Photo of heavy rains in New Orleans

Indicators are based on observed data that can be used to track and communicate climate-related conditions, trends, and impacts. 

Indicators—which may be physical, ecological, health or societal—can be used to assess risks and vulnerabilities and help inform resiliency and adaptation planning in a changing climate.

Go beyond the data and explore climate indicators with an interactive Story Map developed by the USDA Forest Service with support from the Environmental Protection Agency. Explore the climate story through observations including human consequences of climate change, adaptation, and resilience. Examine observed evidence of changes in greenhouse gases, weather and climate, oceans, snow and ice and how these changes can impact health and society.

View the eighteen USGCRP indicators below, or use the filters to search by topic or USGCRP agency

Measures in the relative amount of annual rainfall delivered by large, single-day precipitation events shows change over time. Extreme precipitation events are defined as days with precipitation in the top 1 percent of all days with precipitation.
Extreme Events Societal Impacts Agriculture & Food Cities & Infrastructure Vulnerability Physical Climate
This indicator examines changes in the location of fish, shellfish, and other marine species along U.S. coasts.
Adaptation Coasts Ecosystems & Biodiversity Oceans Vulnerability
The concentration of chlorophyll is an indicator for the amount of photosynthetic plankton, or phytoplankton , present in the ocean. Phytoplankton populations are influenced by climatic factors such as sea surface temperatures and winds.
Coasts Ecosystems & Biodiversity International Oceans
Sea level rise is primarily driven by two factors related to climate change. The first factor is “thermal expansion” – as ocean temperatures rise, the water expands. The second factor is melting of land ice (ice sheets and glaciers), which adds water to the world’s oceans.
Oceans Coasts Adaptation Physical Climate Vulnerability
Over 70% of Earth’s surface area is ocean, which plays a major role in regulating Earth’s climate system. Much of the heat trapped by increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels is absorbed by the ocean, causing ocean temperatures to rise.
International Oceans Physical Climate Coasts
This indicator tracks the start of spring each year. The start of spring occurs on the date when enough heat has accumulated to initiate growth (leafing and flowering) in temperature-sensitive plants.
Adaptation Agriculture & Food Ecosystems & Biodiversity Physical Climate Seasonality
Carbon is stored in living and dead organic matter above and below the ground. Changes in terrestrial (or land-based) ecosystems—for instance, as a result of climate or land use changes—can contribute to changes in carbon storage, which in turn can affect the climate system through the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
Carbon Cycle Ecosystems & Biodiversity Land Use & Land Cover Mitigation
This indicator tracks observed changes in temperatures across the contiguous United States. Increasing U.S. temperatures reflect the overall warming trend in the climate system.
Physical Climate Societal Impacts