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Rocky Mountain Research Station


The Consortium for Integrated Climate Research in Western Mountains (CIRMOUNT) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary consortium dedicated to understanding climates and ecosystems of western North American mountains. CIRMOUNT's goal is to bring together researchers from diverse disciplines and institutions to monitor and understand climate-driven changes in the unique landscapes that define western North American mountains, and to respond to the needs and challenges of western society for mountain resources imposed by climate change.  

CIRMOUNT grew from a grass-roots initiative in the early 2000s, fueled by the concerns and interests of a cross-section of physical and ecological scientists working in western North American mountain climate sciences. While coming from diverse disciplines, these scientists and those who align with CIRMOUNT share a common passion to improve and integrate understanding and applications about climate in western mountains and effects on ecosystems. An ad hoc committee formed to promote greater understanding of the physical processes affecting western mountains and their ecosystems, and to improve communication of scientific findings to policy- and decision-makers. Several symposia and special sessions were hosted in 2002-2003, and in May, 2004, the nascent CIRMOUNT sponsored the Mountain Climate Sciences Symposium at Lake Tahoe, California, to identify the range of topics that CIRMOUNT should address and to envision projects that the consortium could undertake.

Participants at the Tahoe Symposium proposed a research initiative aimed at improving our understanding and ability to predict future climate and ecosystem changes in the West. In particular, they agreed that strategies were needed to encourage close collaboration among researchers from many scientific disciplines regarding the likely impacts that temperature and precipitation changes arising from both natural variability and greenhouse warming would have on western North American mountain ecosystems. Answering these questions will be critical in assessing their impacts on the hydrology of the West, and how those changes may be linked to ecosystem goods and services.  


CIRMOUNT addresses four urgent challenges facing western North America climate science and policy communities:

  • Mountain regions are vastly under-instrumented to measure climate and long term changes - we do not even know how mountain climates are related to lowland conditions;
  • Research on western North American mountain climates & ecosystems is intensive, but scattered and poorly integrated;
  • Societal demands on western mountain ecosystems are exponentially escalating, imposing new and cumulative stresses on natural resources and rural community capacities;
  • Climate change is widely ignored in mountain land-use planning and natural-resource policy to the detriment of ecosystems conservation and natural resource management.
  • In confronting these challenges, CIRMOUNT provides a forum that is responsive to the needs and challenges of western society imposed by climate changes on mountain ecosystems.

CIRMOUNT goals for the mountains of Western North America:

  • Promote installation and analysis of coordinated high-elevation climate, hydrologic, and ecosystem monitoring (observation)
  • Catalyze integrated research on mountain climates and their effects on ecosystems (research)
  • Communicate science among diverse disciplines and provide sound science for effective land-use planning and management (communication and decision-support)
  • Promote development of longterm, policy-relevant mountain climate and ecosystem databases (research, observation, communication, and decision- support)
  • Develop CIRMOUNT as a pilot regional model for integrating climate-related sciences at the international scale; encourage participation of the CIRMOUNT community in global mountain-climate programs and assessments (international collaboration)

CIRMOUNT aligns with the goals of the U.S. federal Global Change Research Program and coordinates with the USGS Western Mountain Initiative


  • Desert Research Institute
  • Mountain Research Initiative
  • NOAA, Earth System Research Lab
  • University of Arizona
  • University of California, Santa Barbara
  • University of Idaho
  • USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station
  • USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station
  • USGS Water Resources Division
  • USGS Biological Resources Division
  • Western Washington University

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