Fundamental Research

[ Climate, Ethics, and Equity ]
[ Climate Variability in the NCAR Parallel Climate Model ]
[ Development of Interactive Vegetation Package for Regional Climate ]
[ Effect of Changed Climate Variability on Simulated Crops and Ecosystems ] [ El Niño and Statistics ]
[ ENSO Info Audit ]
[ Evaluation of Multiple Sources of Uncertainty ]
[ Flood Loss Data Reanalysis ]
[ Integrated Assessment of the Impacts of Climate Variability on the Alaskan North Slope Coastal Region ]
[ Net Fluxes of CO2 in Amazonia Derived
from Aircraft Observations
[ Other Changed Climate and Crop/Ecosystem Projects ]
[ Statistics of Extremes ]
[ Urban Metabolism ] [ Water Cycle Study Plan ]

Climate, Ethics, and Equity

On 22-23 March 2001, Michael Glantz and Dale Jamieson (Carleton College), with support from NOAA's Office of Global Programs, held an international planning meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to explore the topic of "Climate, Ethics, and Equity." As this is a relatively new area of research, this meeting brought together participants from different universities and different disciplines, including environmental ethics, for the purpose of identifying and prioritizing key ethical and equity issues related to climate variability, climate change, and extreme meteorological events. The issues that were identified include inter- versus intra-generational conflicts, environmental justice, access to climate and climate-related information, discounting the future, the "Polluter Pays" Principle, the Precautionary Principle, among others. (See the website for a more complete list of issues.) The participants also identified potential participants for a large international conference on the topic, which is scheduled to be held in FY02. These activities are expected to generate more research interest in equity and ethical issues related to the climate system and the use of climate information in decision-making.

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Climate Variability in the NCAR Parallel Climate Model (PCM)

Linda Mearns, with Gerald Meehl and Julie Arblaster (CGD) are analyzing changes in high-frequency (daily to interannual) variability in several simulations of the NCAR PCM, e.g., current climate, and future climate. This research project began in FY00. They have applied the domain statistical package developed by Mearns and colleagues to these simulations. They found significant decreases in temperature variability in the winter in Northern Hemisphere midlatitude land areas. Substantial changes in the frequency and intensity of precipitation have also been identified.

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Development of Interactive Vegetation Package for Regional Climate

Elena Tsvetsinskaya, with Linda Mearns and Filippo Giorgi (CGD/Trieste Institute of Physics, Italy), have coupled the CERES-maize model into RegCM2. The growth functions of CERES-maize were incorporated into the biosphere-atmosphere transfer scheme (BATS), which is the surface scheme for the regional climate model, RegCM2. Off-line tests of coupled CERES-BATS indicated that strong responses (of plant height, growth of leaf area index, and surface radiative fluxes) to different temperature and precipitation conditions were found. Coupling of the interactive surface scheme with RegCM2 has been completed. RegCM2, with the coupled surface package, has been run for the domain of the Great Plains of the United States to determine the effect of the growing vegetation on surface fluxes and local climate.

The model was run using European Centre for Medium-Range Forecasting (ECMWF) boundary conditions for 1991, a normal year, and 1988, a dry year. Results indicate that for 1988 large differences occur between the non-interactive run and the interactive run. With the interactive growth and development module, the simulated climate is warmer and drier than in the default run, and closer to the observed climate. Differences in 1991 were less striking. These results indicate that including growth and development of vegetation in a climate model can have important effects on the simulated climate. Two articles on this research were published in the Journal of Climate in FY01. This work formed part of the ESIG contribution to CMAP.

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Effect of Changed Climate Variability on Simulated Crops and Ecosystems

While most studies of the impacts of climate change on resource systems and ecosystems have examined the effect of mean change in climate, it is widely believed that changes in variability of climate, in addition to the mean, can have substantial effects. This issue is becoming more important as we learn more about how climate variability may change in the future. During FY01, Mearns and colleagues examined the possible additional effects of changes in variability on these systems. A variant of the daily weather generator of Richardson was modified for these studies. By manipulating the parameters of the generator, changes in the variance (daily and interannual) of time series of temperature and/or precipitation may be produced. In FY96, 97, 98, and 99, Mearns, with colleagues at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and Larry McDaniel, published several papers on the effect of variance changes of temperature and precipitation on simulated crop yields. Much of this work used locations in the Great Plains and primarily considered continuous and fallowed wheat cropping. These studies established the importance of considering changes in both the mean and variability of climate on simulated crops. Additional studies were performed in FY01:

  • Mearns, with Cynthia Rosenzweig and Richard Goldberg (NASA Goddard, New York) continued research on the effect of changes in variability of climate on simulated crop yields at other locations in the Great Plains and Midwest. They have applied time series of temperature and precipitation with changed variances to CERES-corn and CROPGRO-soybean models. Results so far indicate that increased variance of temperature and precipitation cause substantial decreases in yield, while decreases in variability cause only slight increases in yield. They have begun applying changes in variance from two major AOGCMs, the NCAR PCM and that of GISS, for the region of the Midwest and Great Plains to these crop models for the end of the twenty-first century.

  • With Marta Vinocur (National University of Redo, Cordoba, Argentina), Mearns has investigated simulated peanut crop responses to climate variability in Cordoba, Argentina. Using PeanutGRO, they explored the effects of different combinations of mean and variance changes of temperature. They found that the crop model was sensitive to both mean and variance changes, but that increases in temperature variance substantially exacerbated decreases in yield and greatly increased the likelihood of crop failures. They are currently exploring the causes for these crop model responses.

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El Niño and Statistics

The general goal of Richard Katz's research on El Niño and statistics is to examine historical connections between statistics and atmospheric science and draw lessons for future multidisciplinary collaborations. Katz wrote a paper on a little-appreciated connection between El Niño and statistics. In this paper, the research of Sir Gilbert Walker, noteworthy for contributions to both statistics and atmospheric science, is reviewed. This paper will appear in Statistical Science in FY02.

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ENSO Info Audit

Information about ENSO's (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) extremes, better known to the general public as El Niño and La Niña, comes from a variety of scientific sources, disciplines, and media. Oceanographers, atmospheric scientists, forecasters, fish biologists, among others, each supply information on the ENSO life cycle and its impacts on societies around the globe - information that could be used by US policymakers to develop mitigation strategies for possible ENSO-related consequences. To date, however, there has been relatively little research into whether, let alone how, ENSO information is actually used in many decision-making processes. Michael Glantz, in collaboration with Jay Lawrimore (NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service), proposes to assess the degree of the use of ENSO information in selected units of the US Department of Energy whose activities are directly affected by weather and climate in general and by ENSO's extreme events in particular. The goal of this activity is to bridge the existing gap between the production of scientific information and data and its actual "usability." Such an ENSO Info Audit could provide the United States with the ability to monitor the environment, analyze data, produce forecasts, and disseminate such information to a wide range of users, in this case energy-dependent users. The proposal preparation phase of this activity was begun in late FY01.

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Evaluation of Multiple Sources of Uncertainty

Linda Mearns and colleagues have developed a project focusing on agricultural assessment that formally quantifies uncertainties in spatial assessments based on data set sources and various methods of spatial scaling of the data sets and various means of calibrating and validating crop models over space. Climate, soils, and crop management data sets are included.

We are creating methods of aggregation of different types of data over space in the Southeastern US, where we have already developed a number of data sets, and by so doing determine appropriate scale matches for the different variable types. Part of this will involve determining what the concept of matching scales really means operationally. Moreover, the scaling of inputs will be extended for support of an additional goal of calibrating and validating crop models over space.

This project is in collaboration with the University of Florida. In FY01, the ESIG portion of the project involved comparisons of daily weather datasets for the Southeast; and with Sarah Streett (NCAR/GSP), an exploration of the uncertainty of estimates of daily generated climate using a weather generator approach.

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Flood Loss Data Reanalysis

Historical flood loss data are essential for examining the influence of climate, societal factors, and government policies on trends in damaging floods. Yet, little historical data is available. The National Weather Service has collected U.S. flood damage data for nearly a century, but they consist of rough estimates, compiled from a variety of sources. Roger Pielke Jr., Mary Downton, Zoe Miller and Roberta Klein evaluated and updated the NWS damage estimates, in a project partially supported by NOAA/OGP. The corrected data sets include (1) annual U.S. flood damage, 1926-99; (2) flood damage by state, 1955-99; and (3) flood damage by watershed, 1933-75. A searchable flood loss database is being prepared and will be made available to users on the ESIG website in FY02.

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Integrated Assessment of the Impacts of Climate Variability on the Alaskan North Slope Coastal Region

The focus of this project is to understand, support and enhance the local decision-making process on the North Slope of Alaska in the face of climate variability on seasonal to decadal timescales, both natural and anthropogenically induced. The primary goal is to help stakeholders clarify and secure their common interest by exchanging information and knowledge concerning climate and environmental variability. To achieve this goal, Linda Mearns and colleagues will apply an improved understanding and predictive capability of regional climate variability and change to generate a range of scenarios for changing sea ice variability, extreme weather events, storm surges, flooding and coastal erosion, and other environmental factors. These scenarios can be used to predict the probability of stated that affect marine mammals, transportation and offshore resource development. ESIG is working on climate change scenarios and downscaling for the HARC project. The ESIG portion of this project was just begun in late FY01. We have begun to evaluate how well climate models simulate the arctic region.

