US agencies hot on predicting climate change

DOE, NSF and USDA launch climate change prediction program

NSF climate change
The US government is intent on getting into predicting the effects of climate change in a big way.  The latest news finds the  US Departments of Agriculture, Energy and the National Science Foundation (NSF) launching a $50 million joint research program to produce high-resolution models for predicting climate change and its impact. 

The Decadal and Regional Climate Prediction Using Earth System Models (EaSM), program is designed to generate models that -- significantly more powerful than existing models -- can help law-makers and others develop strategies addressing climate change, the NSF stated. 

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The program has a couple main goals: Enable projects that predict climate change and its associated impacts at what the NSF calls more localized scales and over shorter time periods than previously possible; and work together to address sources and impacts of climate change. 

The group says 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, 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, the group says. 

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, the group says. 

The agencies will combine resources and fund the highest-impact projects without duplicating efforts, they say, with about $30 million coming from the NSF; $10 million from the DOE and about $9 million from the USDA. 

The DOE, NSF and USDA is the second multi-million dollar effort to predict and perhaps help mitigate climate change in the past couple months.  In Feb., the US government said it wants to set up a National Climate Service that is designed to meet the burgeoning demand for climate information. 

The Climate Service would be akin to the National Weather Service and would be the single point of contact of information climate forecasts and support for planning and management decisions by federal agencies; state, local, and tribal governments; and the private sector. 

In announcing the intent to form a National Climate Service, the Commerce Dept. said the service will provide critical business and community planning information about climate changes as well as discover new technologies and build new businesses. The new service would require congressional approval but if all went smoothly, it could be up and running by October. 

The idea is to bring together the climate services of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which includes historical and real-time data, monitoring and assessments, research and modeling, predictions and projections, decision support tools and early warning systems, and the development and delivery of valued climate services. 

NASA too is getting further into the climate act. The space agency said in Feb., it is aiming to improve its climate research capabilities by creating a software-as-a-service interface for scientists and students who need to build complex climate models. 

A climate model might, for example, predict what would happen to global temperatures over the next hundred years if humans double carbon dioxide emissions. 

NASA scientists recently said that January 2000 to December 2009 was the warmest decade on record. NASA said records show 2009 was tied for the second warmest since 1880 and in the Southern Hemisphere, 2009 was the warmest year on record. 

While 2008 was the coolest year of the decade because of a strong La Nina that cooled the tropical Pacific Ocean, 2009 saw a return to near-record global temperatures as the La Nina diminished, according to analysis by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. 

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8

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