The University of Arizona

Research Methods | CLIMAS

Research Methods


We invited a group of about 35 stakeholders from throughout Arizona and New Mexico to participate in a yearlong project (July 2002-July 2003) to improve the use and usability of climate information. Participants in the project included land, wildlife, and water resource managers; agricultural extension agents; fire managers; ranchers; environmental organizations; members of the media and tourism sectors; community development specialists; and energy sector representatives.

Monthly Climate Packets

Each month the CLIMAS team created an information packet based on climate and forecast products from our partner agencies:

NOAA-CIRES Climate Diagnostics Center
Western Regional Climate Center
NOAA Climate Prediction Center
National Weather Service
California Applications Project
National Interagency Coordination Center
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
USDA-NRCS National Water and Climate Center
National Drought Mitigation Center
International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI)
New Mexico Natural Resource Conservation Service

Each packet contained roughly 20 climate products, including

Recent conditions: temperature, precipitation, drought status, reservoir levels, and snowpack

Monthly-to-seasonal forecasts: temperature, precipitation, PDSI and drought outlook, fire, streamflow, hazards assessment, and ENSO

"Focus" pages: special topics such as forecast interpretation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), floods, monsoon patterns, and tropical storms

We provided value-added information to help stakeholders interpret each climate product. Each packet also included an executive summary and newsletter with background articles that complement the focus page topics.


In the first half of the project, monthly surveys asked participants to review and rate approximately 20 climate products according to:

General impression
Adequacy of lead time
Level of detail
Ease of understanding
Graphic style
Actions taken based on packet material

During the latter half of the project short questionnaires and telephone interviews were used to refine the initial data gathered. We are analyzing this information to determine how usable and understandable the materials are that we send out and we might improve the information we send.

Media Briefings

We maintained contacts with news media throughout the project to assure that media representatives and the public received timely information about changing drought conditions and El Niño impacts.

Throughout the project, we convened a series of press briefings in Tucson, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Phoenix in conjunction with SAHRA (the NSF Science & Technology Center for Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas). The briefings, which have continued beyond the one-year project, provide an opportunity for media representatives to interact directly with experts in climatology, meteorology, hydrology, ecology, or other appropriate fields and obtain the latest information, ask questions, and discuss potential implications at regional and local levels.

More generally, we have kept the lines of communication open with the media to provide regionally relevant expert insight, analysis, and synthesis of recent conditions, forecasts, and potential impacts.

News Analysis

We developed a database of recent newspaper reports regarding weather and climate in the Southwest, gleaned from local, regional, and national news sources. This activity allows us to trace changes in the conciseness, accuracy, breadth, and subject matter that makes it into published coverage of climate forecasts, conditions, and impacts, and gain insight into issues of concern to the public in our region.

Communications with Policymakers

We sent out monthly highlights of climate conditions, forecasts, and events to legislators and other concerned public representatives. These materials enable our representatives to remain up-to-date on the latest information and alert them to potential areas of concern. Upon request, we provided additional information to them and tried to provide answers to any questions.