Seminars and Coffee Talks

Upcoming ISSE seminars and coffee talks. ISSE seminars include seminars from the GIS Initiative Seminar Series.

The ISSE Coffee Talks are informal seminars that bring speakers from inside and outside of UCAR/NCAR to share information about research and projects that are related to ISSE research. You may subscribe to the isse upcoming mailing list if you wish to receive regular announcements of upcoming ISSE Coffee Talks. If you are outside of NCAR/UCAR/UOP and wish to attend, please contact or Larry McDaniel McDaniel at

List of Seminars and Coffee Talks by Date


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November 18 - ISSE Seminar
Title Mitigation implications of mid-century targets that preserve long-term climate policy options
Speaker Brian O’Neill, NCAR/RAL/ISSE
Location Main Seminar Room at Mesa Lab
Time 3:30PM

Interim climate policy targets for the mid-century
have been proposed as a way to guide policy over the next
several decades in the absence of agreement on a long term
goal, so that a range of options can be preserved for the choice
that is eventually made. However, no mitigation analysis has
explicitly examined the relationship between mid-century targets
and long-term outcomes. We carry out such a study employing
the IIASA integrated assessment modeling framework, which
includes a detailed energy sector, emissions of multiple
greenhouse gases, and reduced-form models of greenhouse gas
cycles and climate. We find that there are critical thresholds of
mid-century emissions or concentration levels above which
achieving particular long-term goals becomes infeasible. These
and other results could be used to guide policies linking uncertain
long-term climate goals with shorter-term actions. Better
characterizing the uncertainty in climate response to
concentration pathways that overshoot long-term targets before
declining to them is a high priority for future work.

November 6 - Coffee Talk
Title Global land use changes in Agriculture and Forestry
Speaker Sukwon Choi, ISSE Post Doc
Location Damon room 239 at Mesa Lab
Time 10AM

Deforestation is of great concern to many for several important reasons.
Many authors project that growing demand for food and bioenergy will
increase the area of agricultural land in the future, and cause
deforestation. However, the time path of the change, size, and regional
scope are still debated. Few studies have attempted to combine forestry
and agriculture sector in a dynamically consistent way in order to
explore the influence of changing demand, technology, tree growth and
harvest. This study develops a global agriculture and forestry model
that could assess the influence of these factors on the projections of
land use changes. It could provide helpful tools for carbon and biofuel
analysis, impacts of climate change on forestry and agriculture
resulting land use changes. The baseline results of the model will be
presented and the future direction of economic land use model will be

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October 23 - Coffee Talk
Title Climate Change Adaptation in the Face of Extreme Weather: An Adaptive Governance Approach
Speaker Prof. Amanda Lynch
School of Geography and Environmental Science Monash University
Location Rm 1022, Foothills Laboratory
Time 3:30 PM

Worldwide, the threefold increase in the incidence of extreme weather
events since 1960 was been accompanied by a ninefold increase in
damages, reaching a peak of US$219 billion in 2005. There is strong
evidence that the increases in some extremes, such as heat wave, are
related to climate change.

We have reached an understanding that the climate system has a large
degree of inertia. This means that the climate system will take time
to respond to actions that reduce the concentration of greenhouse
gases in the atmosphere. The consequence of this inertia is that we
are already committed to a certain degree of climate change beyond
that already observed. Further, the vulnerability to impacts of
climate change is increasing for other reasons, including
unsustainable development and economic inequity. Thus, it is
inevitable that damaging and even catastrophic events will continue to
occur regardless of efforts to mitigate emissions.

Adaptive governance is a means of directing attention to otherwise
neglected options that can help reduce our vulnerability. It has
emerged more or less spontaneously as a loosely-coordinated array of
pragmatic responses to manifest failures at several level of
governance, from local to national. Not surprisingly, recognition of
the pattern in the last decade or two and the term itself followed
innovations in practice.

This talk will review the understanding and practice of adaptive
governance with reference to field testing in Alpine Shire in
Victoria, Australia. The talk will highlight the role that extreme
weather events can play in reducing the vulnerability of people,
property and other cultural artifacts, and the natural environment to
climate change.

