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Critical Thresholds to Extreme Weather Events: Boulder, CO Case Study

Boulder is a progressive city in the greater Denver metro area. The city frequently experiments with novel means of city planning, zoning, and policies, largely with the support of the citizens. Capacity of city staff to understand climate information is high and recent flooding and wildfire events have raised concerns and increased motivation to address these issues.

The project team worked with local participants to identify a variety of thresholds of concern, including high daytime temperatures, high nighttime temperatures, heavy precipitation events, shifts in wildfire risk, and extreme swings in temperature (especially in the spring as they could affect the urban tree canopy). Heat waves are uncommon but likely to become more frequent in the future and the city has yet to prepare for this threat. (Download the report to see climate projections for the future.)

The city decided that it was critical to develop a common understanding of the challenges that climate change will pose, then build on that understanding to act across city departments. In 2016, the city planned and executed a series of workshops which included sharing local climate projections to spur actions to address potential climate impacts across all departments. The workshops also created a forum for departmental staff to interact and work together to address current and future climate related concerns.

Funded by: NOAA Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP)