Tuesday, March 23, 2010

US effort to enable supercomputer-powered climate models of regional impacts

David Biello in Scientific American: Nobody lives in the global average climate. Nor are the massive grid cells favored by climate models run on today's supercomputers as useful as they could be for planning purposes, given that they can encompass 10,000 square kilometers. Now the National Science Foundation (NSF), along with the U.S. Energy and Agriculture departments are teaming up to financially support the development of new computer models aimed at revealing the anticipated effects of climate change at the regional level.

"The impacts of climate change are becoming more immediate and profound than anticipated," NSF Director Arden Bement said Monday during a Webcast for journalists. "We must be able to predict how climate change will impact... regions in the next 10 to 20 years."

The goal will be to deliver a scientific basis for regional planning purposes, whether that involves adaptation to a disappearing coastline or to the expected severity of droughts. "Some will get down to parts of the U.S., part will get down to statewide levels. Some might even deal with megacities," Bement said. "That's going to take time as we continue to peel the onion down to smaller scales."

The agencies will invest nearly $50 million annually in the new program, dubbed "Decadal and Regional Climate Prediction Using Earth System Models," or EaSM for short, and expect to deliver improved versions within the next three years. Those models will look at impacts such as regional average temperature change, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and the sustainability of soils and water as well as the impacts of invasive species on food production and human health. Nor will it be confined to ecological concerns. "One really can't have energy sustainability without environmental sustainability. And you can't have either one without economic sustainability," Bement noted….

Lesser Ury's "Leser mit Lupe," circa 1895

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