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Something New in the Past Decade? Organizing U.S. Climate Modeling (1)

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 5:05 AM GMT on February 05, 2011

Something New in the Past Decade? Organizing U.S. Climate Modeling (1)

Next week in Washington a panel is convening to write about “A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling.” (link) I am a member of this panel, and I have been asked to review an older report on which I was a lead author. The report was published in 2000, and it is still available on line at the USGCRP website. (U.S. Global Change Research Program)

When my co-authors and I wrote this report, we presented the results to several panels of distinguished people. Over the years, people have continued to send comments to me about the report. I contend that this report was different from a lot of other reports. I think it is safe to say that the authors of the report were chosen because of a willingness to look beyond their home agencies. Also we included as an author a sociologist who is expert in organizations and how to make organizations function.

The report was motivated by what I might call discontent by some of those responsible for oversight of Federal climate expenditures. There was in the late 1990s a (highly politicized) national assessment of climate change. Much of the information for model predictions came from Canadian and British models. This occurred despite the fact that not only were their several U.S. modeling efforts, but the U.S. spent (far) more money on modeling than these other countries. A natural question, what was wrong with the U.S. efforts?

In the report, we concluded some things that some of our colleagues considered radical. We focused much of our discussion on issues of management of scientific programs and organizations, and concluded that the culture and practice of science in the U.S. was, fundamentally, fragmenting. We even went as far as to state that “Without addressing these management issues, providing additional funds to the existing programs will not be effective in the development of the Climate Service." (Not sure that statement helped my career and reminding people of that might take me right through retirement.)

For my presentation next week, I need to return to the report and perhaps think about what is different in the past 10 years.

In the spirit of being conversational – there was press coverage of the report at the time, and most of that press coverage was in publications that focused on computing and supercomputing. We authors quickly regretted this emphasis on computing, and the document being cast as a “computing report.” True we did say that U.S. policy on supercomputing and our ability or inability to import supercomputers impacted, negatively, the competitiveness of U.S. climate and weather modeling. But we did not feel that our primary message was about computing.

Our primary message was meant to be about fragmentation and distribution of resources that could be brought together to address integrated problems such as climate assessments. The U.S. scientific culture values highly innovative, curiosity driven research. This is often best achieved through the efforts of individual scientists and small groups. This individuality is exciting, and it is how scientists get promoted. It develops a culture of expertise. Our point in the document was that there needed to be another path of scientific practice, one that valued the integration of all of the pieces and the production of validated, science-based products. We called this “product-driven” research. We could have as easily called it applied research.

So the question comes forward, how do we value product-driven research? It’s hard. In the U.S. we have this idea that if we generate products from our research, then that is in some way damaging to innovation and the generation of the “best science.” The “science” gets compromised. The word “operational” is invoked, and there is a prejudice that operational systems, ones that produce products on a schedule, must be less than they can and should be scientifically. Hence, anytime there is a push towards product-driven research, there is both individual and institutional resistance that rises to defeat the push. This makes sense, because it is asking people to change, and it is asking them to do something for which they cite plenty of evidence that it will assure less successful careers.

We have institutions where people are expected to work on community models but, at least historically, their performance plans make no mention of community activities. I have worked on documents for U.S. agencies as recently as 2010 where I tried to write that we were building climate models that could be used in energy planning, policy decisions, and by society to anticipate and plan for climate change. This, however, was deemed as contrary to the true agency mission of fundamental research for the benefit of the nation. People are hired to do multi-disciplinary research, but they are promoted or given tenure for their individual accomplishments in specific disciplines. Individuals are recognized for novel breakthroughs, programs are recognized for funding novel breakthroughs, and agencies are recognized for having programs that fund novel breakthroughs.

So in the final presentations we made of the 2000 Report we drew pictures like the one below. We put in arrows and money signs and suggested lines of management, and argued that there needed to be internalized incentive structures. (For those with energy, the article continues below the figure!)

Figure 1. An organization designed to deliver product-driven research (maybe what we should do).

What I have stated above is that the fragmented way we approach the practice of science is valued because it encourages innovation and fundamental discovery. One the other hand, it stands in way of the cross-disciplinary unifying branch of science. As climate scientists we have a need to perform assessments, and assessments are, by definition, cross-disciplinary unifying science. Therefore, to align our assets and efforts to perform assessments comes into basic conflict with not only our fragmented scientists and science organizations, but with the underlying culture of our practice of science.

The fragmentation extends beyond the practice of research. There are separate organizations responsible for high-performance computing, and they have their needs to demonstrate breakthroughs. Such a goal might be the greatest number of calculations in a second. Goals like that are achieved with special problems and computer codes, not with messy real problems like weather prediction and climate modeling. Computers are often provided for a set of grand challenge problems. Another point in the report was that the climate models and computational platforms needed to co-evolve; they needed to be managed together.

And if computers and models need to co-evolve, then there needs to be balanced development of software and data systems and analysis capabilities. In fact, in the 2000 report, we identified the greatest deficiency in federal investment being in software infrastructure. Since 2000, there has been significant development of software and data systems and analysis capabilities.

