Two University of Oklahoma Faculty Contribute to National Climate Assessment

Two University of Oklahoma researchers were among a team of authors from across the nation that produced the National Climate Assessment released today. The report shows that climate change is affecting Americans now and presents the challenges that our society is likely to face in coming decades.
The report contains 30 chapters covering climate change science, its effect on the economy and the region, and options for reducing its impacts. Authors of the Great Plains chapter were OU faculty Mark Shafer and Renee McPherson served as. Shafer is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability and associate state climatologist at the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. McPherson is an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability and director of research at the South Central Climate Science Center. She is also a lead researcher on the multi-institutional OK NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Award No. IIA-1301789 titled Adapting Socio-Ecological Systems to Increased Climate Variability.  Together, Shafer and McPherson spent more than two years reviewing materials, preparing a summary, and responding to comments from the public, agencies, and National Academy of Sciences.
“Climate change is no longer projections of 100 years from now,” said Shafer. “We are already beginning to feel its impacts. This report is not a message of doom-and-gloom though; rather it clearly lays out the impacts we expect and a path forward for us to adapt to these changes.”
In the Great Plains, identified climate challenges revolve around the availability of water for agriculture, energy production and ecological needs; changes in crop growth cycles; the effects of landscape fragmentation; the impacts of climate extremes on vulnerable communities; and the need for more aggressive adaptation and planning efforts. Key messages about the impacts of climate change on the Great Plains include increasing water demand, changes to crop growth cycles, landscape fragmentation and the exceeding magnitude of climate changes.
“People, communities, and businesses in the Great Plains are very familiar with the sudden changes in our region's climate,” said McPherson. “As we experience more extremes of heat, drought and flooding, we can help ourselves and others to plan for and respond to these events. We have the desire to pass on a better life to the next generation, so I expect Oklahomans to be leaders and not followers in adapting to the changes that are occurring.”
The Assessment was assembled by 240 authors drawn from universities; local, state and federal government; and the private and nonprofit sectors. It was overseen by a 60-member federal advisory committee and reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences, federal agencies, and included public comments. As such, it is the most comprehensive peer-reviewed analysis of climate change’s impacts in the United States. OU was one of four Big 12 schools represented on the author teams.
Federal law requires periodic assessments of the impacts of climate change on the American economy, its people and landscape. This is the third such report; the other two released in 2000 and 2009. The National Climate Assessment is an important resource for understanding and communicating climate change science and its impacts in the United States. The assessment informs the nation about observed changes, the current state of the climate and anticipated trends for the future integrating scientific information from multiple sources and sectors to highlight key findings and significant gaps in knowledge. It also establishes consistent methods for evaluating climate impacts in the U.S. in the context of broader global change and provides input to Federal agencies’ science priorities. The report is used by people, communities and businesses as they create more sustainable, resilient and environmentally sound plans for our nation’s future.
For more information about the National Climate Assessment, visit The report is available online at
For more information about OU’s College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, visit
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Press release provided by:
Melissa Bird
College of Atmospheric & Geographic Sciences
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