration, continued engagement
    • Proof of concept phase can be more narrowly focused on stakeholder interactions – what can be done?
    • Maybe pursue two tracks: something with PI and capture what the new AK RISA is thinking of doing (don’t miss this window of opportunity to build baseline for longitudinal study later).
    • Try to also capture input from other RISAs in helping AK design theirs (e.g., from CLIMAS, PI).
    • Draw on panel reviews of RISAs – good source of evaluation criteria
    • Use these evaluations as a way to help RISAs learn from each other
    • Look at how language and ideas about RISAs have changed over time (trajectory of knowledge, lessons learned, critiques – how have they changed over time; moving the cutting edge forward)
    • Dissemination of RISA idea beyond RISAs (e.g., SARAH)
    • Avoid getting too prescriptive, evaluate RISAs within the context of their own trajectories (progress toward their own goals)
    • Over time learn also about inter-RISA learning
    • Learn about relative influence of OGP Program manager (iterative learning, interaction)
    • Look at Pielke report on supply and demand of research
    • Also discussed a number of sensitive issues that may arise in doing an evaluation

    What to evaluate/capture?

    • what mechanisms would we need to put into place in Phase 2 to be more effective?
    • What would we need to do in the region to bring the climate modeling community into this RISA? (define a future program element, gap in current program)
    • PACSIS – transition from RISA as stand-alone to RISA as element in a wider information system >> how to design a multi-center information system? How can they leverage each other? Where are the strengths in synthesis?
    • PI RISA grew out of Natl. Assessment (don’t lose this dialogue!)
    • Now: what role can different people play in providing climate research and assessment services?
    • Interactivity concept from (Lemos/Morehouse article)
    • RISA as regional climate service core vs. RISA as nested within wider system of climate service providers (end result may be the same).
    • Strategic goals – design;
    • Learning among RISAs from each other
    • Process/interaction/institutional design-focused
    • Assess also how stakeholders feel about what they’ve received from RISAs
    • Use of tools, products?
    • >> need a qualitative and quantitative approaches to do this assessment adequately (e.g., how has a RISA output changed stakeholders’ perspective, knowledge? Networks of information users?)
    • RISAs serving intermediaries (e.g., consultants working with private sector)?
    • Longevity of tools (funding, maintenance, willingness to pay, usefulness)
    • Feeding tools to operations
    • Importance of RISAs for the next National Assessment? (local hub of knowledge on who the stakeholders are, their needs etc.)
    • Key RISA concept: integration (science and stakeholder involvement > how does that effect how tools are shared, what values they have)
    • Transition from being a stakeholder to becoming a partner as a measure of success; type and forums of interaction changing over time
    • Spill effects of what RISAs do on others
    • Outcome measures: resilience increased, vulnerability reduced, management process, thinking or behaviors changed ­because of RISA assistance (testimonials, rather than through hard data) [might be particularly feasible in the Ak RISA because they are just getting going now]
    • Maybe focus this type of causal analysis on a single agency or other partner
    • Facilitation of interaction between stakeholder groups that otherwise would not regularly work together
    • Collaboration within RISAs themselves; RISA as integrated assessment activity
    • Integration along various dimensions (across disciplines, research to application and stakeholders
    • RISAs within their institutions – what institutional support is there? How are RISAs viewed
    • Linkages within institutions from other groups to RISAs; investigators go out for additional funding, which helps leverage what RISAs do
    • Are people able to ask better question as a result of interaction with RISA folks?
    • Compare RISAs along key dimensions: how much does each one do of
      • data
      • quality control
      • modeling
      • education/outreach
      • research (basic, applied; physical, social science etc.)
      • operational …

    (illustrate like population pyramids next to each other) – how has the profile changed over time? How does the RISA with its particular profile fit into the network of regional suppliers of climate services; hence leveraging of strengths) – get list from Gregg Garfin.

    - approach: more like a “participant observer” approach, rather than external review; will help NOAA define much wanted evaluation metrics

    • can we make it easier for RISAs to find ways to record and measure what they’re doing?

    Next Steps:

    • communicate with Eileen about PI evaluation and Dan about AK evaluation to evaluate specific next steps, budget, timeline.
    • Participate in PI meeting in fall.

Wrap Up:

Important to support our budding collaboration through increased interaction between NOAA-OGP and NCAR as well as with the individual RISAs (those present at this workshop and others). Immediate next steps:

  1. Send workshop notes also to Caitlin and to other RISAs who could not attend this meeting
  2. Maybe give an update at one of the next monthly RISA conference calls
  3. Hannah help keep NCAR in the loop on relevant RISA issues that affect our interaction
  4. Maybe participate in fall RISA PI mtg – opportunity to tell about the emerging projects, maintain momentum, bring others into the collaboration; especially useful to keep RISAs in the loop on the evaluation project
  5. Develop a website for RISA-NCAR related matters and projects on the NCAR website; could be a place to post an overview and rationale, meeting notes, presentations, and descriptions of common projects, and contact info.
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