Perhaps then, there is some impact from the report, with more balance in the funding of all of the pieces that are needed in a robust climate program. The expenditures, however, are still fragmented, and the developments have a tendency to be independent. Even given the recognition that these expenditures are essential for a robust climate program, there is always a fight to maintain the expenditures as they are viewed to take away resources from “the science,” from research, from discovery. The program managers and software engineers and the data system professionals have to compete with the high profile breakthroughs of research and high-performance computing.

I paint here a fundamental characteristic of our practice of science. It is deeply ingrained, and in many ways, it is highly successful. Therefore, approaches to provide assessments, to address cross-disciplinary unifying science, to develop climate services – these approaches need to build from this practice and from these successes. This is a challenge to agencies who like to think in terms of re-organizations, institutions, and programmatic collocation of needed assets. Reorganization does not address the basic fact that the underlying structure is fundamentally fragmenting, that there is perceived value in that fragmentation, and that there is investment in that fragmentation.

In the 2000 report we described the type of organization that we thought was needed to address the issues of climate modeling, high-performance computing, and climate services. Today, I would nuance or refine that recommendation, based on emergence of community-based approaches to complex problem solving. A new type of organization is needed, one with stable, balanced, coordinated, product-focused investments in all of the elements necessary for science-based climate products. Essential in this organization is giving value to those who perform cross-disciplinary unifying scientific research to address complex problems. This is not reorganization or restructuring; this is not merging agencies and programs; this is focused, mindful development of a capability to achieve a specific, needed goal.


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Do the calculation.

Figure out how much energy you are talking about.
There will definitely be a cost. Ecology rule #1, "there is no such thing as a free lunch".

If you are piping 2000+ cubic miles of hot water to the bottom of the ocean, you suppose there will be no effect? Systems react to energy, thermal gradients, densities, and currents. If you don't know how much energy you are throwing around, then you have no idea what you are talking about.

Do the math.
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Ill get some xtra pencils for CB..

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
do an energy calculation on how much energy it would take to heat 2,273 cubic miles of water 1 degree.
Keep in mind the water you are proposing to heat to 70 degrees has 30,000 square miles of surface area on top of water no way near 70.(400 feet down)
And you propose to keep it at 70 degrees for YEARS?

You do the math, just to get it to 70 degrees in February.
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Climate Model Indications and the Observed Climate

Simulated global temperature in experiments that include human influences (pink line), and model experiments that included only natural factors (blue line). The black line is observed temperature change.

Global climate models clearly show the effect of human-induced changes on global temperatures. The blue band shows how global temperatures would have changed due to natural forces only (without human influence). The pink band shows model projections of the effects of human and natural forces combined. The black line shows actual observed global average temperatures. The close match between the black line and the pink band indicates that observed warming over the last half-century cannot be explained by natural factors alone, and is instead caused primarily by human factors.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Ignorance is free....
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
The most important numbers Globally

Mauna Loa current CO2 Number


Atmospheric CO2 for January 2011

Preliminary data released February 7, 2011 (Mauna Loa Observatory: NOAA-ESRL)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
139. Patrap
1:21 AM GMT on February 10, 2011
Now I can sit back and enjoy the Show...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
137. Patrap
1:10 AM GMT on February 10, 2011
Welcome To
A World Without Oil
download QuickTime Video 38MB

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
136. atmoaggie
1:09 AM GMT on February 10, 2011
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
132. martinitony
11:18 PM GMT on February 09, 2011
Thats what gets me is how much energy is put into denial by those that don't even post on anything else here.

You'd think they could at least source ONE denial post. Come on I source everything I talk about. Everything religiously.

How can you not have a single legitimate source for something you argue to be true. Something Real and observable you deny. That just blows my mind. Something that could harm others too.

Again not ONE sourced on topic post today. By the denying denial deniers. You all jumped in here in the middle of a conversation just to harass I think.

Florida, here's your problem, the truth really doesn't mean much to you. It's the method that matters. You source everything you talk about. You know what, nobody cares about that except you. What matters is the truth and you really don't care about the truth. If something is posted here that is indisputable and it goes contra to your perceptions of the truth,do you know how you respond? That's right, you don't respond.Do you know why? That's right, because the truth doesn't matter to you.
Oh, sorry if you think I'm also harassing you.
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131. Patrap
11:17 PM GMT on February 09, 2011
The Psychology of Climate Change Denial

* By Brandon Keim Email Author
* December 9, 2009

Even as the science of global warming gets stronger, fewer Americans believe it’s real. In some ways, it’s nearly as jarring a disconnect as enduring disbelief in evolution or carbon dating. And according to Kari Marie Norgaard, a Whitman College sociologist who’s studied public attitudes towards climate science, we’re in denial.

“Our response to disturbing information is very complex. We negotiate it. We don’t just take it in and respond in a rational way,” said Norgaard.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared in 2007 that greenhouse gases had reached levels not seen in 650,000 years, and were rising rapidly as a result of people burning fossil fuel. Because these gases trap the sun’s heat, they would — depending on human energy habits — heat Earth by an average of between 1.5 and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by century’s end. Even a midrange rise would likely disrupt the planet’s climate, producing droughts and floods, acidified oceans, altered ecosystems and coastal cities drowned by rising seas.

