Reflections on the Design of US Climate Change Visualization Tools

Authors: Robert Roth*, UW-Madison
Topics: Cartography, Coastal and Marine, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: climate change, visualization, cartography, data infrastructure
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Southdown, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In this presentation, I discuss my experiences assisting the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with design of the Sea Level Rise Viewer ( and the Lake Level Viewer (, two interactive water level visualization tools supporting adaptive management of new and amplified hazards induced by climate change along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific (excluding Alaska) coasts (SLR) and in the Great Lakes (LLV). The coastal visualization projects enabled a unique collaboration and productive exchange between the academy and policymakers, with UW‒Madison and the Sea Grant Institute managing user-centered design and NOAA managing data collection and technical development. I specifically was charged with Great Lakes climate science and visualization—with feedback loops between tools built into the process—and conducted a series of discount user studies on paper wireframes and early prototypes with stakeholders across the Great Lakes. In the talk, I describe this collaborative process, reflecting on what I think worked in our designs as well as missed opportunities for climate change visualization and communication. I also discuss how profound administrative changes over the year since completing the projects have impacted the reach of these tools and may limit the possibility of future climate science projects. I conclude by arguing that interactive maps and visualizations, and their underlying geographic information, must be treated as critical public infrastructure, and that mechanisms for maintaining and archiving these tools should be a priority for climate change science broadly and climate change visualization specifically.

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