Climate Variability Research

Oklahoma NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Award No. IIA-1301789

Oklahoma:  A Perfect Storm for Climate Variability Research

Oklahoma’s unpredictable weather and large precipitation gradient work together to create a vulnerable and diverse landscape that is exceptionally well-suited for the climate-based research that NSF EPSCoR scientists are performing. 

This research team, representing more than a dozen disciplines and four institutions from across the state, is working to advance understanding of how socio-ecological systems can adapt sustainably to climate variability. 

Scientists will examine complex human, climate and natural resource systems, while addressing three interlinked research focus areas:  an observatory network, a forecasting system, and a decision support system.

The knowledge gained from this project will be used to empower managers to effectively adapt social and ecological systems to climate variability and to educate Oklahomans about the expected consequences of regional environmental change.

The project is innovative in addressing each of the following research objectives in tandem, as well as their interactions.

Research Objectives

Oklahoma’s existing weather, water and climate observational assets will be augmented through the establishment of a world-class socio-ecological observatory that focuses on the climate-responsive and adaptive components of coupled human and natural systems research.  The EPSCoR observatory will supply critical data that are necessary for a systems-level understanding of the coupled systems in Oklahoma.

A modeling system will be built to integrate qualitative and quantitative data from the observatories and to systematically examine insights from disciplinary and integrated perspectives. Observations from the socio-ecological observatory will inform and advance these modeling and prediction efforts, leading to better understanding of the primary drivers of the integrated system and its subsystems, as well as critical exchanges, thresholds, feedbacks and uncertainties.  Capturing these interactions will lead to enhanced cyber-enabled data assimilation, uncertainty analysis, process-based simulations and prediction for both human and natural systems.

A pilot decision-support system will be developed to enhance the resilience of socio-ecological systems to climate variability.  The system will provide researchers, educators and practitioners with cyber-based data, models, tools and scenarios that will allow them to explore and understand the social and ecological impacts of management and policy decisions related to a specific need.