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The following are selected highlights of recent research supported by CCSP participating agencies (as reported in the fiscal year 2006 edition of the annual report, Our Changing Planet).
Drought is an episodic natural disaster of potentially major proportions. Annual economic losses for the United States can be in the range of several billion dollars. As the recent prolonged drought in the western United States illustrates, drought impacts extend well beyond direct effects on water quantity and quality, with potentially significant consequences for energy generation (hydropower), agriculture, ranching, recreation and tourism, and the health of forests, range lands, fisheries, and other ecosystems.
CCSP has been working to increase partnerships with stakeholder groups to bring advances in climate science to bear on how society can better anticipate, prepare for, and respond to the challenge of drought. A major focus for these efforts is a cooperative effort led by the Western Governors' Association (WGA), with leadership on the Federal side from NOAA in partnership with several other CCSP agencies including USGS, Bureau of Reclamation, and USDA. Other participants include the National Interagency Fire Center, the Western States Water Council, the Interstate Water Council, The Nature Conservancy, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. As a result of this collaboration, in 2004, the WGA produced a report with unanimous approval of the governors that describes key steps necessary to develop and implement the National Integrated Drought Information System and what is required to move the Nation from a reactive to a proactive approach to anticipating, preparing for, and responding to drought and its attendant impacts (see Figure 24). CCSP-supported research is expected to play a fundamental role in developing this new national capability, with particular needs for improved observational, monitoring, and prediction capabilities, and the development of new tools for decision support.
In addition, CCSP has been examining the potential implications of regional drought on crop production. Using radar altimetry data from NASA's TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 Earth observation spacecraft, researchers from NASA, USDA, and the University of Maryland estimated reservoir height and water volume in approximately 100 lakes and reservoirs across the world's major agricultural regions to determine irrigation potential in agriculture-sensitive regions, and as a general indicator of drought or high-water condition. The reservoir height data are used now by analysts in the Production Estimates and Crop Assessment Division of the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service. The World Agricultural Outlook Board uses these condition estimates in forecasts of global agricultural commodities that they regularly publish.
Climate Change Scenarios for Water Resource Managers 
Water resource planners are beginning to ask how climate change might affect specific water resource systems. Reductions in mountain snowpack, which provide large amounts of natural storage for water resource systems in regions such as the Pacific Northwest, are likely at risk from future warming (see the "Climate Variability and Change" and "Global Water Cycle" chapters). Estimates of future warming rates are by themselves of little use to planners, who require watershed-specific information that they typically obtain from simulation models based on historic streamflow data. CCSP-supported university research scientists have found a way to bridge the gap between climate science and traditional water planning practices, providing useful information to water managers regarding river flow projections. These scenarios have allowed planners to compare the impacts of warming-adjusted streamflows with those of a portion of the historic record to see how climate change would affect their ability to meet various water resource objectives such as urban water supply, irrigation, and hydropower.
Large-scale coral bleaching events have been increasing in severity and extent over the past 2 decades. These events cannot be fully explained by localized stressors such as pollution, and instead appear to be linked to the presence of increased sea surface temperatures (Wilkinson, 1998; West and Salm, 2003). While reef managers cannot directly address increases in sea surface temperature linked to climate variability and change, they can engage in adaptive management that takes advantage of knowledge of why some reef areas are less affected by temperature anomalies than others. Three collaborative projects are providing information to assist coral reef managers in the strategic design, placement, zoning, and management of networks of marine-protected areas that maximize reef resilience in the face of climate change. These include: (1) a project to identify environmental factors that may increase resilience by conferring protection from bleaching or enhancing recovery after bleaching; (2) a monitoring project in American Samoa that examines the effects of changes in water quality and different levels of reef protection on coral bleaching and recovery; and (3) a multi-agency cooperative that synthesizes research information to promote adaptive management of coral reefs in response to climate change
The amplification of encephalitis viruses to levels that place human populations at risk of infection depends in part on temperature-related factors. Research is underway that uses climate forecasting at various spatial scales to alert local and state public health officials to changing risks of encephalitis infection. A risk model has been developed that characterizes climate factors related to encephalitis outbreaks (e.g., indicators for rainfall, runoff, and temperature). The model demonstrates that mosquito abundance patterns and associated patterns of encephalitis risk vary spatially across the different biomes of California and show strong links to climate variations (Barker et al ., 2003). The California Mosquito-Borne Virus Surveillance and Response Plan [PDF] provides a means for estimating the risk from two endemic encephalitides [western equine encephalomyelitis (WEE) and St. Louis encephalitis (SLE)] and describes intervention guidelines for mosquito control that public health agencies can use during periods of heightened risk for human infection. These risk models provide a means for calculating a risk estimate for WEE and SLE infection and a basis for prescribing appropriate response strategies to protect public health.
