Website gives access to state’s climate change data

Kevin Koy, the manager of the Geospatial Innovation Facility, shows off Cal-Adapt, an interactive website developed by the facility.
Anna Vignet/Senior Staff
Kevin Koy, the manager of the Geospatial Innovation Facility, shows off Cal-Adapt, an interactive website developed by the facility.

With the help of UC Berkeley’s Geospatial Innovation Facility, the California Energy Commission has launched a website that grants public access to California’s climate change data, including past information and future projections.

Cal-Adapt, which was launched Tuesday, is an interactive website that the facility began developing in August 2010 which specializes in innovative environmental research projects that compile data regarding factors affecting the climate in California.

The data that will be displayed on the website have been compiled since 2003. After receiving a sponsorship of $500,000 from the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research Program and advisory oversight from the California Natural Resources Agency, the Geospatial Innovation Facility began developing the website.

Cal-Adapt aims to synthesize data produced by research organizations and statewide universities, including UC Berkeley, UC Merced and UC San Diego, to create maps and modules pertaining to state climate changes.

The website integrates 150 years of climate change data that take into account different carbon emission scenarios, which are presented to the user in a visual format depicting rising sea levels, temperature changes and wildfire risks, among other variables.

The website provides access to climate scenario data so users can develop adaptation strategies for changes such as hotter temperatures, increased sea levels, decreased snowpack and increased risk of wildfires.

According to Sarah Van Wart, web application developer for Cal-Adapt, the website provides climate projections, not predictions. She added that the website is not meant to predict future outcomes but rather only seeks to display data gathered on climate change in California through extensive research.

To provide more information for the website’s users, the developers upload data regarding wind speed, soil moisture and humidity.

“We are targeting three audiences: the expert who can use the data for research, the technician and public agencies who can use it for city planning and the general public who can use it to understand climate change,” said Kevin Koy, manager of the Geospatial Innovation Facility.

To make the data legible, developers have inserted definitions to technical language, links to articles explaining the societal relevance of the change and social networking features that allow the user to share desired information on websites like Facebook and Twitter.

One of the goals of the site is to utilize extensive climate change research to assist the general public in acquiring a better understanding of how climate change may occur under different social and economic scenarios in their respective areas of residency, according to Van Wart.

Upcoming features on the site include daily temperature projections, according to Geospatial Innovation Facility data developer Brian Galey, as well as a community project in which users will aid scientists by reporting initial flower blooms in their neighborhoods.

“This innovative website will offer the general public information to assess if their farms, towns, cities, business, counties would be affected and to begin planning for the forthcoming changes,” said Adam Gottlieb, manager of media communications at California Energy Commission, in an email. “By sharing information now, local communities can make better informed decisions later.”

Clarification: A previous version of this article may have implied that the UC Berkeley Geospatial Innovation Facility compiled the data for the website. The facility took research sponsored by the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research Program and placed it in the website.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the UC Berkeley Geospatial Innovation Facility launched the Cal-Adapt website. In fact, the California Energy Commission launched the website and the facility developed the website.