We encourage you to start with a global view. Our climate is a global system, and the weather in any location connects to the rest of the system. Similarly, we live in a globalized world, and the impacts of climate change in a given region are likely to have ramifications elsewhere.
Next, zoom down to a large region, perhaps one you are familiar with. Move through the warming scenarios and observe how the trends relate to topography, proximity to bodies of water, and other natural features.
Then, click on a cell to understand the distribution of values behind it. Perhaps do the same for surrounding cells and observe how similar or different they are, and what might influence those differences. Few people have ever experienced rainforests or tundra, but we encourage you to examine changes in those areas because they are vital to the stability of our climate.
We can divide Earth up into patterns of temperature and precipitation called climate zones. For example, places may be far from one another but have very similar climate conditions (e.g., Northern California, coastal Australia, and parts of South Africa). In contrast, two locations might be very close on the map, but a mountain range might divide them. In such a case, a tropical zone might be right next to a desert zone. These climate zones were stable for over 10,000 years, but they are already shifting. Climate change will continue to shift patterns of temperature and weather, as warmer conditions move north from the equator. Consider what might happen as local climates change fundamentally. Think about how climate change will challenge plants, animals, infrastructure, and agriculture and how plants, animals and humans might adapt or migrate.
From one region to the next, climate may differ dramatically depending on topography and other factors. However, it is important to consider that regions are highly integrated, often sharing populations, infrastructure, government, economic interdependencies, and other connections. Changes that appear for any region on Probable Futures maps will have impacts beyond their given area.
As you explore, consider factors in society that have duration—or that rely on long-term planning, such as a school, house, or farm, or an obligation such as a mortgage or treaty. Then, imagine the ways that climate change could directly or indirectly affect those things.
You might also think in terms of thresholds. Human health has survivability thresholds, infrastructure like roads or the electrical grid has engineering thresholds, ecosystems contain crucial disturbance thresholds. Many of these thresholds are specific to a certain community or region, and the best people to consider those thresholds will be people with local knowledge.
We hope that spending time with Probable Futures will encourage you to reach out to people around you, including people responsible for, and with expertise in, health, ecology, infrastructure, and government. Strengthening community is perhaps the best form of climate preparedness.