Happy Birthday National Climate Assessment!

U.S. National Climate Assessment celebrates 1-year anniversary

Every four years, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) analyzes the most current climate science data and summarizes the observed changes, current states of the climate, and anticipated trends for the future in the National Climate Assessment. The third U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA), published in May 2014, recently celebrated its 1-year anniversary. This means that, for the past year, communities, localities, and states have had increased access to scientific information to help prepare for and respond to our rapidly changing climate.

The third NCA is the most comprehensive scientific report on US climate change impacts. As part of the NCA, scientists from NOAA Fisheries led an interdisciplinary team of researchers from USGCRP and other federal agencies as well as the broader scientific community in identifying a set of indicators that communicate some of the key aspects and effects of climate change to ocean and coastal ecosystems, such as Arctic Sea Ice Extent, Sea Surface Temperatures, Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, and Ocean Chlorophyll Concentrations. These indicators are designed to help decision-makers understand how the environment is changing, assess risks and vulnerabilities, and make informed decisions about climate preparedness and resiliency. These are just a few of the ocean and coastal indicators that are being developed to better connect communities to actionable climate science.

The Ocean Chlorophyll Concentrations Indicator was developed collaboratively by NOAA and NASA scientists led by Todd O’Brien (NOAA Fisheries). The concentration of chlorophyll in the water is a proxy for the amount of photosynthetic plankton, or phytoplankton, present in the ocean. Phytoplankton are the base of most marine ecosystems and greatly affect overall productivity of these important ecosystems, which support almost $200 billion in economic activity and more than 1.7 million jobs annually in the United States through commercial and recreational fishing sectors alone. Phytoplankton populations, and their productivity, are influenced by climatic factors such as sea surface temperatures and winds. The Ocean Chlorophyll Concentrations Indicator relies on a unique set of data and analysis tools developed by the Coastal & Oceanic Plankton Ecology, Production & Observation Database (COPEPOD). To learn more about COPEPOD and its associated tools, visit The Global Plankton Database.

Examples of the NCA in practice can already be seen in regional reports and assessments, the EPA’s virtual training module, and a workshop in Maine that brought stakeholders together to better understand climate impacts and response options in their area.

Scientists at NOAA Fisheries continue to help finalize prototype indicators for consideration within the USGCRP Indicator System, such as changes in fish stock distributions through a tool called OCEANADAPT. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries efforts to better understand, prepare for, and respond to climate impacts on the nation’s living marine resources, visit NOAA Fisheries’ Climate web page.

NCA Birthday