An NRC Study “A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling” – A Missed Opportunity

There is an NRC project underway that is titled
The Statement of Tasks is reproduced below [highlight added[
Statement of Task

Climate models are the foundation for understanding and projecting climate and climate-related changes and are thus critical tools for supporting climate-related decision making.  This study will develop a strategy for improving the nation’s capability to accurately simulate climate and related Earth system changes on decadal to centennial timescales.  The committee’s report is envisioned as a high level analysis, providing a strategic framework to guide progress in the nation’s climate modeling enterprise over the next 10-20 years.  Specifically, the committee will:

1. Engage key stakeholders in a discussion of the status and future of climate modeling in the United States over the next decade and beyond, with an emphasis on decade to century timescales and local to global resolution.  This discussion should include both the modeling and user communities, broadly defined, and should focus on the strengths and challenges of current modeling approaches, including their usefulness to decision making, the observations and research activities needed to support model development and validation, and potential new directions in all of these spheres.

2. Describe the existing landscape of domestic and international climate modeling efforts, including approaches being used in research and operational settings, new approaches being planned or discussed, and the relative strengths and challenges of the various approaches, with an emphasis on models with decade to century timescales and local to global resolution.

3. Discuss, in broad terms, the observational, basic and applied research, infrastructure, and other requirements of current and possible future climate modeling efforts, and develop a strategic approach for identifying the priority observations, research, and decision support activities that would lead to the greatest improvements in our understanding and ability to monitor, model, and respond to climate change on local to global space scales and decade to century timescales.

4. Provide recommendations for developing a comprehensive and integrated national strategy for climate modeling over the next decade (i.e., 2011-2020) and beyond. This advice should include discussion of different modeling approaches (including the relationship between decadal-to-centennial scale modeling with modeling activities at other timescales); priority observations, research activities, and infrastructure for supporting model development; and how all of these efforts can be made most useful for decision making in this decade and beyond.

Examples of the types of strategic questions to be addressed include:  What is the appropriate balance between improving resolution and adding complexity as computing power improves?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches to projecting regional climate change (e.g., embedded regional models, statistical downscaling, etc.)?  What are the benefits and tradeoffs associated with multi-model versus unified modeling frameworks?  What opportunities might exist to develop better interfaces and integration between Earth system models and models of human systems?  What observations and process studies are needed to initialize climate predictions on both regional and global scales, advance our understanding of relevant physical processes and mechanisms, and validate model results?  What critical infrastructure constraints, including high performance computing and personnel issues, currently limit model development and use?  What steps can be taken to improve the communication of climate model results (e.g., presentation of uncertainties) and ensure that the climate modeling enterprise remains relevant to decision making?  What modeling approaches and activities are likely to provide the most value for the investments required?

The membership of this committee has internationally well-respected scientists on it. However, while they are tasked to

Engage key stakeholders in a discussion of the status and future of climate modeling in the United States over the next decade and beyond, with an emphasis on decade to century timescales and local to global resolution.”


develop a strategic approach for identifying the priority observations, research, and decision support activities that would lead to the greatest improvements in our understanding and ability to monitor, model, and respond to climate change on local to global space scales and decade to century timescales”

there are no stakeholders on the Panel!  Instead of taking advantage of this opportunity to outline a robust way forward to reduce the risks to key (as specified by the stakeholders) societal and environmental resources, this Panel perpetuates the top-down global climate model dominated approach to provide information to the impacts community.  However, we we presented in our article

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2012: Dealing  with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based  vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and  Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press

the IPCC top-down approach has not shown any skill at predicting multi-decadal changes in the climate statistics on regional and local scales. As we wrote in that article, the bottom-up (i.e. non-multi-decadal climate model prediction based) contextual approach

is a more inclusive way of assessing risks, including from climate variability and climate change than using the outcome vulnerability approach adopted by the IPCC. A contextual vulnerability assessment, using the bottom-up, resource-based framework is a more inclusive approach for policymakers to adopt effective mitigation and adaptation methodologies to deal with the complexity of the spectrum of social and environmental extreme events that will occur in the coming decades, as the range of threats are assessed, beyond just the focus on CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases as emphasized in the IPCC assessments.”

We also have summarized the fundamental deficiencies of the regional downscaling of multi-decadal climate predictions in our EOS Forum article

Pielke Sr., R.A., and R.L. Wilby, 2011: Regional climate downscaling – what’s the point? Eos Forum. January 31 2012

The members of the panel are [and I have noted who are also current IPCC authors]

1. Dr. Chris Bretherton – (Chair)  University of Washington  Current IPCC Author

Chris Bretherton is currently a Professor in the University of Washington Departments of Atmospheric Science and Applied
Mathematics, where he teaches classes on weather, atmospheric turbulence and cumulus convection, tropical meteorology, geophysical fluid dynamics, numerical methods, and classical analysis of ODEs and PDEs. He directs the University of Washington Program on Climate Change, which organizes graduate courses, seminars, a summer institute, and research on climate science and its relevance to our society and future. His group developed the parameterizations of shallow cumulus convection used in the cutting-edge versions of two leading US climate models, the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Atmosphere Model, version 5 (CAM5), and the Geophysical Fluid
Dynamics Laboratory Atmosphere Model, version 3 (AM3). They also developed the turbulence parameterization used in CAM5, and have versions of both schemes for the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) regional modeling system.

2. Dr. Venkatramani Balaji Princeton University

V. Balaji heads the Modeling Systems Group serving developers of Earth System models at GFDL and Princeton University. With a background in physics and climate science, he has become an expert in the area of parallel computing and scientific infrastructure,
providing high-level programming interfaces for expressing parallelism in scientific algorithms. He has pioneered the use of frameworks (such as the Flexible Modeling System: FMS, as well as community standards such as ESMF and PRISM) allowing the construction of climate models out of independently developed components sharing a technical architecture; and of curators (FMS Runtime Environment FRE) for the execution of complex workflows to manage the complete climate modeling process. The Earth System Curator (US) and Metafor (EU) projects, in which he plays a key role, have developed the use of a common information model which allows the execution of complex scientific queries on model data archives. V. Balaji plays advisory roles on NSF, NOAA and DOE review panels, including the recent series of exascale workshops. He is a
sought-after speaker and lecturer and is committed to provide training in the use of climate models in developing nations, leading workshops to advanced students and researchers in South Africa and India.

3. Dr. Thomas L. Delworth Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory

Thomas L. Delworth is a Research Scientist and group leader in the Climate Change, Variability and Prediction Group at NOAA’s GFDL.
His research is largely focused around decadal to centennial climate variability and change through the synthesis of climate models and observational data. On these time scales the behavior of the climate system is a mixture of natural variability combined with the response of the climate system to changing radiative forcing induced by changing greenhouse gases and aerosols. Understanding the natural variability of the climate system on decadal scales is critical to their ability to detect climate change, and to understand the processes responsible for observed change from the global to the regional scale.

4. Dr. Robert E. Dickinson The University of Texas at Austin

Robert E. Dickinson joined the Department of Geological Sciences in August of 2008. For the previous 9 years, he was Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and held the Georgia Power/ Georgia Research Alliance Chair at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the 9 years before that he was Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Regents Professor at the University of Arizona, and for the previous 22 years a Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1988, to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 2002, and a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2006. His research interests are in climate modeling, climate variability and change, aerosols, the hydrological cycle and droughts, land surface processes, the terrestrial carbon cycle, and the application of remote sensing data to modeling of land surface processes.

5. Dr. James A. Edmonds –  Joint Global Change Research Institute –  Current IPCC Author

James Edmonds is a Chief Scientist and Laboratory Fellow at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Joint Global Change Research Institute, a collaboration with the University of Maryland at College Park. His research in the areas of long-term, global, energy, technology, economy, and climate change spans three decades, producing several books, numerous scientific papers and countless presentations. He is one of the pioneers in the field of integrated assessment modeling of climate change. His principal research focus is the role of energy technology in addressing climate change. He is the Chief Scientist for the Integrated Assessment Research Program in the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy. He has been an active participant in all of the major assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

6. Dr. James S. Famiglietti University of California, Irvine

James S. Famiglietti holds a joint faculty appointment in Earth System Science and in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Irvine, where he is the Founding Director of the system-wide UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling. He holds a B.S. in Geology from Tufts University, an M.S. in Hydrology from the University of Arizona, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and Operations Research from Princeton University. He completed his postdoctoral studies in hydrology and climate system modeling at Princeton and at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Before joining the faculty at UCI in 2001, Dr. Famiglietti was an Assistant and Associate Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, and was the Associate Director of the UT Environmental Science Institute. He is the past Chair of the Board of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI), and past Editor-in-Chief of Geophysical Research Letters. His research concerns the role of hydrology in the coupled Earth system. Areas of activity include the continued development of the hydrologic components of climate models; climate system modeling for studies of land-ocean-atmosphere-human interaction; and remote sensing of the terrestrial and global water cycles, including groundwater depletion and freshwater availability. Famiglietti is currently leading the Community Hydrologic Modeling Platform (CHyMP) effort to accelerate the development of hydrological models for use in addressing national and international priorities related to water, food, economic, climate, and national security.

