improving climate information to enhance the drought preparedness of montana agricultural producers

Growing demand for water resources couple with climate-driven water scarcity and variability present critical challenges to agriculture and food production. One of the priorities outlined in the State Water Plan (DNRC, 2015) is to increase Montana's drought preparedness. Extensive resources are being allocated to downscaling climate projections and climate scientists have made important advances in understanding past, current, and future climatic conditions. However, despite expected benefits, climate information is rarely used by agricultural producers and therefore has little impact on drought preparedness. Thus, there is a critical need for research focused on improving climate information and effectively integrating that information into producer decision-making. To fill this gap, we propose an interdisciplinary research project that transforms existing climate and forecast data through new analyses and more effective science communication to produce prototypes that better meet the needs of agricultural producers in Montana. These prototypes will then be field tested with end-users to examine how producers trade off different aspects of climate information, such as accuracy, uncertainty, and spatial and temporal scale, to determine usefulness. Research results will inform revision of prototypes so that climate information is relevant to producers' decision context and more likely to be integrated into decision-making.

Dr. Laurie Yung is an Associate Professor of Natural Resources Social Science at the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana. She will be conducting this research in conjunction with Kelsey Jensco, Assistant Professor of Hydrology and State Climatologist at the Montana Climate Office, University of Montana; Libby Metcalf, Associate Professor of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at the the University of Montana; Nick Silverman, Hydroclimatologist at University of Montana; Michael Sweet, Research and Information Systems Specialist at the Montana Climate Office, University of Montana.