The Climate Change-GIS Connection

Climate change and its effects are fundamentally geographic challenges that require a geographic approach, where we endeavor to understand the constraints a changing climate imposes upon the terrestrial and aquatic systems we depend.

Geography is a powerful multidimensional framework enabling scientists to explore data layers, discover emergent new patterns, and test alternative scenarios; so we can understand the risks, develop proactive adaptation strategies, and increase society’s long-term resilience to climate change through policy modification. Esri is committed to providing tools to accelerate the global community’s ability to access content, do analyses and share results.

Not only does GIS power analysis, informing citizens and policymakers on how landscapes are responding to change, the GIS platform also provides a framework for multidisciplinary collaboration throughout the phases of development. From design and implementation, to monitoring and evaluation, it integrates information in a way that promotes dialogue between stakeholders resulting in more sustainable outcomes.

  • e-Book: Climate Change is a Geographic Problem: The Geographic Approach to Climate ChangeRead the e-book
  • e-BookGIS for Climate Change: Case Studies in the Use of GIS for Climate ChangeRead the e-book.

Understanding Our Food Systems

For the first time, thanks to advances in cloud and server technology, non-GIS users can explore these complex interactions by running complex scenarios such as this ‘on the fly’. ‘Show me areas with high maize production in agricultural land, with high population density, in areas most at risk to climate change in 2050.’

By serving these layers as live image services, that is, as actual data as opposed to pictures of data, citizens, scientists, and policymakers can ask questions of landscape layers that honor the complexity of the data.

African Landscape Modeler - Analyzing areas of high maize production with a dependent population, which is prone to climate change.

African Landscape Modeler: Analyzing areas of high maize production with a dependent population, which is prone to climate change.

In collaboration with many of our partners, a suite of new landscape data layers and modeling tools are being developed and put in the hands of researchers and planners, enabling the discovery of emergent patterns to inform agricultural practices to reduce hunger, increase food production and improve climate resilience.  Given the increasing pressures caused by climate change, land degradation, population and demand for food, its role in informing solutions is likely to become even more critical into the future.

Now more than ever, GIS is poised to support researchers and farmers with tools to understand and respond to changing agricultural patterns.

  • e-BookFarming the Future: GIS for Agriculture, Vol. 2Read the e-book.
  • Video: Living Well within the Planet’s Boundaries.  Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency shares her strategic initiative on preserving the future of planet Earth.  Watch the video.

Understanding Our Oceans

The oceans are our climate engine.  They feed us, regulate our weather patterns, provide over half the oxygen that we breathe, and contribute to our energy and economy.  And in a world where climate, oceans, and people are tightly linked and interconnected, we must first understand the oceans before we can address the issues of climate change.

Geographic information systems (GIS) technology, which has long provided effective solutions to the integration, visualization, and analysis of information about land, is now being similarly applied to oceans. Our ability to measure change in the oceans (including open ocean, nearshore, and coast) is increasing, not only because of improved measuring devices and scientific techniques, but also because new GIS technology is aiding us in better understanding this dynamic environment. This domain has progressed from applications that merely collect and display data to complex simulation, modeling, and the development of new research methods and concepts.

  • e-BookThe Ocean GIS Initiative: Esri’s Commitment to Understanding Our Oceans, by Dr. Dawn J. Wright, Esri Chief Scientist.  Read the e-book.
  • Video:  Ocean GIS.  Esri Chief Scientist Dawn Wright, and Will McClintock and Chad Burt of the University of California, Santa Barbara, discuss and demonstrate the efforts made in ocean GIS with SeaSketch, a new web-based solution.  Watch the video.

Understanding Our Cities

By 2050, estimates suggest the majority of humanity will live in cities–many in coastal areas–and they will need to react to new climate realities. Cities can learn a lot from each other, but until recently this was difficult. Data about our cities is collected at different scales, and in different ways, making comparative analysis awkward, and leveraging what works slow to catch on.

Enter the Urban Observatory. This first-of its kind virtual experience takes advantage of GIS technology as an integrative platform that standardizes scale and representation of earth’s cities, so as to visually compare and contrast detailed information from one to another. The result: a greater understanding of city life in the years to come.

The Urban Observatory

The Urban Observatory.

This type of research and exposure can help cities understand what strategies work, in order to repeat and expand upon them, and what policies to avoid. Lessons learned through the Urban Observatory are likely to impact trillions of dollars in future societal development costs.

  • Video: Urban Observatory. Jack Dangermond and Hugh Keegan introduce the Urban Observatory and how it allows people to explore simultaneous views of major cities located around the world. Watch the video.
  • White PaperUrban Observatory. This White Paper explains the Urban Observatory, which seeks to provide understanding through comparison and contrast, empowering people to examine, compare, and contrast the global cities of the 21st century.  Read the white paper.
  • e-Book: Geodesign in Practice: Designing a Better World. The 12 articles in this e-book show how geodesign is fundamentally transforming the way we think about the world. Read the e-book.

For even more resources, see Climate Change and GIS: Resources for Action.

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About Jack Dangermond

Jack Dangermond founded Esri with a vision that computer-based mapping and analysis could make significant contributions in the areas of geographic planning and environmental science. The recipient of 10 honorary doctorate degrees, he has served on advisory committees for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Science Foundation.
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  1. purich says:

    With Jack’s kind guidance and the encouragement of Dawn Wright and others Jack and Dawn’s dreams of ready access to global models within ArcGIS have been realised. CLIMsystems developed an Add-in for ArcGIS for both climate and marine models. In fact, this week we will be launching updated models for each State in the Mainland in the USA (Alaska and Hawaii, included) with wind and solar radiation data as well as the precipitation and mean, minimum and maximum temperature patterns with the very latest AR5 (CMIP 5) data. We also will be rolling out new models for Australia this week and other areas over the coming days and weeks.

  2. gamevast says:

    Most of us understand that climate change is very significant change in the the distribution of our weather patterns that affects geographic challenges. It is true that it also requires an approach to understand the problems our climate has been imposing us.  For that matter, It is good to know that this ESRI is there to provide tools to analyze and share results so as to develop strategies that can easily adapt to change.