7. Dr. Inez Y. Fung University of California, Berkeley

Inez Fung is a Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Since 2005, she has also been a Founding Co- Director of the Berkeley Institute of the Environment. Inez Fung has been studying climate change for the last 20 years. She is a principal architect of large-scale mathematical modeling approaches and numerical models to represent the geographic and temporal variations of sources and sinks of CO2, dust and other trace substances around the globe. Dr. Fung’s recent work in climate modeling predicts the co-evolution of CO2 and climate and concludes that the diminishing capacities of the land and oceans to store carbon act to accelerate global warming. Inez Fung received her S.B. in Applied Mathematics and her Sc.D. in Meteorology from MIT. She joined the Berkeley faculty in 1998 as the first Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences and the founding Director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center.

8. Dr. James J. Hack Oak Ridge National Laboratory

James J. Hack directs the National Center for Computational Sciences (NCCS), a leadership computing facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory supporting transformational science. He identifies major high performance computing needs from scientific and hardware perspectives and puts forth strategies to meet those needs as machines evolve to the petascale, able to carry out a quadrillion calculations per second. An atmospheric scientist, Hack also leads ORNL’s Climate Change Initiative. Dr. Hack became a research staff member at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where he worked on the design and evaluation of highperformance computing architectures. In 1984 he moved to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a National Science Foundation-sponsored center, where his roles included Senior Scientist, head of the Climate Modeling Section, and Deputy Director of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division. He was one of the principal developers of the climate model that ran on NCCS supercomputers to provide more than one-third of the simulation data jointly contributed by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation to the most recent assessment report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

9. Dr. James W. Hurrell  Current IPCC Author

National Center for Atmospheric Research James (Jim) W. Hurrell is Senior Scientist in the Climate and Global Dynamics Division of the Earth System Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). NCAR is a federally funded research and development center that works with partners at universities and researchers to explore and understand the atmosphere and its interactions with the sun, the oceans, the
biosphere, and human society. Jim joined NCAR after earning his doctorate in atmospheric science from Purdue University. Jim’s research has centered on empirical and modeling studies and diagnostic analyses to better understand climate, climate variability and climate change. Jim has been involved in assessment activities of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Jim has been extensively involved in the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) on Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR), including roles as cochair of the Scientific Steering Group (SSG) of both U.S. and International CLIVAR and membership on several other CLIVAR panels. His current position at NCAR is Chief Scientist of the Community Earth System Model (CESM). Jim has given testimony
on climate change issues for congressional subcommittees and has received numerous prestigious honors and awards in his field of atmospheric science.

10. Dr. Daniel J. Jacob   Harvard University – Current IPCC Author

Daniel J. Jacob is a Professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at Harvard University. The goal of his research is to understand the chemical composition of the atmosphere, its perturbation by human activity, and the implications for climate change and life on Earth. His approaches include global modeling of atmospheric chemistry and climate, aircraft measurement campaigns, satellite data retrievals, and analyses of atmospheric observations.

11.  Dr. James L. Kinter, III Center for Ocean-Land-Atmospher Studies

James L. Kinter is Director of the Center for Ocean-Land- Atmosphere Studies (COLA) where he manages all aspects of basic and applied climate research conducted by the Center. Dr. Kinter’s research includes studies of climate predictability on seasonal and longer time scales. Of particular interest in his research are prospects for prediction of El Niño and the extratropical response to tropical sea surface temperature anomalies using high-resolution coupled general circulation models of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and land surface. Dr. Kinter is also an Associate Professor in the Climate Dynamics Ph.D. Program and the Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences department at George Mason University, where he has responsibilities for curriculum development and teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on climate change, as well as advising Ph.D. students. After earning his doctorate in geophysical fluid dynamics at Princeton University in 1984, Dr. Kinter served as a National Research Council Associate at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and as a faculty member of the University of Maryland (teaching faculty 1984-1987; research faculty 1987-1993) prior to joining COLA. Dr. Kinter has served on many national review panels
for both scientific research programs and supercomputing programs for computational climate modeling.