October 14 - Coffee Talk
Title The Energy Imperative
Speaker Michael Potts
President and Chief Executive Officer of Rocky Mountain Institute
Location Directors Conference room ML
Time 10AM

The Energy Imperative is an executive briefing geared to decision
makers. Escalating energy challenges call for new ways of thinking, and
this briefing will discuss many of the concepts used by Rocky Mountain
Institute to drive breakthrough solutions in radical resource efficiency
and the shift to renewable energy sources. Concrete examples of the
change disrupting industries such as construction, transportation, and
electrical generation will be discussed, along with some mind-bending
scenarios of possible futures.

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September 9 - Coffee Talk
Title ’Desertification’ or ’Greening’? Human-Environment Relationships
in the Face of Climate Variability: Case Studies in Mauritania and Senegal
Speaker Stefanie Herrmann
Location Directors Conference room ML
Time 10AM

Recent greening trends in the Sahel observed from time series of satellite imagery have given rise to optimism and created speculation about their causes (Hutchinson et al., 2005). While the greening trend has generally been paralleled by positive trends in rainfall since the great Sahelian droughts, some pockets of greening seem to exceed what can be explained by rainfall alone (Herrmann et al., 2005). The present study, focusing on the Wadi Kowb basin in the Gorgol region of Mauritania, is the first part of a three-year project which examines local realities of complex human-environment interactions that contributed to the observed greening in selected sites in Mauritania and Senegal.

The goal of the study is to explore the complexities of the greening versus desertification debate in the Sahel by improving our understanding of the interplay of human and natural factors that helped create local environmental change. We conducted focus group discussions in four villages in a north-south gradient along the wadi on the importance of different natural resources (trees, pastures, soils) in people’s livelihoods, the use and management of those resources throughout time, and perceptions on environmental changes and their perceived causes. The local land user perspective was supplemented with information gathered from key informants, secondary data and interpretation of high-resolution satellite images and historical air photos.

The Wadi Kowb is a tributary of the Gorgol Noir river in southern Mauritania and spans an area of accentuated greening in its northern and modest greening in its southern part. Like much of the region, it was hit hard by the droughts of the 1970s/early 80s and has been described as suffering from desertification. In response to the drought crisis, a large dam was constructed in 1984, which created an artificial lake and an irrigated perimeter: the development scheme of Foum Gleita.

While the large-scale development scheme holds considerable explanatory potential for the accentuated greening observed from satellite imagery, the realities on the ground are not only positive: a large part of the irrigation scheme fell into disrepair soon after its inception, yields have decreased drastically, and abandoned fields have been invaded by a dense thicket of shrubs and rendered useless. Even outside the irrigated area, the presence of the dam altered the hydrology and ecology of the watershed, which possibly contributed to the increase in tree densities along the wadi. At the same time, however, the land users deplore a loss of biodiversity, with only few species contributing to the increase in trees, some of them of little use value.

Thus, the greening in this particular area was correctly picked up by a previous remote sensing-based study as exceeding rainfall trends. Unlike the cases of farmer-managed vegetation regeneration found in Burkina Faso and Niger (Reij et al., 2005), here the greening can be described as rather inadvertent, at least from the perspective of the local land users. While some limited soil and water conservation is practiced in the form of diguettes, a large part of the man-made of the greening trend is likely attributable to the - partly unplanned - effects of the irrigation project.

The case study illustrates the complexities on the ground that can be masked by vegetation index trends. What presents itself as greening does not necessarily constitute a form of regeneration or rehabilitation. The mostly inadvertent greening in the Wadi Kowb stands in contrast to the actively planned community effort that has been described for some other sites in the Sahel, though both have a similar appearance on time series of satellite images.

As always there will be coffee, tea and good cookies. We look forward to seeing you there!

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September 23 - Coffee Talk
Title Assessing climate models and future storm tides. An overview of recent CSIRO activities
Speaker Ian Macadam, from CSIRO
Location Directors Conference room ML
Time 10AM


July 17 - ISSE seminar
Title What Do People Know About Global Climate Change Now?

Ann Bostrom, Associate Dean for Research and Associate Professor, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington

Location NCAR Foothills Laboratory Main Auditorium FL2-1022
Time 10:30–11:30am
Abstract View Flyer
July 29 - Coffee Talk
Title Assimilation of Scientific Information into Complex Problem Solving
Speaker Richard B. Rood, University of Michigan
Location Directors Conference room ML
Time 10AM

In Winter of 2005 I started a graduate course about the intersection of science, economics, and policy. Since then, the course has evolved into a project-oriented course on solving problems related to the challenge of climate change. Students have come from six schools in the University and eleven Departments. This seminar summarizes the lessons learned from this experience. The (still not caught up) web site for the Winter 2008 version of the course.

