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Downscaled climate data. (Courtesy graphic by Wisconsin Climate Change Initiative)
Downscaled climate data. (Courtesy graphic by Wisconsin Climate Change Initiative)


Making climate change data relevant to land managers

By Ashley Spratt
External Affairs

Global climate models project that Earth’s temperature will warm by about 2° to 4°C (about 3° to 7°F) in the coming century. But what does that mean for communities, natural resource managers, and other local interests? And how can climate scientists ensure that climate data is useful to a wide range of individuals with different data needs?

In cooperation with the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), Dan Vimont, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his team of climate scientists are releasing a newly developed set of downscaled climate data developed specifically to address climate change challenges at a local level. The data set will be housed and available to conservation and land managers through U.S. Geological Survey in early 2013.

“The data can be used in a number of different ways, by groups with very different needs,” Vimont said.

For example, the data could be used to assess and anticipate climate change impacts on specific natural resources, ecosystems and regions, but it is also valuable for evaluating potential effects on industry, agriculture, tourism, and other human activities. Ultimately, the data will be used to develop and recommend climate adaptation strategies.

The data is extremely flexible for this variety of uses because of its probabilistic nature.  It also applies high spatial (eight kilometer) and temporal (daily) resolutions across the study region, critical components for adaptation planning.  

Based on this newly developed data, the LCC is supporting additional work to project the changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events across the Great Lakes region, namely heat waves, cold spells, heavy precipitation events, and droughts.

Preliminary analysis shows an increase in the number of “very hot” days, a decrease in the number of “very cold” days, wet areas getting wetter and dry areas getting drier. For example, in the Chicago area, data shows the area will warm by 3 to 8°F by mid-century, have more frequent very hot days (four weeks per year), and less frequent freezing days (five to six weeks per year). Winter precipitation could increase by 0-25 percent, and very wet days will become more frequent. In fact, the number of 2-inch rainfall events could double. 

These characterizations of the potential weather extremes and the downscaled data will allow upper Midwest and Great Lakes natural resources managers prepare for anticipated climate impacts. 

For more information about this and addition cutting-edge, landscape level research, visit



Last updated: January 8, 2013