Q&A On Two Climate Science Questions – A Contribution By Bill Parton

As part of my weblog posts, I am inviting internationally well-respected climate science colleagues to answer two questions that I have posted to them.  Today’s scientist is Bill Parton of the Natural Resource Ecology Lab at Colorado State University. As written at Green Experts at Colorado State Bill is a

“….senior research scientist at NREL (Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory), [who] is studying how different crops used for biofuels have varying effects on decreasing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Parton also studies the effects global warming will have on the eastern plains of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and the western parts of North and South Dakota. Additionally, he has experience studying the potential impact of climatic changes for forest and savanna systems on local, regional and global scales.

Parton, who’s spent the past 38 years working on the development of ecosystems models, was elected as a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2007. The number of Fellows elected each year is limited to no more than 0.1 percent of the total membership of AGU.

The Q&A with Bill follows:

1.  Is global warming (and cooling) a subset of climate change or does it dominate climate change?

Bill’s Answer

The answer to the first question is that climate change includes many different aspects such as changes in precipitation, cloud cover, dew points, and temperature  and changes in variability of the climate system. Climate warming is just one aspect of the climate system as you know.

It certainly seems to me that climatic variability is definitely increasing. Look at the changes in snow during the last three years. Large snowfall last year, low snowfall two years ago, and the lowest early season snowfall I have ever seen this year. There was no snow at my mountain cabin( 10500 ft ) this year for Christmas. Lowest snowfall in the last 30 years at our cabin.

2. What evidence exists that the multi-decadal global climate models can skillfully predict i) the real-world observed behavior of large-scale atmospheric-ocean circulation features such as ENSO, the NAO, the PDO, ect. and ii) CHANGES in the statistics (patterning and in time) of these circulation features?

Bill’s Answer

I have not worked extensively with evaluating how well GCM models predict changes in ENSO , NAO,  and PDO. My suface knowledge would indicate that the models have been getting better at predicting ENSO etc dynamics  and that there is substantial effort to improve the ability of GCM models to predict ENSO etc dynamics.

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