AMS NYC/Long Island Chapter Seminar with B.D. Santer

American Meteorological Society's NYC/Long Island Chapter Seminars
at Columbia University, Sponsored by Columbia University's Fu Foundation
School of Engineering and Applied Science presents:

B.D. Santer
Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Thursday, February 20, 2014, 6:30 PM, Davis Auditorium, 412 Schapiro Center

"A Life in Climate Science: From Identification of a “Discernible Human Influence” on Climate to Identification of the “Top Ten” Climate Models"

Abstract: Human-caused climate change is not a hypothetical future event. It is real, and we are experiencing it in our lifetimes. Despite compelling evidence of human effects on global climate, there is a continuing need for scientists to explain “how we know it’s us”. The first part of my talk will briefly summarize the scientific underpinning for “discernible human influence” conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The focus will be on so-called “fingerprint” studies, which seek to identify a model-predicted pattern of anthropogenic climate change in observational records. The message from such fingerprint research is that observed changes in a number of different (and independently-measured) aspects of the climate system cannot be explained by natural causes alone.

Studies of the causes of climate change frequently rely on complex numerical models of the climate system. Such models are the only tools we have for attempting to understand the size (and geographical and seasonal distribution) of the climate changes we are likely to experience over the 21stcentury. But not all models show equal skill in capturing key features of present-day climate. Should models with higher skill in reproducing today’s climate be regarded as more trustworthy predictors of 21stcentury climate change? Is it easy to identify the “top 10” climate models in the world? How should decision-makers – and scientists interested in studying the impacts of climate change – use and interpret information on the strengths and weaknesses of different climate models? Can we find clever ways of reducing uncertainties in projections of future climate change? These are a few of the questions that will be addressed in the second part of my talk.

Bio: Ben Santer is an atmospheric scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). His research focuses on such topics as climate model evaluation, the use of statistical methods in climate science, and the identification of natural and human “fingerprints” in observed climate records. Santer’s early research on the climatic effects of combined changes in greenhouse gases and sulfate aerosols contributed to the historic “discernible human influence” conclusion of the 1995 Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His recent work has attempted to identify human fingerprints in a number of different climate variables, such as tropopause height, atmospheric water vapor, the temperature of the stratosphere and troposphere, ocean heat content, and ocean surface temperatures in hurricane formation regions.

Santer holds a Ph.D. in Climatology from the University of East Anglia, England. After completion of his Ph.D. in 1987, he spent five years at the Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany, where he worked on the development and application of climate fingerprinting methods. In 1992, Santer joined LLNL’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI).

Santer served as Convening Lead Author of the climate-change detection and attribution chapter of the 1995 IPCC report. His awards include a MacArthur Fellowship (1998), the U.S. Department of Energy’s E.O. Lawrence Award (2002), and membership in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2011). He enjoys rock-climbing, mountaineering, and exploring the beautiful state of California with his wife and son.

Hosts: Lorenzo Polvani and Jimmy Booth

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