The mission of the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) program is to improve the region’s ability to respond sufficiently and appropriately to climatic events and climate changes. The program promotes participatory, iterative research involving scientists, decision makers, resource users, educators, and others who need more and better information about climate and its impacts. CLIMAS investigators conduct research on the nature, causes, and consequences of climate change and variability in the southwestern United States.
The intersection of climate variability and change with social phenomena such as population growth, economic development, and populations with varying levels of climate vulnerability creates a complex environment for decision making in the semi-arid and arid southwestern United States. Resource and land managers concerned with maintaining the health of ecosystems and resources face serious climate-related challenges, including severe sustained drought, dramatic seasonal and interannual variations in precipitation, and steadily rising temperatures. Similarly, local, state, and tribal governments strive to maintain vital economic growth and quality of life within the context of drought, population growth, vector-born disease, and variable water supplies. These uncertainties at the intersections of climate and society are prompting decision-makers to seek out natural and social scientists for collaborations to help reduce risk and enhance resilience in the face of climate variability and change.
CLIMAS, housed at the University of Arizona's Institute of the Environment and in partnership with New Mexico State University, was established in 1998 as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program to help address these concerns. The CLIMAS program brings together researchers who study the processes and effects of climate on the Southwest with individuals and organizations that need climate information to make informed decisions. The program promotes the exchange of ideas and information among members of the public, private, nonprofit, and academic communities.
Throughout its history, CLIMAS has worked to assess climate variability and longer-term climate change in terms of impacts on human and natural systems in the Southwest. In doing so, it has also developed a substantial network of stakeholders, research collaborators, and partners. In September 2012 the program entered its fourth phase, which is focused on reducing the vulnerability of, and helping the Southwest adapt to, climatic extremes and thresholds. Current work falls into six closely related themes: 1) decision-relevant questions about the physical climate of the region; 2) planning for regional water sustainability in the face of persistent drought and warming; 3) the intersection of climate and human health; 4)economic trade-offs and opportunities that arise from the intersection of water and climate in a warming and drying Southwest; 5) building adaptive capacity in socially vulnerable populations; 6) regional climate service options to support adaptation.