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 diverse, multidisciplinary datasets, which are both quantitative and qualitative and exist at different spatial and temporal scales.  Current projects in this area of research are focused on extreme heat and human health, as well as on drought and water use.


Extreme heat is a leading cause of weather-related human mortality in the United States and in many countries world-wide. Despite the advances in meteorological forecasting capabilities and the widespread prevalence of air conditioning systems across the U.S., extreme heat persists as a threat to human health.  As global warming patterns continue, researchers anticipate increases in the severity, frequency and duration of extreme heat events. Recent studies on climate impacts demonstrate that climate change will have differential consequences in the U.S. at the regional and local scales.

Global Heat Waves

Empirical studies and model simulations suggest increasing health risks associated with climate change and extreme heat events in cities across the world.


With the goal to provide information useful for managing current drought risks and for adapting to changing climate, this project aims to fill the gaps in the knowledge about the variations in water demand patterns in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB) in response to climate variability.  Specific objectives of the project included: 1) assessing knowledge gaps in the UCRB water demand information at the local scale; 2) analyzing spatial and temporal patterns in water demand across the study domain; 3) examining topological relationships among water users and their respective sources; and

Phoenix Heat Stress

This study is focused on theoretical and methodological advancements for assessing local-level vulnerability and adaptive capacity to extreme heat events. A framework for assessing extreme heat vulnerability has been developed by Wilhelmi and Hayden (2010). The framework explores links between quantitative and qualitative data for a more comprehensive understanding of local-level vulnerability and adaptive capacity to extreme heat events.