BOX 4-1

The Pileus Project

The Pileus Project, conducted by researchers at Michigan State University, began as part of the U.S. National Assessment/Great Lakes Regional Assessment, with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Its objectives were to identify, with stakeholder assistance, the influence of climate on Michigan agriculture and tourism industries; create models to quantify the impacts of past and projected climate variability and change; and develop decision-support tools for climate-related risk management.

The project focused on one agricultural product—tart cherries, a crop that is extremely vulnerable to temperature extremes and also very important to Michigan’s agricultural economy and to the nation, since Michigan provides more than 70 percent of the U.S. supply. Stakeholders provided input on assessment goals, identified information needs, provided expertise and data, and evaluated the decision support tools developed by the project. A suite of web-based tools was developed that included a historical climate tool, downscaled precipitation scenarios, a future scenarios tool, and tools to aid decision makers with respect to their future crop investments (see http://www.pileus.msu.edu/agriculture/tc_tools.htm). The Pileus Project officially ended in August 2007, but work continues with support from the National Science Foundation’s Human and Social Dynamics Program.

The discussions with stakeholders revealed specific kinds of information they wanted—for example, the expected date of the last spring frost—that was not available from existing climate models. A key lesson of the project was that addressing decision makers’ needs frequently requires the development of new forms of data.


SOURCE: Presentation by Jeffrey Andresen and Julie Winkler, Department of Geography, Michigan State University; available at http://www.pileus.msu.edu/.

on reducing the climate-related vulnerability of human systems and activities, improving the ability to respond to damage caused by extreme climate events, and encouraging people to take the future impacts of climate change into consideration in their own decision making. Decision makers also face choices with respect to the design and implementation of institutions and policies to enhance both mitigation and adaptation activities.

Those kinds of decisions require information about climate, but they also require a wide range of other types of information. Mitigation strategies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, for example, may need information on the most effective incentives for automobile manufacturers and purchasers, on appropriate urban design approaches, and on how to combine incentives, regulations, and infor-



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