Where’s Practical Climate Data when you Desperately Need It?

There are a lot of parameters to consider when planning infrastructure for today and the decades to come. It is a compound of existing assets, communities, social issues, vulnerabilities but also water and climate data. This is why democratizing access to all those datasets is so crucial to solving the water crisis in America! And we’ll get to understand how and why:

with 🎙️ Sarah Kapnick, Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

💧 The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) aims to enrich life through science. From the sun’s surface to the ocean’s depths, the Agency works to keep the public informed of the changing environment around them.

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What we covered:

🌳 How Climate Data will help to rethink water, infrastructure and the link between both

🤝 How it takes a village to solve the climate and infrastructure riddle and how NOAA teamed up with ESRI (and why)

⛈️ How climate change’s impact on the American infrastructure can already be felt today and how it will intensify in the future – unless the right actions are taken

📊 How climate change disrupts the way infrastructure planning is organized and how climate data has to play a prominent role in the future

📣 How there’s an effort to pursue communicating the right information with the general opinion but also key decision-makers

💰 Finding the right metric for impact, the Biden-Harris infrastructure bill, scattered information (and especially climate data), teaming up… and more!

🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥


➡️ Send your warm regards to Sarah on LinkedIn.

➡️ Check out the NOAA’s website

➡️ A big THANK YOU to Sciens Water for enabling this episode!

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is on Linkedin ➡️

Teaser – How People had a hard time accessing the right Climate Data before NOAA stepped in

Full Video: My conversation with Sarah Kapnick

Full Transcript:

These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂

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Antoine Walter: Hi Sarah, welcome to the show.

Sarah Kapnick: Thank you for having me.

How Climate Data will help Rethink Water

Antoine Walter: What’s your way to rethink water?

Sarah Kapnick: What I’m bringing from my agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is we’re providing information on the future of water through projections of climate information, but also forecasts from weather forecast out to two weeks to seasonal predict out to several months or even out to two years.

And so we provide the information to be able to manage water during the operational side of operations of day-to-day or for a couple of months, trying to think through what does the future look like? In near term versus short-term extremes, but then also long-term infrastructure planning.

How do you plan for the very future, and how do you plan for changes in those also potentially operational needs that you may have also due to climate change. So there’s a rethinking of the use of all of the data that we have. To be able to more efficiently manage the water resources that we have right now.

Information and Data required to manage water are hardly available

Antoine Walter: You mentioned all the data you have. How accessible is that data? Do you have to really bridge a lot of sources? Do you have to build something which is existing maybe in basements and in archives? What’s the availability of the data today?

Sarah Kapnick: Yeah, yeah. That is a major challenge that we’re focused on right now is making sure that data isn’t on some server somewhere that no one is accessing.

We recently launched CAMERA, which is also across federal agencies, which is. Resilience.Climate.gov to be able to explore climate information across the United States. And it provides it in mapping software with ESRI, which is traditionally what a lot of the utilities or communities use to be able to explore information across their assets.

NOAA teamed up with ESRI to distributed climate data (among other datasets)

And so we actually went out, we made a partnership with a private company to be able to figure out how to provide the data in the way communities are using because we found people couldn’t access a lot of the wealth of data that was out there on climate information. And so it’s not just a rethinking of how do we do our operations, but also how do we access the data, how do we use it, and how do we start manipulating it for the future to figure out how to actually put it into action.

Additionally, there’s a bunch of work that we’re pushing forward on AI and machine learning to try and overlay the climate and physical and water information that we have within the infrastructure, the physical assets. But also communities. Social issues, vulnerabilities to be able to blend all those different data sets to be able to provide new insights about how to manage those resources or also how situations can change evolving during either extreme events or even just during general operations.

Climate Change’s impact on the Water Infrastructure isn’t decades off!

Antoine Walter: When you’re doing that work to do projections as to what the future might hold, do you have a AHA moment where at some point you’re realizing, oh, that is really different from what we were expecting, and we will have to adapt policies or the way we manage water or the way we treat or look at water.

Sarah Kapnick: Yes. I think that time is really now that people are realizing that climate change and the climate issues enforcing on water isn’t something that is decades off from now. It is actually an issue that needs to be addressed now and planned for now. And so there’s been a shift in mindset in the federal government, but also in the private sector recently around we have to start dealing with these issues now.

These are not problems that we can put off for the future.

Solutions can’t grow in isolation: it’s time to team up

Antoine Walter: You mentioned the private sector and you mentioned how you’ve partnered with the private sector, so private public relationships and partnerships. It’s a topic we’ve discussed a bit with the Mayor of Greenville on that microphone some minutes ago. How natural is it to have these kind of partnerships?

Is it new? Has it always been like that in the US or how do you handle that?

Sarah Kapnick: There have always been private public partnerships, but I think right now due to the systematic issues that climate change and water pose, these solutions can’t grow in isolation. I think there’s increasing recognition that you need to have these partnerships to be able to use the data more effectively and use the information more effectively to create plans.

So we are making that in our operations and how we’re disseminating data, and we’re also doing that with getting feedback on the type of data and products that we produce to make sure that the science of our agency is rising to the challenges that we see society facing.

NOAA is the authoritative information source for Climate Data (and beyond) in the US

Antoine Walter: So you’re trying to inform the decisions, if I get that right with some forward-looking ways to, to collect data and to leverage data. What is the boundary to your implication? Do you give a recommendation and then people might or might not apply it? Or do you also work with the people who will have to implement the infrastructure changes or whatever it takes?

Sarah Kapnick: Our agency is the authoritative information source for this type of information for decision makers to make those decisions.

