Fine-Scale Climate Mapping

Project Dates

From its inception, the CLIMAS research agenda has been guided by feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders who use climate information to make decisions about their operations. Many of the people interviewed in the CLIMAS pilot study expressed dissatisfaction with the way climate information systems portray rural climate conditions.

There is a sense of metropolitan bias in the information they receive and rely upon, particularly for those located some distance from the metropolitan centers of Tucson or Phoenix. This bias neglects the very different climates of regions outside of Tucson or Phoenix. Moreover, stakeholders consistently expressed an interest in easily accessible climate data at "local" spatial scales, e.g., the size of small ranching and farming operations.

In response to stakeholder requests for fine-scale climate data, we created a research project to develop models for interpolating winter climate data for the Southwest to 1 km2 resolution. Our goal was to make this climate knowledge useful to regional stakeholders of climate information as well as other researchers.

The winter season was selected as the initial temporal study period, because of the crucial role precipitation plays in the recharge of dams, aquifers, and reservoirs, and for overlap with the CLIMAS paleoclimate project that deals with winter moisture. Topography is the major source of spatial variability in climate data at these spatial scales, and therefore the models were based on terrain variables such as elevation, slope, aspect, latitude, and longitude.

This project aimed to identify patterns of local and regional climate variability in these datasets and the atmospheric features that control southwestern climate. Results were intended to be suitable for use in climatic and other environmental studies by public and private stakeholders.