Case Studies: Impacts

The following examples have been submitted by groups using data obtained from the ClimateWizard

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Gulf of Californial and coastal watershed:
The Nature Conservancy has teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund to develop climate change adaptation strategies for the Gulf of California and its coastal watersheds.  Climate change ranks as a high threat for three of our targets in the Gulf of California; coastal shallows and soft bottoms, estuaries (mangrove and non-mangrove), and migratory species, it ranks as a medium threat for insular species, rocky reefs and rocky bottoms, seamounts and shoreline. 
Based on the monthly mean changes in temperature and precipitation from the ClimateWizard, our team hopes to review key ecological characteristics that will be affected by climate change to understand how seasonal changes could affect conservation targets.  Also from ClimateWizard we will use the historic monthly averaged maps as a baseline to understand patterns of temperature and precipitation that are critical for some targets.  Although we have found that the change is relatively small, the timing and intensity is what may cause significant impacts such as change in timing of monsoons or higher temperatures and less precipitation during dry seasons.

Great Yellowstone Ecosystem and Grizzly Bear denning affected by climate change:

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, employed by the USGS at the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center located in Bozeman, Montana has been studying the demography and ecology of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) since 1973.   This population was listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975, and removed from the list in 2007.   A recent issue of Yellowstone Science  was dedicated to Yellowstone grizzlies and chronicles the management and research that help conserve the species in the Yellowstone Ecosystem (  Past research by the study team ( observed a trend towards later den entry during 1975-99 among adult male bears.  Denning events obtained during 2000-08 were added to the previous dataset and strengthened the previously observed trend.  Changes in phenology of denning may be attributed to climate change.  We intend to investigate this potential using the climate trend data obtained from ClimateWizard.  Climate-influenced changes in phenology of den entry has implications for managers tasked with minimizing conflicts between bears and humans, particularly during fall ungulate hunting seasons.   We will discuss the potential impacts on both bears and people of a longer active season for grizzly bears in the GYE.


Lake Champlain Watershed and the consequences of climate change:

The Lake Champlain watershed is greatly endangered due to Climate Change.  We will use the past climate patterns for Vermont from the CliamteWizard along with stream discharge and lake level datasets to predict future impacts.  Additionally we hope to use ClimateWizard output and our analyses to speculate about other important effects of Climate Change on the watershed.  The goals of this project are to generate informed and coordinated action to adapt to the impacts of climate change in Lake Champlain and to educate people about the real and immediate threat of climate change on this water shed.


Climate Changes along the Appalachain Trail
In November 2008, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy ( Board of Directors adopted a climate change resolution which committed to the Conservancy to a number of actions, including educating our members and Trail visitors on the impacts of climate change on the A.T. To do this we first needed a projection of the amount of climate change that the Trail could experience. Global climate models do not provide the necessary detail, particularly in mountain regions, such as those the A.T. passes through. With its ability to project climate change for areas as small as five miles square, Climate Wizard makes it possible for us to develop climate change projections relevant to the A.T. These projections show that the A.T. is likely to be drier than it has been historically, especially in the Southern Appalachians. During late summer 2007, drought conditions on the A.T. were so severe that the water sources hikers count on were all dry. Local hiking clubs were recommending against backpacking their sections of the Trail. Climate Wizard’s projections indicate that these severe conditions will become more common. Drier conditions are also likely to increase treadway erosion, especially when coupled with more intense precipitation events. The warming of the last 30 years has already resulted in a change in the composition of the forest along the A.T. Boreal tree species are disappearing in the Southern Appalachians and moving upslope further north. Climate Wizard’s projections show that this trend will continue and intensify. The birds and animals that depend on these specifies, e.g. Bicknell’s thrush, will also disappear, changing the experience of hiking the A.T.
To summarize, Climate Wizard has given us the ability to move from qualitative statements about the impact of climate change on the A.T. to quantitative projections of those impacts. It has helped define the threat to the Trail that we steward.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is a volunteer-based organization dedicated to the preservation and management of the natural, scenic, historic, and cultural resources associated with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in order to provide primitive outdoor-recreation and educational opportunities for Trail visitors. To become a member, volunteer, or learn more, please visit us at