Problem solving in climate change requires the consideration of the vested interests of many communities, for example, business, policy, resource management, ethics, and science. Virtually all elements of society have a tangible stake in addressing the challenges of climate change. There is stir of risk and opportunity, beliefs and knowledge. From the point of view of the scientist, one of lessons learned is the dual role of scientific knowledge in the climate change problem. On one hand scientific investigation is what drives all of concern and activity. On the other hand, when it comes to addressing a real world problem, scientific information sits on a palette of issues that must be considered in the possible approaches to problem-solving; it is, effectively, diminished. The role of scientific uncertainty takes on a character that is often alien to scientists. A three-axis framework for structuring paths towards solution is posited; the axes are time (near term / long term), geography (local / global), and wealth (poor / rich). Examples drawn from class projects are provided.

Slides Richard Rood's PowerPoint slides from the talk


June 23 - ISSE seminar
Title Decision Making Under Risk and Ambiguity: An Experimental Examination of Competence and Confidence Effects
Speaker Jamie Brown Kruse,Professor of Economics, Director of Center for Natural Hazards Research, and Director of the RENCI Center for Coastal Systems Informatics and Modeling, East Carolina University
Location NCAR Mesa Laboratory, Damon Room
Time 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Abstract View flyer


May 23 - ISSE Coffee Talk
Title Scenarios of the fourth Global Environmental Outlook
Speaker Dale S. Rothman, Senior Researcher with IISD's Measurement and Assessment Program
Location Directors Conference room ML
Time 10AM
Abstract Dale Rothman was one of the CLAs for the scenarios chapter of the fourth Global Environmental Outlook (see He will discuss the process by which the scenarios were developed and present some of the basic results. In the process, he will contrast the approached used with that of 'similar' global scenario exercises, such as the IPCC SRES scenarios and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
May 7 - ISSE seminar
Title Integrating Communication Sciences into Weather and Climate Studies
Speaker H. Dan O’Hair, University of Oklahoma
Location FL2-1001 at Foothills Lab
Time 10:30AM

Numerous calls have been made from the hydrometeorology and climatology communities for greater research collaboration with the social sciences. Amid these invitations have been specific references to communication processes inherent in many aspects of the weather enterprise, including forecasting decision, scientist-user collaboration, how communities manage information, and cooperating with the media. Dr. Dan O’Hair, a communication scientist from the University of Oklahoma, will explore how communication theory and methodological techniques can reveal both obvious and subtle patterns of messages important to the weather and climatology community. Taking a multi-level, socio-ecological approach to communication science, Dr. O’Hair will explore the following topics:

  • Risk Communication
  • Communicating Uncertainty
  • Message Analysis Processes
  • Communication Networks
  • Inter-Organizational Collaboration
  • Community-Communication Infrastructure Systems
  • Media Effects

This presentation will serve as an opportunity to intersect multiple disciplines in support of interdisciplinary research models that integrate information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from multiple bodies of specialized knowledge to solve weather and climate problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline.



April 29 - ISSE Coffee Talk
Title Climate Change in Norway: Social Science Perspectives on Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation
Speaker Lynn Rosentrater,University of Oslo
Location Directors Conference Room at the Mesa Lab
Time 10AM
Abstract Norway is an affluent country that is generally considered to be
resilient to the impacts of climate change. Perspectives from the
social sciences, however, show that vulnerability to the impacts of
climate change depends largely on the scale of analysis. Both exposure
and the distribution of climate sensitive sectors vary greatly across
scale. So do the underlying social and economic conditions that
influence adaptive capacity. These findings question the common notion
that climate change may be beneficial for Norway, and that the country
can readily adapt to climate change. This presentation will review
recent findings from Norwegian scholars working in the fields of human
geography, political science, urban planning, and anthropology and
describe a four-year project currently underway that investigates the
potentials of adaptation, as well as the limits to adaptation as a
response to climate change. In addition, I will present some work in
progress that reviews several adaptation tools with the aim of
developing a participatory GIS framework for screening adaptation
strategies and managing information about climate change.

