Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Program

The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program is an interdisciplinary effort to foster interdisciplinary collaborative science, spatial data interoperability, and knowledge sharing using GIS. Current research and development activities in the GIS program occur in three thematic areas:

  • Integrating atmospheric and social sciences with GIS;
  • Improving usability of weather and climate models;
  • Conducting GIS-focused educational activities and building capacity at the science-society interface.

    Figure 1. Communicating storm surge forecast through integrative geovisualizations. This example represents a hypothetical storm forecast for coastal Georgia and South Carolina.
    Figure 1. Communicating storm surge forecast through integrative geovisualizations. This example represents a hypothetical storm forecast for coastal Georgia and South Carolina.

Climate and society are coevolving in a manner that may place vulnerable populations at greater risk to weather and climate stresses. Understanding societal risks and vulnerabilities to weather hazards and climate change requires integration of georeferenced information from physical and social sciences, including weather and climate data, information about natural and built environments, demographic characteristics, as well as social and behavioral processes. NCAR’s GIS program is working towards developing research frameworks and spatial methods for integration of diversemultidisciplinary datasets, which are both quantitative and qualitative and exist at different spatial and temporal scales

Figure 2. 2019 BRIGHTE workshop participants: “Envisioning Risk of Hurricane Storm Surge and Sea Level Rise”
Figure 2. 2019 BRIGHTE workshop participants: “Envisioning Risk of Hurricane Storm Surge and Sea Level Rise”

In FY19, our research and development efforts aimed to better understand the effects of urban extreme heat and air pollution on human health, explore novel approaches to study and visualize governance of the food-water-energy nexus, and investigate the use and effectiveness of geovisualizations in risk communication of coastal flooding due to hurricane storm surge (Figure 1). The GIS program’s technical capabilities contributed to RAL’s work on wildfire and flood prediction, research on urban meteorology, and data interoperability.  

GIS education at the science-society interface is an important component of the GIS program.  In 2019, we conducted a BRIGHTE (Broadening participation in Interdisciplinary Geosciences: Hands-on Training and Education) workshop, “Envisioning Risk of Hurricane Storm Surge and Sea Level Rise”. The workshop provided an opportunity for participants to learn about an interdisciplinary approach to science of coastal flooding, explored innovative ways to visualize storm surge forecast and sea level rise projections in 2D and 3D GIS environments, and learn about science communication using Story Maps.

We will continue this ongoing work in FY2020 with the goal to contribute to NCAR’s convergence research and actionable science that meets the needs of research communities and decision-makers.