Climate Ready North Bay: Lessons Learned and Applications for the North Bay

Table of Contents

Download the Complete Region-wide Findings Technical Memo (PDF, 2.5 mb) and the CRNB North Bay Slide Deck (PDF, 11 mb)

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Lessons Learned

Meaningfully translating global change models to local management applications is an emerging practice. We provide the observations below to help inform other climate adaptation planning efforts applying high-resolution climate data at a regional scale for specific management applications.

  • Co-creation of data products and tools by scientists working with managers requires an extended dialog (12+ months) and multiple in-person exchanges.
  • A critical member of the team is an “information broker” who understands both “science” and “management” perspectives to facilitate discussions.
  • Framing resource-specific management questions at project kickoff is a good way to guide the process.
  • Managers need to participate in scenario selection to ensure relevancy, and to learn why consideration of multiple scenarios (an ensemble approach) is needed in order to capture model uncertainties Regional data sets capable of servicing multiple agencies and resource issues increase the potential for coordinated or at least consistent adaption planning.

Managers who have the skill set to actually manipulate the data, for example to generate plots for a given time period of interest, gain significant understanding from completing this kind of exercise.

  • Consistent trends across multiple scenarios are important to identify, but the temptation should be resisted to average model results. Physical watershed processes are only accurately characterized within a single scenario.
  • Once results are available, many managers needed additional support in scoping how to translate results to specific planning applications and requested follow up meetings to transfer the approval to perform agencies and consultants.
  • Agencies see the value of using Climate Ready North Bay results to raise public awareness of resource challenges and conflicts that may lie ahead for communities as a whole.
  • More resources are needed to craft effective outreach tools and trainings that are tailored towards diverse audiences.

In the context of the literature on scenario-based climate adaptation planning, we believe our results reflect what Prudhomme (2010) termed a scenario neutral approach by not classifying any particular scenario(s) as more likely than another, but rather defining the broadest range possible of viable models. This allowed engaged managers to start to assess the vulnerabilities of their systems.
We had originally hoped in some cases participating agencies might have already defined climate thresholds above or below which their service delivery would be compromised, what Brown and Wilby (2012) and Brown et al. (2012) termed a climate response function. However, using our managers’ survey and follow up communications, we confirmed that, for the majority of agencies, critical environmental thresholds or climate response functions were unknown. For this reason we focused on primarily a historic analog approach to define thresholds (for example the lowest rainfall year or peak flood of record) in concert with managers.

The value of this project is therefore to provide a relatively simple framework for managers to start to explore what kind of future climate, and which climate variables in particular, could trigger critical sensitivities in their systems. Examples could include rainfall thresholds that compromise watershed services such as water supply or flooding attenuation or increases in climatic water deficit that cause ecosystems to transition in terms of vegetation community or fire regime. Under this Climate Ready framework, managers can compare and contrast additional existing or new models as they come on line, with a growing understanding of the specifics of their systems’ vulnerabilities as the planning assessments proceed listed in the Applications session below.

While the literature also compares what is termed top-down versus bottom up approaches to vulnerability assessments, with the former driven by climate model selection on the part of scientists, and the latter driven by vulnerabilities defined at the ground level by managers, our experience may be best described as a hybrid of the two. We believe that by engaging managers from the outset in selecting climate futures based on management needs, while our technical team did narrow the options from an original 100 scenarios to 18 that captured essentially a comparable range, from that point on ground-based management considerations drove the process. We look forward to tracking the evolution of partner agencies’ climate response functions as they proceed to the next stages of adaptation planning. We also remain strong advocates of getting effective real time hydrology-ecosystem monitoring in place, as is currently being piloted at Pepperwood, to refine our understanding of key mechanisms linking climate, water, and ecosystem response.

Potential Climate Ready Applications

There are a number of current or future planning processes throughout the North Bay region that integration of this climate vulnerability assessment data could benefit that include the following.

  • Environmental impact reports
  • Local hazard mitigation plans
  • Safety elements of general plans
  • Reservoir operations and urban water sustainability planning
  • Parks, trails, and open space parcel master plans
  • Open space acquisition plans
  • Stormwater, urban water, and flood management plans and ordinances
  • Groundwater sustainability plans
  • Public health monitoring procedures
  • Street tree and water efficient landscaping ordinances
  • Zoning, building, and fire codes
  • Climate action plans
  • Agency-specific climate adaptation plans
  • Parcel or jurisdiction-specific stewardship plans

Agency-specific applications are summarized in companion technical memorandum generated for each user group. Immediate applications of Climate Ready data underway include the following pilots.

  • MMWD is exploring the use of Climate Ready North Bay hydrology projections as part of an Urban Water Management Plan update to assess supply reliability for the next 40 years.
  • Sonoma County Water Agency is using Climate Ready North Bay Russian River flow projections as the foundation of their Climate Adaptation Plan for storage and delivery system operations.
  • Napa County is using Climate Ready North Bay recharge maps as an input to its Groundwater Management planning efforts underway.
  • Sonoma County Regional Parks is using Climate Ready North Bay vegetation and fire analyses to prioritize the development of forthcoming parcel-specific management plans.

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