Climate change poses significant challenges to the future wellness and security of human societies and economies worldwide. Different regions are susceptible to a range of possible impacts. These impacts include increasing temperatures, changes in arable land, more intense heat waves, rising sea-level, coastal erosion, extreme precipitation events, long-lasting droughts, diminishing freshwater resources, ocean heat waves, ocean acidification, spread of vector-borne disease, among others. Climate Futures is a burgeoning initiative of the Climate Change Institute (CCI) at the University of Maine that offers a transparent framework for assessing impacts and addressing vulnerability across local, regional, and global scales in a changing climate. Climate Futures provides climate data and visualization tools that can be used in conjunction with commodity data to facilitate the development of plausible future scenarios for stakeholder mitigation, adaptation, sustainability, and entrepreneurship efforts.

The Climate Futures Framework

Climate Futures is built upon the understanding of climate developed through thousands of peer-reviewed scientific publications and summarized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). IPCC is an assembly of scientists, policy makers, and stakeholders from 195 countries who, through a series of workshops, have developed a compromise agreement concerning the state of Earth’s climate system. The last IPCC report came out in 2014 and the next is expected in 2019/2020. The IPCC conclusions form the basis for agreements such as the Paris Climate Accord, and most importantly provide a summary for the science-based conclusion that climate is changing and that humans are the primary cause. IPCC also explicitly states that significantly more research is needed to predict climate change at local to regional scales, account for the possibility of non-linear rates of change that current global climate models are not well suited to predict, and to present future climate projections in formats more applicable and relevant to the workings of society. Climate Futures is explicitly designed to address all of the foregoing and to provide a publicly accessible platform.

Data Analysis and Visualization

CCI's Climate Reanalyzer ( is a platform for visualizing climate and weather datasets, and serves as a centerpiece for Climate Futures. The site provides access to climate models, station data, weather forecasts, and more through easy-to-use interfaces. Content is currently being developed to provide a step-by-step roadmap for how to fully utilize Climate Reanalyzer in plausible scenario planning.

Related Publications

The following publications represent the work completed thus far under the Climate Futures umbrella. New projects are underway and will be reported here as publications are released.

Coastal Maine Climate Futures

Birkel and Mayewski, 2018

Climate and weather exert a critical influence on the health of Maine’s people, ecosystems and economy. Across coastal communities, where fishing, forestry, tourism, and agriculture serve as the economic backbone, the changing climate poses near and long-term challenges. This report provides a basis for future planning by developing plausible climate scenarios for the next 20 years – the period 2020–2040. The plausible scenarios follow an examination of historical climate trends, climate–commodity connections, and sources of climate variability that affect Maine. This report was produced with generous support from the Russell Grinnell Memorial Trust.

Evidence for a Volcanic Underpinning of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation

Birkel et al., 2018

The Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) is a 60–70 year pattern of sea-surface temperature (SST) variability in the North Atlantic commonly ascribed to internal ocean dynamics and changes in northward heat transport. Recent modeling studies, however, suggest that SSTs fluctuate primarily in response to major volcanic eruptions and changes in atmospheric circulation. Here, we utilize historical SST, atmospheric reanalysis, and stratospheric aerosol optical depth data to examine the basic evidence supporting a volcanic link. We find that cool intervals across the North Atlantic [...]

Analysis of Historical and Projected Future Climate of Mali, West African Sahel

Birkel and Mayewski, 2015

The West African country of Mali experienced devastating drought from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s, followed by partial rainfall recovery that remains below pre-1960s climatology. Here, we examine the historical and projected temperature and rainfall variability across the Malian Sahel in an effort to assist future planning for food security. Particular emphasis is placed on clarifying the teleconnection between sea-surface temperatures (SST) expressed by the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and the West African monsoon (WAM). Using gridded observations and reanalysis, we show [...]

Unraveling East Africa's Climate Paradox

Lyon and Vigaud, 2017

An observed drying trend and projected increase in rainfall place East Africa in an apparent climate paradox. It is argued that the observational evidence, backed by climate modeling experiments, support the case that the recent regional scale drying trend in East Africa was dominated by an abrupt decline in March–May rainfall around 1998–1999 and associated with a shift of Pacific decadal variability (PDV) to its cold phase. While it is possible a warming trend in the western tropical Pacific contributed to the severity of recent droughts, the timing of the recent decline is closely tied to PDV. Thus, the paradox is seen to result from a mismatch of timescales on one hand [...]

Ice Core and Climate Reanalysis Analogs to Predict Antarctic and Southern Hemisphere Climate Changes

Mayewski et al., 2017

A primary goal of the SCAR (Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research) initiated AntClim21 (Antarctic Climate in the 21st Century) Scientific Research Programme is to develop analogs for understanding past, present and future climates for the Antarctic and Southern Hemisphere. In this contribution to Ant-Clim21 we provide a framework for achieving this goal that includes: a description of basic climate parameters; comparison of existing climate reanalyses; and ice core sodium records as proxies for the frequencies of marine air mass intrusion spanning the past ~2000 years. The resulting analog [...]

Potential for Southern Hemisphere Climate Surprises

Mayewski et al., 2015

Climate model results suggest that future climate change in Antarctica will be accompanied by continued strengthening and poleward contraction of the Southern Ocean westerly wind belt. Paleoclimate records suggest past changes in the westerly winds can be abrupt and that healing of the Antarctic ozone hole could lead to poleward contraction of the westerlies and increased meridional atmospheric transport of warm air regionally into Antarctica. An abrupt shift to more meridional circulation could lead to notable changes in moisture availability for extra-Antarctic regions, increased Antarctic ice sheet disintegration and more rapid sea-level rise.

An Ensemble Mean and Evaluation of Third Generation Global Climate Reanalysis Models

Auger et al., 2018

We have produced a global ensemble mean of the four third-generation climate reanalysis models for the years 1981–2010. The reanalysis system models used in this study are National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR), European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Reanalysis Interim (ERA-I), Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) 55-year Reanalysis (JRA-55), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA). Two gridded datasets are used as a baseline, for temperature the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN), and [...]

Examination of Precipitation Variability in Southern Greenland

Auger et al., 2017

The surface mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet has decreased in recent decades with important implications for global sea level rise. Here a climate reanalysis model is used to examine observed circulation variability and changes in precipitation across southern Greenland to gain insight into the future climate in the region. The influence on precipitation from the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), Icelandic Low, Azores High, regional blocking patterns, and near-surface temperature and winds are explored. Statistically significant correlations are higher between precipitation and the Icelandic Low and near-surface winds [...]

Assessing Hydrological Impacts of short-term climate change in the Mara River Basin of East Africa

Roy et al., 2018

We assess the impacts of a range of short-term climate change scenarios (2020–2050) on the hydrology of the Mara River Basin in East Africa using a new high-resolution (0.25°) daily climate dataset. The scenarios combine natural climate variability, as captured by a vector autoregressive (VAR) model, with a range of climate trends calculated from 31 models in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5). The methodology translates these climate scenarios into plausible daily sequences of climate variables utilizing the Agricultural Modern-Era Retrospective [...]

Climate Change Institute Contribution Series

See a selection of summary reports highlighting the scientific contributions made by UMaine Climate Change Institute researchers. Report topics include Understanding the Climate System, Atmospheric Chemistry, El Niño, Mountain Climate and Environmental Variability, New England Weather, Human Impacts on the Landscape, and many others.