Organization: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Research Title: Climate Modeling, Analysis and Prediction (CMAP)

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 3.5
FY95 11.5
FY96 11.7

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Subcommittee (100%) NSTC Committee on Fundamental Science
(b) Environmental Issue: Climate change (75%); Natural variability (25%)
(c) Research Activity: System Structure and Function: Prediction (90%) Integrated Assessment: Assessment (10%)

Organizational Component:
NSF Directorates for Geosciences and Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Division of Atmospheric Sciences
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22230

Point of Contact:
Jay Fein
Phone: 703-306-1527
E-Mail: jfein@nsf.gov

Research Goals:
To support the development of integrated predictive models of the climate system and the analysis of the modeled output for Global Change assessment purposes.

Research Description:
Because climate system processes and feedbacks are so complex, questions about the future state of our environment - global and regional distributions of temperature and precipitation, sea level, water resources, and biological productivity - can be answered only through theoretical model simulations and predictions. The level of sophistication of modeling for various climate components (cloud systems, radiative processes, ocean circulations, and biosphere interactions) varies greatly. Today's global climate models simulate with some certainty the direct climate response to increased greenhouse gas concentrations, i.e., warming of the lower atmosphere and stratospheric cooling. However, the equally important feedbacks to that direct response are generally treated by models, if at all, only in a rudimentary fashion. In order to meet the goals of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, significant improvements in the modeling of feedback processes must be achieved.

The central focus of CMAP is the development, testing and implementation of a suite of Climate System Models (CSM) comprised of atmospheric, oceanic, cryospheric and terrestrial components, appropriately coupled, in order to address questions of climate variability and change, ranging in scale from regional to global space, and seasonal to century time scales. A special effort will be on linking the products of CSMs to integrated assessments. CSMs provide information on future regional and global environments - years, decades and centuries ahead. Applying this CSM information, scientists design models on how these changing physical environments impact economic and social systems. Policy analysts, in turn, use the information from impact modeling studies, to advise policymakers on environmental regulatory issues. This three-step process (climate system modeling, impact modeling and policy analysis) is integrated assessment. It involves three widely different groups of researchers and their individual research cultures. CMAP will encourage mechanisms for better communication and working relationships among these three groups of researchers.

CMAP research will be coordinated between NCAR and universities, and will be open to participation by scientists and modeling groups from Federal laboratories, from industry and from abroad. Special attention will be given to the evaluation/ validation of CSM, and to the separation of the natural climate variability from the human-induced climate variability. CMAP will also help define, from a modeling perspective, the global change observational requirements. CMAP will include both enhancements to ongoing modeling efforts, such as NCAR's Community Climate Model, and support for new projects aimed at accelerating coupled climate system modeling.

CMAP was created based on recommendations from two major UCAR community workshops. Advice and scientific oversight is provided by the CMAP Scientific Advisory Council, comprised of university, NCAR, Federal laboratory and industrial scientists.

Program Interfaces:
The NSF CMAP project benefits scientists and others who apply future environmental scenarios for the purpose of predicting environmental impacts on societal systems. Policy makers will benefit from more definitive and certain assessments of environmental predictions made by CSMs. CMAP is part of a multi-agency effort in integrated global change modeling and complements efforts in Earth system modeling at other Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) agencies. It will be implemented in collaboration with the other agencies and will be complementary to and integrated with research in the Federal laboratories. CMAP is affiliated with the industry-based UCAR MECCA project and thereby provides a university/NCAR global change research interface with several international industrial groups. Finally, CMAP is the NSF contribution to the IGBP Global Analysis, Interpretation and Modeling (GAIM) project.

Program Milestones:
(1) Establishment of dedicated supercomputing facilities at NCAR for climate system modeling and IPCC assessment activities starting in 1995. (2) Release of a community version of a Climate System Model for climate research and assessment activities by the end of 1996.

Policy Payoffs:
The short-term payoff will be the improved understanding of the coupling and feedbacks among the various components of the climate system. This will result in IPCC assessments that are more quantitative and useful to policy makers and in more informed policy decisions on environmental issues of climate change and natural variability. The long-term payoff will be an enhanced capability to model the climate system which should serve as a foundation for more certain predictions of global and regional environmental variability and change, and more useful products for integrated assessments. The long-term benefits will impact the broad range of deliberations on U.S. commitments to international environmental protocols.