Document Type


Publication Date



The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) provided the most up-to-date understanding of climate change and its effects on the Earth system and on consequences for the United States, including impacts and associated risks, along with approaches to coping with these effects. It is intended to provide guidance to decision-makers in governmental sectors while, in practice, providing guidance for nongovernmental actors. Its regional and topical chapters highlight current knowledge, uncertainties, gaps in knowledge, and emerging threats. The current knowledge and gaps can help set a research agenda to inform future national, regional, and local climate assessments and thereby support better decision-making. The evolution of the assessment, including greater diversity in participation, and more grounded research in the Northwest represents a growing and deepening engagement with more diverse participants. This shift emphasizes the importance of diversity, inclusion, and a greater acknowledgment of multiple ways of knowing, including local and Indigenous knowledge. The Northwest chapter reflects the broader shift in framing from NCA3 to NCA4 to better understand how climate impacts pose risks to things of value in each sector or region. It considers climate impacts through five broad ways in which humans relate to the environment: natural resource economy; heritage and quality of life; water, transportation, and infrastructure; health and social systems; and frontline communities. We reflect on the assessment process and identify three recommendations to improve the assessment outcomes and processes: seek new ways to 1) engage diverse authors and stakeholders and 2) value and integrate epistemic plurality and different knowledge systems, and 3) when gaps are identified, promote research or data collection efforts designed to fill those gaps. Done well, the assessment can build support and knowledge to facilitate community action, leading to broader resilience.


For a complete list of authors, please see the article.

Copyright Statement

© Copyright 2020 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be "fair use" under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a website or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. All AMS journals and monograph publications are registered with the Copyright Clearance Center ( Questions about permission to use materials for which AMS holds the copyright can also be directed to Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy statement, available on the AMS website (