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Net Fluxes of CO2 in Amazonia Derived from Aircraft Observations

Robert Harriss and colleagues from Harvard University and the NASA Langley Research Center developed a new methodology for deriving net fluxes of CO2 from aircraft measurements taken over Amazon Basin forests. The methodology was applied to measurements made by Harriss in central and eastern Amazonia during the wet season of 1987. In contrast to ground-based studies in upland forests, these results indicated that the carbon budget of Amazonia was in balance at the time the observations were taken. The authors argue that, at the scale of the whole Basin, seasonal hydrological factors may modulate respiration on the forest floor and in wetlands and rivers, offsetting carbon sinks in the upland forests. The findings emphasize the importance of spatial and temporal scale for assessing regional and national carbon budgets. These results have been submitted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres.

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Other Changed Climate and Crop/Ecosystem Projects

Linda Mearns, Justin Wettstein (U Washington), and Larry McDaniel, in collaboration with Allan Auclair (Rand Corporation) continued their NOAA study of the effects of climate variability on forest dieback in the northeastern United States. In FY01, they focused on analyzing the relationships between the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)/Arctic Oscillation (AO) and local temperature conditions. They found an intensification of spatial patterns of contrasts in winter maximum and minimum temperature in extreme phases of the AO. For example, an extreme positive AO index winter had minimum temperatures 2.5 degrees C warmer in the southwest portion of the Northeast, and .5 degrees C cooler in the Northeast, compared to the extreme negative AO index. Important variations in the daily variance of temperature were also found. A paper describing results was submitted to the Journal of Climate.

Mearns continued the study of the effect of climate change on wheat yields in Italy with Carlo Pona (Agency for New Technologies, Energies, and Environment, Italy [ENEA]). In this case, the effect of both a high spatial resolution climate change scenario (required for a land mass as small as Italy) and changed variance of climate in the future are being investigated. Climate change scenarios for Italy have been generated from output of the RegCM2 European runs. Numerous sensitivity analyses with CERES-wheat have been performed for locations in Italy; crop model runs with mean climate change scenarios throughout Italy have been made; and the effects of changes in daily and interannual climate variability are being examined at selected stations. Results have been published in the ECLAT-2 volume on Applying Climate Scenarios for Regional Studies.

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Statistics of Extremes

Richard Katz's research on statistics of extremes develops improved statistical methodology for climate variability, climate change, and impacts (both hydrologic and economic) involving extreme events. Specific topics include: extreme events and climate change and statistical downscaling of extremes.

  • Extreme Events and Climate Change: In collaboration with Philippe Naveau (École Polytechnique, France), Richard Katz neared completion of work on a review of the use of the statistics of extremes as applied to climate change and its impacts. Evidence is increasing that climate variables (e.g., precipitation), related variables (e.g., streamflow), and impact variables (e.g., economic damages) all have distributions with heavy upper tails. Yet, this characteristic is not taken into account in statistical analysis of extremes (e.g., trend detection).

  • Statistical Downscaling of Extremes: Although there has been much work on statistical downscaling as well as on statistical modeling of extremes, this effort is the first to make use of the statistics of extremes in downscaling. Collaboration with Marc Parlange (Johns Hopkins U) began on a review of the use of the statistics of extremes in hydrology.

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Urban Metabolism

Robert Harriss and colleagues will convene two workshops in FY02 for a dialogue on dynamic and complex interactions fundamental to the co-evolution of cities and the atmosphere. The workshops will focus on implications of urbanization for long-term emission scenarios that drive global climate models and on specific strategies to reduce urban emission sources of atmospheric methane. The latter workshop is being planned jointly with the University of New Hampshire and is also a contribution to the development of a North American Carbon Program implementation plan. The core hypothesis is that the continuing, rapid urbanization of the human population will have a profound influence on the evolving nature of our global chemical and physical climate systems. The objective is to develop strategies that can accomplish significant reductions in urban respiration products (e.g., criteria air pollutants and greenhouse gases) in the coming era of urban growth.

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Water Cycle Study Plan

A Plan for a New Science Initiative on the Global Water Cycle Kathleen Miller contributed to the report of the Water Cycle Study Group for the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The report, entitled A Plan for a New Science Initiative on the Global Water Cycle (Hornberger et al., 2001), reviews the current state of understanding of the interactions between the global water cycle and human activities. While the report focuses heavily on desired advancements in the physical science and related monitoring systems, it also addresses societal needs for that information, and attempts to prioritize elements of the proposed research program on the basis of societal needs.

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