The University of Arizona

UA Climate Expert Connects People to Science

By Alan Fischer, April 28, 2010

Mike Crimmins travels the state to educate farmers, ranchers and others about how to cope with climate change.

Mike Crimmins,
Mike Crimmins,
Mike Crimmins,
Mike Crimmins,

Mike Crimmins, climate science extension specialist at the University of Arizona, spends his time traveling the state to help farmers, ranchers, resource management agencies and government officials deal with climate-driven issues such as drought and increasing temperatures. He looks at past and current data and uses science to look at what the future might hold.

"I'm out on the road meeting with different groups, coming up with projects and working with stakeholders using the research we conduct," said Crimmins, an assistant professor of soil, water and environmental science in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

"We're trying to figure out how to reduce our vulnerability to climate change," Crimmins said. "We've always worked with climate.  That's how humans have evolved – taking advantage of climate when it is helpful and then working with it when it is not."

"My position was set up to continue the UA's land grant mission but now in this new frontier of climate change science," he said. "I go out and connect the research on campus with the clientele across the state. That is, broad brush, from agricultural and resource management issues to land water and anything that might have some intersection with climate and resource management."

Crimmins is working with Arizona's Hopi and Navajo tribes to determine ways to cope with droughts that could get worse.

"They have been up there thousands of years and have suffered from very deep droughts. So now it's a matter of trying to think how past vulnerability has played out and what new vulnerability will look like," he said. "That is a big issue with climate change that droughts have always occurred in the southwest but they will definitely have a new flavor to them. They are hotter droughts, and in turn, are dryer droughts, based on having more energy to transpire water."

The tribes are offered the latest science on climate change as well as information on better irrigation methods, water conservation and heat and drought resistant crops, he said.

Ranchers across the state benefit from presentations by Crimmins and other researchers.

"Being a climatologist, I can bring in the climate side of things and then work with my colleagues who are range management specialists and livestock management specialists," he said.

He is also working with the Bureau of Land Management on a project that is looking at erosion control structures found in the Safford area.

"They are at a point now where they need to figure out if they continue to put money into managing these structures or pull them out.," he said. "Part of the big effort within these agencies is to think forward about how climate change may impact their strategies from a watershed perspective into the near future."