Candid Statement On The Shortcomings Of Multi-Decadal Climate Model Predictions By Early Career Scientists At An NCAR Workshop

There was a candid statement about climate models that were made at the Advanced Study Program/Early Career Scientist Assembly Workshop on Regional Climate Issues in Developing Countries held in Boulder, Colorado on 19–22 October 2011. The Workshop  is reported on in the April 3 2012 issue of EOS on page 145.

The relevant text reads [highlight added]

One recurring issue throughout the workshop was that of managing complex impact assessments with a large range of results from global and regional models; variations between models are often not fully understood, accounted for, and/or communicated. Also problematic is the discrepancy between the spatial and temporal scales on which regional climate projections are made (tens of kilometers and ~30–100 years) and the scales that are of primary interest to many communities in developing countries (kilometers and 0–10 years) that are presently affected by climate change.

My Comment: I agree with this comment except I would delete “change” in the last sentence. Climate is always changing, and the use of the word “change” itself miscommunicates the actual threats faced by developing countries even with climate they have seen in the past.

The EOS article continues with

Approaches for addressing uncertainty and scaling issues might include cost-effective ensemble dynamical-statistical approaches and/or coupling regional modeling efforts to better meet specific objectives (e.g., improved integration of hydrologic models). Facilitating effective “end-to-end” communication was identified as a critical research component to increase awareness of the wider challenges and opportunities facing scientists and end users alike. Such end-to-end communication would also help to ensure that research addresses the particular needs of the communities that are its focus.

My Comment:

There is a critically important requirement, however, that is left off of the approaches. Before modeling results are even used, they must first show skill at predicting changes in climate statistics on the spatial and temporla scale needed by the impacts communties. As we present in our paper

Pielke Sr., R.A., and R.L. Wilby, 2012: Regional climate downscaling – what’s the point? Eos Forum,  93, No. 5, 52-53, doi:10.1029/2012EO050008

no regional predictive skill (of changes in climate statistics) has yet been shown on yearly, decadal or multi-decadal time scales.

Their “end-end” communication, however, is appropriately the focus as we emphasize 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.

As we wrote in our abstract

We discuss the adoption of a bottom-up, resource–based vulnerability approach in evaluating the effect of climate and other environmental and societal threats to societally critical resources. This vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to local and regional water, food, energy, human health, and ecosystem function resources from extreme events including climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risks can be compared with other risks in order to adopt optimal preferred mitigation/adaptation strategies.

This 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.

Hopefully, the attendees of the Workshop will be made aware of our bottom-up, resource-based approach for developing robust effective responses to environmental threats in their countries.

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