The North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center is a partnership between the US Geological Survey, the University of Colorado Boulder and five consortium partners. The NC CASC fosters innovative and applied research in support of tribal, federal, state, and local natural resource management and decision-making. The North Central center is one of nine regional climate centers in the national CASC network created to help meet the changing needs of land and resource managers across the country. It serves Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska. 

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News

Upcoming NC CASC webinar

Join our next webinar, Rapid Ecological Change & Transformation Across the Middle and Southern Rockies During a Previous Climate Warming, featuring Dr. Shelley Crausbay of the US Forest Service. October 20, 2022 at 11 AM MDT.


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SWAP Cooperator’s Report Available Online

This report is an evaluation of how to best support states in the North Central region with further integrating climate-informed planning in State Wildlife Action Plans.


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September 2022 Tribal Climate Newsletter is Available Online

Check out highlights including "planting hope" and nature-based climate solutions.


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July/August 2022 Newsletter is Available Online

Welcome to the new MailChimp version of the NC CASC newsletter. We strive to update you on NC CASC science, opportunities and events across our region.


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Next NC CASC webinar

Join our next webinar, The Challenge of Planning for Extremes in Natural and Cultural Resources, featuring NC CASC's university director, Dr. William R. Travis. September 8, 2022 at 11 AM MDT.


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NC CASC August 2022 Tribal Climate Newsletter Now Available Online

The August 2022 issue of the NC CASC Tribal Climate Newsletter is now available online: Highlights include:


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Anthony Ciocco Rejoins the NC CASC as a USGS Climate Adaptation Scientist

Anthony Ciocco is a USGS Climate Adaptation Scientist who initially joined the NC CASC program in July of 2020 as a BIA Pathways Program Intern.


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New Publication: Conservation under uncertainty: Innovations in Participatory Climate Change Scenario Planning from U.S. National Parks

NC CASC Research Ecologist Brian Miller and former NC CASC colleague Brecken Robb are co-authors on a new publication, Conservation under uncertainty: Innovations in participatory climate change scenario planning from U.S.


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Brian Miller Co-author on New Publication on Global Biodiversity Loss

NC CASC/USGS Research Ecologist is a co-author on a new paper, "Expert perspectives on global biodiversity loss and its drivers and impacts on people". 


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NC CASC Welcomes Kynser Wahwahsuck, Tribal Climate Resilience Liaison

The NC CASC is excited to welcome Kynser Wahwahsuck, the new Tribal Climate Resilience Liaison for the Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance.


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SPOTLIGHT

Fast Drought - An Oxymoron?

When the word drought comes to mind, you may think of a very slow process, with impacts manifesting over many years. You may picture the ground slowly drying up, leaving behind parched soil, split into cracks, desperately thirsty for any kind of moisture. Amongst many reasons, droughts matter to us because they can damage crop yields. This can lead to lower food availability and can drive higher prices at the supermarket. We are already feeling the impacts of this in the year 2022, after a multi-year drought in the West. What does the future hold?

 

New research is showing that contrary to past thinking of drought as a slow process taking multiple seasons or years to fully develop, fast-evolving drying events are becoming more common. The researchers, Iglesias, Travis and Balch (2022) evaluated drought intensification rates for the contiguous United States and while they found that typical drought (the statistical median drought) onset rates did not change significantly from 1951 - 2021, intensification rates of the faster-onset droughts have accelerated, especially in the last decade (2011 - 2021). In fact, their onset rates were the fastest in the last 70 years.

 

What drives these faster developing droughts? Changes in temperature and precipitation are key, but when coupled with atmosphere-ocean interactions, like El Niño in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, that can also drive soil moisture changes. While El Niño operates on the sub-decadal scale (every 3 - 5 years), other atmosphere-ocean interactions like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, in the northern Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, in the North Atlantic Ocean, can explain over half of the variance (how the data points vary from the average) in multidecadal drought frequency. In other words, what’s happening in the ocean can modulate the speed of continental drought development.

 

The results presented in this new research also suggest that warmer droughts, which tend to be worse, also set in faster. So while the development of droughts has  sped up in the last few decades - and now set in even faster - the Earth’s warmer future almost certainly means more quick-onset droughts, events that can catch farmers, water managers and others off-guard. Iglesias and Travis said, “Faster droughts are not necessarily more intense events, but with a warmer atmosphere drying out the soil more quickly, future droughts are likely to set-in faster and become more intense.” Coupled with the difficulty of forecasting droughts, rapid onset of drought events will pose a bigger challenge to forecasters and resource managers as the climate warms.