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Who we are, what we do

WWA conducts innovative research in partnership with decision makers in the Rocky Mountain West, helping them make the best use of science to manage for climate impacts. WWA is a program of the University of Colorado Boulder and is part of the NOAA RISA (Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments) network.

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Intermountain West Climate Dashboard

29 climate and water information graphics for our region - 12 are updated daily

Most recent Briefing:
April 13

WWA Webinar Series

In 2012, WWA began a series of webinars describing recent and ongoing research by WWA team members. The Webinar Series page offers links to presentations and audio/video from past webinars.

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Recent WWA Publications

The role of U.S. states in facilitating effective water governance under stress and change

April 2016


Worldwide water governance failures undermine effective water management under uncertainty and change. Overcoming these failures requires employing more adaptive, resilient water management approaches; yet, while scholars have advance theory of what adaptive, resilient approaches should be, there is little empirical evidence to support those normative propositions. To fill this gap, Kirchhoff and Dilling reviewed the literature to derive theorized characteristics of adaptive, resilient water governance including knowledge generation and use, participation, clear rules for water use, and incorporating nonstationarity. Read the paper here.

Kirchhoff, C. and L. Dilling, 2016. Water Resources Research, Published April 17.

Improving the public value of science: A typology to inform discussion, design and implementation of research

March 2016


Elizabeth McNie published a paper entitled “Improving the public value of science: A typology to inform discussion, design and implementation of research” with Adam Parris and Dan Sarewitz. In this paper, they describe a more complete view of research activities and expectations and introduce a multi-dimensional typology of research activities. Attributes of research are idealized on a spectrum, from science-centric to user-oriented. Using the typology can inform science-policy planning and decisions.

McNie, E. C., A. Parris, and D. Sarewitz, 2016. Research Policy, Vol. 45, Issue 4.

SNOTEL sensor upgrade has caused temperature record inhomogeneities for the Intermountain West

December 2015


The motivation for this briefing is to examine the large inhomogeneity (step shift) in the observed temperature record at the SNOw TELemetry (SNOTEL) stations in the Intermountain West and its implications for climate, hydrology and ecological research in the region. Read the full briefing.

Rangwala, I., T. Bardsley, M. Pescinski, and J. Miller, 2015. Western Water Assessment Climate Research Briefing.

The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center and the Decision Making Process

November 2015


This study investigated characteristics of the users or potential users of Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) forecasts and their decision making contexts, and analyzed the utility of a Western Water Assessment project quantifying the contribution of tree death due to bark beetle infestation along with desert dust deposition on snowpack on streamflow. Read the full report.

Klein, R. and L. Dilling, 2015. Western Water Assessment White Paper.

WWA Spotlight

NOAA SARP Award: Advancing the use of drought early warning systems in the Upper Colorado River Basin

Seth ArensBen Livneh and colleagues recently received an award from NOAA’s Sectoral Applications Research Program. This project will identify opportunities to improve drought risk management by characterizing decision processes related to drought risk and describing the current use of information among water providers in the Western Slope. Then, we will assess whether snowpack indicators will remain good predictors of seasonal water supplies under a warming climate. The first element of the project will consist of in-depth interviews, participant observation, document analysis and focus groups of five Western Slope water entities. The second element will evaluate the robustness of current snow-based drought indicators, estimate the change in robustness under projected future climate warming using modeled data, and explore the implications of changing robustness for climate adaptation resilience through focus groups with water managers. The project team consists of researchers and practitioners with diverse and complementary backgrounds (hydrology, climatology, social science, policy, civil engineering, and water resources management) and broad experience working on water and climate issues on the Western Slope. Personnel for this project include: Ben Livneh, Lisa Dilling, Bill Travis, Jeff Lukas, Nolan Doesken, and Eric Kuhn. (April 28, 2016)

2015: warmest year on record globally and for the western US; 3rd-warmest for Colorado, Utah, Wyoming

NOAAand NASA announced on January 20 that according to their respective analyses of surface temperature records, 2015 was the warmest calendar year on record (since 1880) globally, by a large margin over 2014. NOAA also reported that for the western US, 2015 was the warmest year on record (since 1895), just topping 1934, and the 3rd-warmest year on record (since 1895) for each of the states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. (January 22, 2016)


Lisa Dilling appears on KGNU Science Show

Seth ArensAs political leaders are still hammering out an accord at the UN Climate Summit (COP21), in Paris, to rein in global warming. KGNU Science Show discussed the underlying scientific facts about climate change, and the policy promises and challenges for our future with WWA's Lisa Dilling. Listen to the show (start time: 7:06). (December 8, 2015)

Seth Arens joins WWA as Utah research integration specialist

Seth ArensWe’re pleased to announce that Seth Arens has joined WWA as our research integration specialist in Utah. Seth has a diverse background in science, including research experience in ecosystem and plant physiological ecology, snow hydrology and atmospheric science. Seth worked as an environmental scientist for the Utah Division of Air Quality, where he developed research program to assess the extent and causes of ozone pollution in Utah and maintained Utah’s air quality monitoring network from 2010-2015. Prior to working in Utah, Seth studied impacts of climate change on ecosystem structure and carbon balance of Arctic ecosystems in Alaska and Greenland. Seth earned a BA in Biology and Environmental Policy from Colby College in Waterville, ME, an MS in Biological Science from the University of Alaska-Anchorage and an MS in Biology from the University of Utah. (December 1, 2015)