Improved Air Quality Forecasts
EPA has partnered with NASA and NOAA to improve its air quality index for current conditions ("nowcasts") and forecasts for the next 30 hours by assimilating data from NASA's Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument flown on the Terra and Aqua spacecraft. EPA and NOAA signed a cooperative agreement in May 2003 to coordinate the development of air quality forecast guidance. The improved forecasts of air quality and pollution are integrated into a prototype tool that is delivered via the internet. EPA recently integrated the prototype tool into its AIRNow Forecaster Training Workshops, providing training to over 200 air quality forecasting professionals throughout the country. Air quality information is not only important for health-advisory purposes; aerosols (fine particles), tropospheric ozone, and other short-lived air pollutants are also recognized as potential climate forcing agents.
Decision-Support Resources for Ecosystem and Carbon Management Applications 
Researchers evaluated results from an integrated model and decision-support tools that help inform decisions related to ecosystem and carbon management. Using vegetation data from MODIS instruments on board the Terra and Aqua spacecraft, NASA's Carnegie-Ames-Stanford Approach (CASA) model predicts photosynthesis rates, the amount of vegetation and living organisms within a unit area, and estimates of organic matter that forms the litter layer in soil. The Carbon Query and Evaluation Support Tools (CQUEST) tool provides Internet access for decisionmakers to display, manipulate, and save CASA model estimates of carbon sinks [reservoirs that absorb and store carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere] and CO2 fluctuations in agricultural and forest ecosystems for locations anywhere in the United States. USDA Forest Service is currently evaluating CQUEST for monitoring carbon sequestration and loss through forest disturbance and regrowth.
Climate connections to fire severity appear to occur through the effects of varying moisture patterns in producing higher or lower than normal amounts of grass in the preceding 2 years, and from the dryness of the vegetation. CCSP-supported scientists are studying these climate and wildfire interactions on a regional scale for the western United States (Roads et al ., 2004; Reinbold et al ., 2004), and developing long-lead forecasts for use by wildfire managers (Brown et al ., 2003). Westerling et al . (2002) compiled a comprehensive 21-year fire history for the western United States to facilitate climate-based predictions of the potential severity of the fire season several months in advance. Numerous steps are being taken to bring this scientific information to relevant decisionmakers. For example, two workshops are held each year – one focused on eastern and southern states and the other on western states and Alaska – involving climate scientists and wildfire managers (e.g., the National Interagency Fire Center) to provide and discuss the climate outlook for the upcoming fire season (Lenart et al ., 2005; Garfin et al ., 2004). Further information on these workshops may be obtained online.
Famine Early Warning System Network
The United States supports the innovative application of science to alleviate risks related to existing climate variability or the potential for climate change through the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET). FEWS NET provides decisionmakers with the information to respond effectively to drought and food insecurity by analyzing remote-sensing data and ground-based meteorological, crop, and rangeland observations to identify early indications of potential famine. In addition to using data produced by host governments for its analyses, FEWS NET uses data from satellite imagery [Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) or "greenness" images and Meteosat Rainfall Estimation images] that it receives every 10 days throughout the year. FEWS NET operates in 20 countries in Africa, three countries in Central America, and in Haiti and Afghanistan.