12. Dr. Lai-Yung R. Leung Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

L. Ruby Leung is a recognized leader in modeling regional climate and the hydrological cycle. Her research focuses on understanding and modeling of regional climate variability and change, land-atmosphere interactions, orographic processes, and aerosol effects on the water cycle. She has led important efforts in defining research priorities and needs in regional climate modeling and coordinated community efforts to develop capability in community mesoscale models to simulate regional climate. Her research on climate change and aerosol effects has been featured in Science, Popular Science, Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and many major newspapers. Her research crosses scientific disciplines to advance the state of the art in predicting climate change and its regional impacts.

13. Dr. Shawn Marshall  University of Calgary

Shawn Marshall joined University of Calgary’s Department of Geography in January 2000, following Ph.D. and Postdoctoral research at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Since earning a B.A.Sc. in Engineering Physics at the University of Toronto he has been on a progressively geographical path, with Ph.D. work in Geophysics and Postdoctoral work in UBC´s Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences. His research interests are in glacier and ice sheet dynamics, ice-climate interactions, and paleoclimatology.

14. Dr. Linda O. Mearns  National Center for Atmospheric Research Current IPCC Author

Linda O. Mearns is Director of the Weather and Climate Impacts Assessment Science Program (WCIASP), Head of the Regional Integrated Sciences Collective (RISC) within the Institute for Mathematics Applied to Geosciences (IMAGe), and Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado. She served as Director of the Institute for the Study of Society and Environment (ISSE) for three years ending in April 2008. She holds a Ph.D. in Geography/Climatology from UCLA. She has performed research and published mainly in the areas of climate change scenario formation, quantifying uncertainties, and climate change impacts on agro-ecosystems. She has particularly worked extensively with regional climate models. She has been an author in the IPCC Climate Change 1995, 2001, and 2007 Assessments regarding climate variability, impacts of climate change on agriculture, regional projections of climate change, climate scenarios, and uncertainty in future projections of climate change. For the Fifth Assessment Report (due out in 2013) she is a lead author of Chapter 21 on Regions in WG2. She leads the multiagency supported North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP), which is providing multiple highresolution climate change scenarios for the North American impacts community. She has been a member of the National Research Council Climate Research Committee (CRC), the NAS Panel on Adaptation of the America’s Climate Choices Program, and is currently a member of the Human Dimensions of Global Change (HDGC) Committee. She was made a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society in January 2006.

15. Dr. Richard B. Rood University of Michigan

Richard B. Rood is currently a Professor of atmopheric, oceanic and space sciences at the University of Michigan. His current physical climate
research is focused on bridging the study of weather and climate. He is funded by NASA to study dynamical features as objects and to develop new methods for analyzing climate models. He is also funded by the Department of Energy to study sub-scale mixing processes in climate models. In addition, he has funding to study urban heat waves, human heat health warning systems, and how to govern open source / open innovation communities. He is a co-investigator on Michigan’s NOAA-funded Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center.

16. Dr. Larry L. Smarr University of California, San Diego

Larry Smarr is the founding Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), a UC San
Diego/UC Irvine partnership, and holds the Harry E. Gruber professorship in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at UCSD’s Jacobs School. At Calit2, Smarr has continued to drive major developments in information infrastructure– including the Internet, Web, scientific visualization, virtual reality, and global telepresence–begun during his previous 15 years as founding Director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Smarr served as principal investigator on NSF’s OptIPuter project and currently is principal investigator of the Moore Foundation’s CAMERA project and co-principal investigator on NSF’s GreenLight project.

17. Dr. Wieslaw Maslowski U.S. Naval Postgraduate School

Wieslaw Maslowski is a research professor of oceanography at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Dr. Maslowski’s research interests include polar oceanography and sea ice; regional ocean, sea-ice and climate modeling and prediction; mesoscale processes in the ocean and sea ice and their interaction with and impact on general ocean circulation, climate change and climate variability; ocean-ice sheet and air-sea-ice interactions and feedbacks. He is currently leading a DOE-supported research program to develop a Regional Arctic System Model (RASM). Dr. Maslowski earned his Ph.D. from the University of Alaska in 1994.

This is an impressive list of scientists. But they clearly have a vested interest in continuing to focus on the top-down global climate model approach to assessing risks that society and the environment may face in the coming decades. They have failed to consider the issue from the perspective of the stakeholders.

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