about the presenter: Lynn Rosentrater is a geographer at the
University of Oslo in Norway where her research focuses on adaptation
to climate change. She is a PhD candidate in the Department of
Sociology and Human Geography, and her dissertation focuses on how
geographic information systems (GIS) can be used for screening
adaptation strategies and actions. As part of her dissertation
research, Lynn will be visiting ISSE until the end of May  exploring
the state of the art in adaptation tools while working closely with
Olga Wilhelmi and NCAR's GIS Initiative. By the end of her visit she
hopes to document some of the ways in which communities with
established GIS programs can incorporate climate change into their
daily work to make climate-positive, no-regrets decisions for the
future. Additional information about her project can be found at or by contacting Lynn directly at
Slides Lynn's PowerPoint slides from the talk
April 22 - ISSE Coffee Talk
Title Application of Weather Research for Decision Making in New Hampshire
Speaker Eric G. Hoffman, Plymouth State University
Location Directors Conference room at the Mesa Lab
Time 10AM
Abstract This seminar will review two small research projects conducted in the last few years in which the outcome of the research was specifically designed to result in improved decision making by users of weather information. The first research project which concluded in 2006 was a cooperative project between Plymouth State University and Public Service of New Hampshire an electric utility company. Phase I of this work involved understanding past weather events associated with major power outages in New Hampshire. The explicit goal of this research was to determine if there are common, forecastable, characteristics of these events that would allow PSNH to make better operational resource decisions. In Phase II, a web site was developed in order to allow PSNH to incorporate the results of this research into their operational decision making.  In this seminar a few of the meteorological results will be presented and discussion of the unique process of developing the web site and the decision making tool will be presented.  The second research project involves the installation of a Road Weather Information System in New Hampshire which was a collaborative effort between Plymouth State University and the State Department of Transportation. Over the last year, Plymouth State has conducted a verification study of the environmental sensors on the RWIS and examined the use of the real-time weather data by DOT personnel in their road treatment decision making.  For both projects the unique challenges of working directly with weather users will be presented.


March 18 - ISSE Coffee Talk
Title The Ocean Thermostat and Coral Bleaching
Speaker Joan Kleypas, ISSE Scientist
Location Directors Conference room at the Mesa Lab
Time 10:00am
Abstract Coral reef bleaching events have become increasingly widespread and lethal over the last few decades and are highly correlated with increases in sea surface temperature (SST). In this study we look for regional differences in reef exposure and sensitivity to increasing SSTs by comparing the distribution and severity of reported coral reef bleaching events with the HadISST compilation of SST observations and CCSM-modeled SST trends of the last fifty years. The Micronesian reef province, which lies mostly within the western Pacific warm pool (WPWP) has a low number of reported bleaching events relative to other reef areas. Analysis of the SST data indicate that warmest parts of the WPWP (where average SST > 29C) have warmed less than cooler regions, which supports the existence of “ocean thermostat” mechanisms that act to depress warming beyond certain temperature thresholds. If the WPWP is already near its upper thermal limit, then reefs in this region may be less exposed to SST increases than other regions. Unfortunately, coral reef bleaching records suggest that WPWP reefs may also be more sensitive to increased SST.


February 2 - ISSE Coffee Talk
Title Going against the flow. Travel patterns in the Southern France: a vulnerability factor of flash floods.
Speaker Isabelle Ruin, ASP Post Doc
Location FL1-2133
Time 10:00am
Abstract Flash floods trigger the highest mortality rate in natural disasters because of the rapidity of their onset and extreme violence. They arrive suddenly and surprise people who are in the midst of their daily activities, particularly striking during people's travels. For each catastrophy, up to half of the deaths are road users. Hydro-meteorological research allows for more prediction lead-time and can reduce uncertainty. However, social vulnerability remains an outstanding focus. Experts call for a comprehensive integration of social and natural sciences to better understand public responses. In this context, my thesis research addresses people’s travel patterns during flash floods and makes two assumptions : i) people’s unwillingness to change their daily routines, ii) discrepancy between individual space-time representations and actual flash flood phenomenon characteristics. Using questionnaires or cognitive maps to interview a total of 1,428 residents and tourists visiting the Gard « département », I demonstrated that « at risk » travel patterns result in a mix of three factors : spatio-temporal exposure, cognitive understanding of risks on the road, but also daily family and professional constraints. Based on this analysis, I suggest a range of targeted preventative actions and some new research perspectives.
Slides Isabelle Ruin's PowerPoint slides from the talk

"Because the pathway to sustainability cannot be charted in advance, it will have to be navigated through trial and error and conscious experimentation. The urgent need is to design strategies and institutions that can better integrate incomplete knowledge with experimental action into programs of adaptive management and social learning."
NRC, Our Common Journey (1999)