The Bryson Interdisciplinary Climate, People, and the Environment Program (CPEP) aims to develop the climatic expertise of scientists from other disciplines so that they can work effectively at the interface of problems related to climate, people, and the environment. Critical to this training is the foundation of knowledge and skills provided by faculty, staff, and students at the Center for Climatic Research (CCR). Likewise, faculty, fellows, and students affiliated with CPEP bring their training in the natural and human sciences to the forefront of interdisciplinary climate research at CCR and AOS.
CCR focuses on studies of present, future, and past climates through field measurement and observation as well as the development and application of coupled earth system models. Understanding the links and feedbacks between ecosystems and climate, between civilizations and
climate, and the assessment of the impacts of climate variability on water, food, and energy resources stands as a mutual goal of both CPEP and CCR.
Collaborative research between CPEP and CCR is an outgrowth of research initiatives by the Bryson Professor, CPEP Fellows, and topics explored in the CPEP Seminar. CPEP funding helps support and seed both ongoing and proposed CPEP-CCR collaborative efforts.
CPEP-CCR collaboration on topics related to climate, people, and the environment has led to ten interdisciplinary research papers in the past two years. Additionally, CPEP-CCR collaboration has helped foster a range of currently funded projects and a number of proposals under review at NSF, NOAA, and EPA.
Paleoclimatology: Past Climates as the Key to Future Predictions
CPEP and CCR scientists are also involved in a wide variety of studies examining the past behavior of the climate system and the earth system, including biosphere feedbacks. This area of research combines the field and laboratory expertise of CPEP faculty and fellows and the modeling expertise of CCR researchers to produce comprehensive evaluations of past climatic and environmental scenarios.
Paleoclimatic research has intrinsic interest for documenting the earth's environmental history, for examining the interrelationships between civilizations and climate, and for studying the process of coupled earth system behavior during periods of abrupt or sever climate change. An additional result of these studies, crucial to future climate research, is the evaluation of the accuracy of our simulations of past climates by comparisons with field studies and modern observations. These comparisons provide a measure of the overall reliability of climate models: a measure of validation that is of key importance when modeling future climate scenarios and predicting possible impacts of climate change on food, water and land resources.
Ongoing CPEP-CCR collaborations that explore past climatic variability, both human-caused and natural-caused, and its environmental impact:
- Abrupt climate change circa 4200 years ago affecting much of North America and perhaps the northern hemisphere (Booth et al, 2005).
- Paleoenvironmental proxy records of patterns of decadal drought across North America (Booth et al, 2005 and 2006).
- Greenhouse warming in response to early agriculture and land clearing thousands of years ago that may have prevented initiation of glaciation (Ruddiman et al, 2005).
- Multi-model documentation of the altered North American climate 6000 years ago and relationship to changes to past vegetation, drought, and lake levels (Ruter et al, 2005).
The earth's climate may change in the future due to the same factors that influence the present climate: (1) natural external changes such as changes in volcanic activity or small changes in solar radiation; (2) human activities, including greenhouse gas increases, atmospheric aerosol loading, and changes in land use; and (3) internal variability of the coupled atmosphere-ocean-land-biosphere system. Jointly, CPEP and CCR are focusing on the role of human activities and the role of internal variability, and, very importantly, the coupling between human-caused changes in base-state climate and the possible impacts on future climate variability.
CPEP and CCR are together contributing to the 2007 Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The ongoing IPCC assessment is the fundamental mechanism of the scientific community for reviewing “the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”
CPEP-CCR scientists have contributed the following to the current assessment:
- Future changes in equatorial / subtropical sea surface temperature (Liu et al, 2005).
- Future shifts in regional (Great Lakes) and global water balance (Kutzbach et al, 2005).
- Changes (measured and modeled) in tree growth over the last century in the Arctic and sub-Arctic based on CO2 increases (Notaro et al, 2005).
- Potential frequency of future heat and cold waves (Vavrus et al, 2005).
- Climate-induced changes in regional and global biomes at 2100AD, with special attention to the tropics (Williams et al, 2005).