Professor and Director, PRISM Climate Group

School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering

Oregon State University

Corvallis, OR 97331


Phone:  541-737-2531

Daly’s full CV

PRISM Group Website



B.S. Atmospheric Sciences, U.C. Davis, 1978

M.A. Geography, University of Colorado, 1984

Ph.D. General Science, Oregon State University, 1994


PRISM Climate Group

Group Lab Photo of PRISM Climate Group

PRISM Climate Group members, from left to right:  Mike Halbleib, M.S. Soil Science; Zlatko Dimcovic, Ph.D. Physics; Chris Daly, Ph.D. General Science; Joseph Smith, B.S. Physics and Computer Science; Wayne Gibson, M.S. Surveying Engineering; Matt Doggett, M.S. Meteorology.


Research Areas

ChrisDaly’s professional background spans a unique combination of disciplines, including meteorology and climatology, geography, ecology, and process and statistical modeling.  Drawing from this background, he has pioneered and advanced an emerging discipline he termed “geospatial climatology,” the study of the spatial and temporal patterns of climate and their relationships with features on the earth’s surface.  Geospatial climatologists seek to understand the features and processes that control climate patterns in space and time, such as elevation, rain shadows, coastal proximity, atmospheric layering (inversions), cold air drainage, and others.  Ideally, the practical output of this research would be the production of superior spatial climate analysis and data sets, especially in complex regions.  To this end, Daly developed PRISM, a novel computational approach to the mapping of climate that brings meteorological intelligence and geographical analysis to the statistical interpolation of climate. 

 Daly founded and directs Oregon State University’s PRISM Climate Group, a recognized world leader in spatial climate analysis.  The group developed and continues to update a century-long monthly time series of digital climate maps for the conterminous US, downloaded thousands of times each month.  Some current and recent projects are presented below.


Laboratory Highlights

Extreme Precipitation Mappingphoto of flooding

The PRISM Climate Group is updating the official NOAA rainfall guidelines used by states, counties, and municipalities to determine building codes and regulations for urban and rural drainage systems.  These new guidelines (last updated in the 1970s) provide estimates of the precipitation that can be expected from severe storms.








Biofuel Feedstock Distribution

We serve as the Western Region GIS Center for the Sun Grant Biofuel Initiative.  Using PRISM gridded climate data and soils information, the group has developed a computational model to map the potential yields of nationally important biofuel feedstocks across the US.  Feedstocks include switchgrass, miscanthus, energycane, camelina, wheat stubble, corn stover, and others.  These potential yield maps are being used by the DOE and DOT to determine suitable growing regions for feedstocks, which in turn aids the siting of biofuel refineries. 




Federal Crop Insurance Support

In collaboration with NACSE (Northwest Alliance for Computational Science and Engineering, Cherri Pancake director), we are now the primary provider of spatial weather and climate data for the $120B/yr US federal crop insurance program.  Crop insurance companies access PRISM data via an easy-to-use web portal to determine the validity of weather-caused crop loss claims.   This initiative is saving taxpayers millions of dollars each year by improving underwriting and oversight activities in the federal crop insurance program.



US Climate Maps

In July 2012, we completed development of official USDA climate maps for the United States.  These maps of 30-year average monthly temperature and precipitation serve as the country's baseline for "normal" climate conditions.  They are used in thousands of applications, including environmental engineering, reclamation, construction projects, ecological modeling and assessment, and climate change studies. 






Official USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

We recently developed a new official USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, released to the public in January 2012 (  This map of winter temperature extremes is the key plant selection guide for horticulturalists, nurserymen, farmers, and gardeners.  The new map was viewed by approximately 20 million people in its first week of release.





Selected Recent Publications

Bieniek, P.A., U.S. Bhatt, R.L. Thoman, H. Angelhoff, J. Partain, J, Papineau, F. Fritsch, E. Holloway, J.E. Walsh, C. Daly, M. Shulski, G. Hufford, D.F. Hill, S. Calos, and R. Gens.  2012.  Climate divisions for Alaska based on objective methods.  Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 1276-1289.

Daly, C., M.P. Widrlechner, M.D. Halbleib, J.I. Smith, and W.P. Gibson.  2012.  Development of a new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for the United States.  Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 242-264.  Link to article

Widrlechner, M.P., C. Daly, M. Keller, and K. Kaplan. 2012. Horticultural Applications of a Newly Revised USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. HortTechnology, 22: 6-19.  Link to article

Pepin, N., C. Daly, and J. Lundquist.  2011.  The influence of surface/free-air decoupling on temperature trend patterns in the western U.S.  Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, 116, D10109, doi:10.1029/2010JD014769.

Daly, C., D.R. Conklin, and M.H. Unsworth.  2010.  Local atmospheric decoupling in complex topography alters climate change impacts.  International Journal of Climatology, 30, 1857–1864. Link to article