Downscaling and visioning of mountain snow packs and other climate change implications in North Vancouver, British Columbia


This paper provides an overview of a collaborative study on visualizing climate change at the local scale. A conceptual framework has been developed, in which local scenarios and visualizations of climate change impacts and response were created to facilitate local dialogue on incorporating climate change into long-term planning and implementation of community development decisions. As part of a larger effort to generate a new integrated participatory visioning process, this paper describes a case study of the District of North Vancouver which created visualizations of changing mountain snow and landscape conditions, and provides new insights on issues and dilemmas in using realistic landscape visualizations to depict scientific modelling projections, local responses to climate change, and uncertainty. Results from this study suggest that the visualizations, and subsequent dialogue sessions, did influence emotional response to climate change as well as self-assessed understanding of adaptation and mitigation response options. However, there is a need to test this visioning process with larger heterogeneous groups of participants in order to better assess its effectiveness in enabling dialogue on local responses to climate change.

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    Stabilization refers to remaining under a 450 ppmv atmosphere CO2 concentration by 2100 (and subsequently remaining below a projected 2°C global average surface temperature warming), considered the threshold of dangerous anthropogenic interference (IPCC 2007).


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This project has been funded by the GEOIDE Network for Centres of Excellence, National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Visualizations were generated at the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP), Dept. of Forest Resources Management, University of British Columbia. Thanks to Environment Canada and Metro Vancouver for their support and assistance in preparing the snowpack and reservoir scenarios and imagery, and the District of North Vancouver and working group stakeholders for support and assistance in preparing the landscape scenarios and imagery.

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Correspondence to Stewart Jay Cohen.

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Cohen, S.J., Sheppard, S., Shaw, A. et al. Downscaling and visioning of mountain snow packs and other climate change implications in North Vancouver, British Columbia. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 17, 25–49 (2012).

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  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Participatory process
  • Snowpack modelling
  • Urban planning
  • Visualization
  • Water management