So my goal is to make sure that we have high integrity data, that people trust that they use and that is in their decision making process. And it is up to them to make the final decisions on what it is that they want to do with us, with that information. But we will provide them with all the data, all the information that they need to help them make those decisions.

Mm-hmm. . And those decisions may be multifaceted. It won’t just be science that they’re looking at. They’re looking at infrastructure challenges, investing challenges, social challenges, vulnerabilities, and so we can provide them with those underlying data sets to be able to make those decisions ultimately, but it’s ultimately up to them.

Climate Change is a threat multiplier

Antoine Walter: In his keynotes, Seth Siegel mentioned these two overarching problems, the water quality and the water scarcity element. And I know it’s like the impossible question, but if you have two pick just one, what is the most pressing challenge today in light of climate change?

Sarah Kapnick: I think that they’re so intertwined and is community specific that It’s hard to say that one is a greater challenge than the other, but I will say that climate change is a threat multiplier on both of them.

It makes it harder to manage both of those issues, and so climate information needs to be brought in into figuring out how to manage both those issues as well.

It is time to move away from decennial, centennial and millennial statistics

Antoine Walter: A lot of the way we’ve designed infrastructure in the past relies on statistics and models. For instance, you, you build a dam knowing that there’s one out of 100 chances that there’s a flood of that size this year.

With climate change, all those statistics somehow become obsolete. You have to rethink almost everything. How much are you running in a race, which is hard to win or to keep the pace? You have to rebuild?

Sarah Kapnick: Climate projections, give us an eye into what the future holds, and so it allows us to understand what the next two years, decades can look like, but also uncertainties around that and your uncertainties of what the emissions are, and so you can use that information to try and figure out what infrastructure you need today. For the next 10 years and what different types of infrastructure you may need 30 years from now when you might have greater uncertainty.

… and replace them with climate projections

And so it allows you to make those decisions and those investment processes over the several decades to be able to plan for climate resilience. Climate projections give us this directional information that then decision-makers can use.

And I think we also need to get away from talking about one in 100 year events or one in thousand year events, because that assumes some staticness in those metrics. And so we need to talk more about what are the risks of these types of events? How are those risks evolving over time, and how do you manage evolving risk instead of talking about it in those static terms.

Is Climate Risk perception already where it needs to be?

Antoine Walter: How do you bring that perception of the risk to the general opinion? Because we’ve lived and we’ve grown up in a social where we’ve been told that basically science has us covered. That technology will protect us, that technology will be able to mitigate floods, prevent water quality issues and so forth and so on.

And the more we see that advancing into this climate change, new real climate adaptation, we start to discover that it’s about mitigating the risk. There will be floods if we mitigate them right, they won’t be too harmful, but they will exist. There will be water quality problems. Again, we can mitigate them and make sure that the day they happen, we prevent people so that they don’t drink it. But we cannot prevent those events from happening.

And for the men in the streets, that might be concerning. How do to bring the message to everyone that is the new real and we have to adapt to the new realm?

It’s a communication play around diffusing the right climate data

Sarah Kapnick: Improving our communications around all these issues so the public is aware of the problems and how they’re evolving is a major focus of this administration or our agency right now.

Trying to make sure that we have people understanding these issues and we’re speaking in terms that they can understand. We have something called climate.gov, which actually provides climate information. One-stop website where people can go to learn about these different things. But then it’s also how we talk to the media, how we talk to external priorities, how we work and engage in local communities and states.

And then also how we work with the social sciences. It’s not enough just to get do the data and do the data on the physical sciences. We also have to do the work in the social sciences to make sure that we’re communicating it well, but also that there are incentives and uptake of that information to make those types of decisions.

And so that’s why I regularly talk about, the system’s problem. It’s not just solved by better data. It’s not just solved by one thing. It’s many different things have to be working in. To be able to create the solutions that are needed for dealing with the issue.

What’s NOAA metric for impact?

Antoine Walter: I have a crystal ball question to round off that discussion, which is if you look in five or 10 years, what will tell you that you had a positive impact?

Sarah Kapnick: It will be the uptick and use of climate information across the US to be able to build resiliency and adaptation plans and the fact that those plans and investments have happened that we see that there’s been action on figuring out how to build resiliency and adaptation around the united States.

The infrastructure bill supports the deployment of the right solutions

Antoine Walter: So when you see the Biden administration infrastructure bill, that is a first success for you or is it unrelated?

Sarah Kapnick: The infrastructure bill provided us with funding to be able to help with advancing those priorities of the agency as well as the IRA funding. It’s critical for building coastal resilience for our data plans, for advancing high-performance computing and all the things that we need to be able to better deliver weather forecasts, seasonal predictions and projection information, but then also delivering that information to communities and to local governments be able to make the decisions that need to be made around weather and climate

Antoine Walter: To round-off I just have one rapid fire question and then I’ll let you enjoy the rest of the conference.

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Rapid Fire Questions

My rapid fire question is the following, what is the most exciting projects you’ve been working on and why?

Sarah Kapnick: There’s just so many to count. That’s a good answer. there. There it is. Just an exciting time right now where we are doing so much and trying to improve our data, improve our models, improve our communications, improve our public-private partnerships.

We are doing all the things that we need to be doing to try and build resilience and adapt. Into climate issues, and I’m just really excited about the next few years, what it holds for us to be able to really make progress on these problems.

Antoine Walter: Well, Sarah, it’s been a pleasure. I hope I didn’t take too long of your time and enjoy the, the rest of the conference.

Sarah Kapnick: Thank you.

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