There's a storm brewing -- a storm of information, that is, in climate and environmental research. People are wading through the turbulence, trying to make sense of it all.
At the eye of the storm is a unique new web site called Climate One-Stop (climateonestop.net).
"It's a 'calm spot' where scientists, decision-makers, nonprofit workers, and officials can find all the latest research," says Dan Irwin of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. "We unveiled the site at this week's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen."
A group of US and international organizations, including NASA, USAID, the National Science Foundation, the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology, the University of Alabama-Huntsville, and CATHALAC in Panama, developed the site as a "one-stop shop" for the low-down on Earth with a particular emphasis on international development applications.
"Right now, there's so much climate information scattered out there -- it’s a real challenge to find exactly what you're looking for by just Googling it," says IAGT's Jessica Coughlin. "Climate One-Stop is the place to go for all the information."
Orlando Altamirano of USAID in El Salvador is the kind of official the web site is designed to serve. "We're very vulnerable here in Central America," he says. "We have hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, drought, tropical diseases and other health problems, and poor water quality. We desperately need a tool like Climate One-Stop."
"USAID has developed tools to help our partners in developing countries," adds John Furlow of USAID. "Every time I meet with colleagues from other organizations I hear about the great work they've been doing -- new tools, data, and case studies showing what does and doesn't work. It's hard for development workers to find all these things available to help them. Now the development workers in the field will have all this information right at their fingertips - at Climate One-Stop."
In developing countries in Central America, Africa, and elsewhere, 60% or more of the people earn their livelihoods from agriculture and other activities that can be affected -- even devastated -- by weather.
"The economies in these countries rely heavily not only on farming, but also on tourism and forestry," says Furlow. "Weather affects people's livelihoods much more than it does in the US. If, for example, agriculture is affected by drought and most people are farmers, suffering is widespread and the whole economy is affected."
Development workers need to know how climate and environmental changes could affect the communities they serve. They also need to know how to apply that knowledge locally so they can teach the people there how to adapt. For example, are the crops they plant suitable to the range of temperatures and precipitation expected in their region? Or might they need to select other crops?
One-Stop builds on NASA's SERVIR program, which has facilities in Central America and East Africa. SERVIR uses satellite imagery and other data to quickly map places where a flood, fire, hurricane, or earthquake has left destruction in its wake and help decision-makers find where aid is needed in a hurry. The SERVIR team also monitors and delivers information to help national leaders make informed decisions and policies for adapting to climate change and environmental threats. In Central America alone, since its debut there in March 2005, SERVIR has addressed over 11 environmental threats and 25 natural disasters.
The One-Stop will help users find SERVIR's many datasets and models. For example, the website includes downscaled models showing average temperature and precipitation and projected climate information for Central America.
The One-Stop's database actually stores all the information, which is then searchable via its web portal. So it immediately offers up direct links to the latest climate and environmental data, models, research, projects, and workshops.
The website's grand opening is set for the December United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. With its ease of use and virtual shelves packed with information, as well as a section allowing users to contribute content, Climate One-Stop could help turn a brewing storm into a brainstorm.
"One-Stop's potential benefits are enormous," says Coughlin. "It could have dramatic effects within the climate change and decision-making communities."
"It's a great way for developed and developing countries to share their knowledge and information about climate change," adds Irwin. "From space, NASA's Apollo astronauts saw Earth as a unified whole with no boundaries. Climate One-Stop will help that become a reality, in a sense. We'll all be able to work together as a global community."
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