“If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future,” said Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, when the report was released. “This is the defining moment.”

Studies published since then have only strengthened the IPCC’s predictions, or suggested they underestimate future warming. But as world leaders gather in Copenhagen to discuss how to avoid catastrophic climate change, barely half the U.S. public thinks carbon pollution could warm Earth. That’s 20 percent less than in 2007, and lower than at any point in the last 12 years. In a Pew Research Center poll, Americans ranked climate dead last out of 20 top issues, behind immigration and trade policy.

Wired.com talked to Norgaard about the divide between science and public opinion.

Wired.com: Why don’t people seem to care?

Kari Norgaard: On the one hand, there have been extremely well-organized, well-funded climate-skeptic campaigns. Those are backed by Exxon Mobil in particular, and the same PR firms who helped the tobacco industry (.pdf) deny the link between cancer and smoking are involved with magnifying doubt around climate change.

That’s extremely important, but my work has been in a different area. It’s been about people who believe in science, who aren’t out to question whether science has a place in society.

Wired.com: People who are coming at the issue in good faith, you mean. What’s their response?

Norgaard: Climate change is disturbing. It’s something we don’t want to think about. So what we do in our everyday lives is create a world where it’s not there, and keep it distant.

For relatively privileged people like myself, we don’t have to see the impact in everyday life. I can read about different flood regimes in Bangladesh, or people in the Maldives losing their islands to sea level rise, or highways in Alaska that are altered as permafrost changes. But that’s not my life. We have a vast capacity for this.

Wired.com: How is this bubble maintained?

Norgaard: In order to have a positive sense of self-identity and get through the day, we’re constantly being selective of what we think about and pay attention to. To create a sense of a good, safe world for ourselves, we screen out all kinds of information, from where food comes from to how our clothes our made. When we talk with our friends, we talk about something pleasant.

Wired.com: How does this translate into skepticism about climate change?

Norgaard: It’s a paradox. Awareness has increased. There’s been a lot more information available. This is much more in our face. And this is where the psychological defense mechanisms are relevant, especially when coupled with the fact that other people, as we’ve lately seen with the e-mail attacks, are systematically trying to create the sense that there’s doubt.

If I don’t want to believe that climate change is true, that my lifestyle and high carbon emissions are causing devastation, then it’s convenient to say that it doesn’t.

Wired.com: Is that what this comes down to — not wanting to confront our own roles?

Norgaard: I think so. And the reason is that we don’t have a clear sense of what we can do. Any community organizer knows that if you want people to respond to something, you need to tell them what to do, and make it seem do-able. Stanford University psychologist Jon Krosnick has studied this, and showed that people stop paying attention to climate change when they realize there’s no easy solution. People judge as serious only those problems for which actions can be taken.

Another factor is that we no longer have a sense of permanence. Another psychologist, Robert Lifton, wrote about what the existence of atomic bombs did to our psyche. There was a sense that the world could end at any moment.

Global warming is the same in that it threatens the survival of our species. Psychologists tell us that it’s very important to have a sense of the continuity of life. That’s why we invest in big monuments and want our work to stand after we die and have our family name go on.

That sense of continuity is being ruptured. But climate change has an added aspect that is very important. The scientists who built nuclear bombs felt guilt about what they did. Now the guilt is real for the broader public.

Wired.com: So we don’t want to believe climate change is happening, feel guilty that it is, and don’t know what to do about it? So we pretend it’s not a problem?

Norgaard: Yes, but I don’t want to make it seem crass. Sometimes people who are very empathetic are less likely to help in certain situations, because they’re so disturbed by it. The human capacity of empathy is really profound, and that’s part of our weakness. If we were more callous, then we’d approach it in a more straightforward way. It may be a weakness of our capacity as sentient beings to cope with this problem.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
124. atmoaggie
9:17 PM GMT on February 09, 2011
Im kinda curious if atmo or the other two actually ever post anything having to do with climate, weather or the blog topic?

Certainly they could source ONE post legitimately. Have at least one idea that isn't pure koolaid-lite social criticism or political opinion? Something based in actual observable facts and/or reasoned from them?

SOMETHING that you can point to a legitimate reference and say I got this here.

Just one today.
I would, but, you know, that reading comprehension thing. Whatever I post, you cannot seem to understand.
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118. Patrap
8:16 PM GMT on February 09, 2011
Quoting cat5hurricane:
JFLORIDA - After glancing over some your posts here the past couple days, it sure sounds like Santa Clause left you some good Marxism books under the tree this past Christmas to digest.

That would be Santa "Claus".

Not "Clause".

Were kinda retentive on facts and spelling here.



Henry's Open on Magazine.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
116. Patrap
8:09 PM GMT on February 09, 2011
Datz How Eyes Roll.

Im a Uptown Ruler.

..."Sweet Confusion Under da Moonlight
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

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Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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