Monday, December 14, 2009

SNAP delivers climate change data to public’s fingertips

The above graph is a sample of the information available for Alaska communities, via the SNAP website.

Nearly every community in Alaska now has access to climate change data focused on their own backyard, thanks to a new, user-friendly tool created by UAF’s Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning.

SNAP, housed within the UA Geography Program, collaborates with policymakers and land managers throughout the state, including serving in an advisory capacity to the Governor’s Sub-cabinet on Climate Change.

“These new community charts allow people to get in touch with climate change at the local level,” explained SNAP Director Scott Rupp. “It can be hard to digest the big picture on a global or even a statewide scale but this method makes it easier to relate to, in a way that is specific to how changes can impact specific locations.”

Over 350 places in Alaska are included in the community charts. Data is presented at low, medium, and high future greenhouse gas levels. Concentration of the gases has a direct impact on how the Earth warms. Average temperature and precipitation figures are presented by month for a late-twentieth century baseline, and are projected for every decade out to 2100. The website allows users to compare various communities and consider how the changing climate may affect their own activities such as gardening or hunting or more public concerns, including drought, forest fire, or permafrost melt.

SNAP staff used Google tools and technology to create the charts, based on research by John Walsh, chief scientist of the International Arctic Research Center, and the SNAP team to provide the most accurate climate predictions for Alaska.

“This is our first effort to link communities in Alaska with basic climate scenario methods,” Rupp said. “This makes it easy to look at how precipitation and temperature will change throughout this century.”

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