Background image of Aerial view of brown agricultural fields bisected by seemingly endless windmills

Climate-smart planning tools

With good spatial information, decision makers can plan for resilience to climate change.

Whether we like it or not, climate change is happening. At current rates of global warming, we will raise the earth’s temperature by three degrees Celsius by 2050, endangering the very systems that we rely on to live well. To turn the tide on climate change, we need to transform our economy and the energy system that powers it. We also need to develop greater understanding of the risks and opportunities posed by climate change.

We have developed a suite of mapping and data visualization tools that capture key drivers in those systems we all rely on — from food and forests, to water and the built environment. Using this approach, we will be able to envision how these systems change under stressors such as climate change.

screen shot of mapping interface in web browser window that reads Agricultural Zone Viewer
Our agricultural planning tool characterizes new growing zones by a variety of environmental and human factors.

Food for the future

Our agricultural planning tool builds an understanding of how climate change will affect food systems across the Northwest. As a first step, we established new agricultural zones based on environmental factors, such as soil type and temperature variation, as well as human factors, such as urbanization and water policy.

The tool also visualizes current crops in each zone. The whole picture is a more granular and ecologically focused look at agriculture, as compared to traditional crop information, broken out along county lines.

As we begin to model climate change across the region, we can show how factors like temperature or water will be affected in each of our zones. The visualization tool will show how the suitability of crop varieties — from peas to grains — will change with the climate projections. With this information, decision makers can plan for food systems that are more resilient to climate change.

Blowing field of grain
Planning tools map the suitability of different crops under climate change conditions.

Dashboard for adaptation

We are continuing to build climate-smart tools for various planning uses. With new analysis and data visualization in forestry, for instance, we can build an understanding of which species and forest types will grow best under different climate change scenarios.

From there, land managers can begin to see how they would engage in climate-smart forestry to meet certain goals — from endangered species protection, to forest-fire reduction, to carbon sequestration.