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Improving predictions of climate change and its impacts

24.03.2010
New interagency program to generate high-resolution tools for addressing climate change

On March 22 at 11 a.m., EDT, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture hold a webcast announcing the launch of a joint research program to produce high-resolution models for predicting climate change and its resulting impacts.

Called Decadal and Regional Climate Prediction Using Earth System Models (EaSM), the program is designed to generate models that--significantly more powerful than existing models--can help decision-makers develop adaptation strategies addressing climate change. These models will be developed through a joint, interagency solicitation for proposals.

The promise of an historic program

EaSM is distinguished by its promise for generating: 1) predictions of climate change and associated impacts at more localized scales and over shorter time periods than previously possible; and 2) innovative interdisciplinary approaches to address the sources and impacts of climate change. These interdisciplinary approaches will draw on biologists, chemists, computer scientists, geoscientists, materials scientists, mathematicians, physicists, computer specialists and social scientists.

"This extraordinary and exciting multi-agency research program will enable a major step forward in our ability to understand and predict both climate change and its impacts on people--at the spatial and temporal scales relevant to human life and societal decision making," says Timothy Killeen, NSF's assistant director for the Geosciences Directorate.

By producing reliable, accurate information about climate change and resulting impacts at improved geographic and temporal resolutions, models developed under the EaSM solicitation will provide decision-makers with sound scientific bases for developing adaptation and management responses to climate change at regional levels.

"This project integrates expertise from multiple communities--including the fundamental sciences--which is needed to understand climate change processes, and advanced modeling, which is needed to quantitatively assess climate change impacts," says Edward Seidel, NSF's acting assistant director for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate.

The need for improved climate change models

The development of high-resolution, interdisciplinary predictive models through EaSM is important because the consequences of climate change are becoming more immediate and profound than anticipated. These consequences include prolonged droughts, increased ecosystem stress, reduced agriculture and forest productivity, altered biological feedbacks, degraded ocean and permafrost habitats and the rapid retreat of glaciers and sea ice--all of which are expected to have major impacts on ecological, economic and social systems as well as on human health.

To mitigate these consequences, EaSM models will be designed to support planning for the management of food and water supplies, infrastructure construction, ecosystem maintenance, and other pressing societal issues at more localized levels and more immediate time periods than can existing models.

Program funding

The joint solicitation for EaSM proposals enables the three partner agencies to combine resources and fund the highest-impact projects without duplicating efforts. The FY 2010 EaSM solicitation will be supported by the following funding levels: 1) about $30 million from NSF; 2) about $10 million from DOE; and 3) about $9 million from USDA. This project represents an historic augmentation of support for interdisciplinary climate change research by NSF and its partner agencies.

This solicitation is the first solicitation for the five-year EaSM program, which will run from FY 2010 to FY 2014. Submitted proposals will be reviewed through NSF's peer review process, and awards will be funded by all three partner agencies. About 20 NSF grants under EaSM are expected to be awarded.

Research goals for EaSM

NSF is particularly interested in developing models that will produce reliable predictions of 1) climate change at regional and decadal scales; 2) resulting impacts; and 3) potential adaptations of living systems to these impacts. Related research may, for example, include studies of natural decadal climate change, regional aspects of water and nutrient cycling, and methods to test predictions of climate change.

The USDA is particularly interested in developing climate models that can be linked to crop, forestry and livestock models. Such models will be used to help assess possible risk management strategies and projections of yields at various spatial and temporal scales.

DOE is particularly interested in developing models that better define interactions between climate change and decadal modes of natural climate variability, simulate climate extremes under a changing climate, and help resolve the uncertainties of the indirect effects of aerosols on climate.

Types of proposals

Two types of interdisciplinary proposals will be considered for EaSM funding: Type 1 proposals should be capacity/community building activities, address one or more goals, and last up to three years; these proposals may receive up to $300,000 in annual funding. Type 2 proposals should describe large, ambitious, collaborative, interdisciplinary efforts that advance Earth system modeling on regional and decadal scales, and last three to five years; these proposals may receive from $300,000 to $1 million in annual funding.

Lily Whiteman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov

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