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Atmospheric Sciences & Global Change Division
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March 2014

PNNL Contributes Scenario Expertise to Model Comparison Experiments

Bringing together international modeling efforts, the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) coordinates interdisciplinary teams to evaluate and analyze models to understand the Earth's climate. Dr. Richard Moss at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory co-authored a headliner article "Climate Model Intercomparisons: Preparing for the Next Phase" in Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union describing the process and progress.

Organizing Scenarios for Interdisciplinary Model Inter-Comparisons

Through CMIP, international climate modeling teams just completed a major milestone by incorporating results from the 5th phase of the project in the 5th assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. CMIP includes a wide variety of standardized experiments that facilitate 'apples to apples' comparison and diagnosis of climate model performance. Some of these simulations used the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), scenarios in which emissions, land use, and other factors vary in a realistic fashion in response to modeled human behaviors such as energy and food production. These RCP-based experiments explore how different levels of human activity will affect future climate. Impacts modelers in turn use these results to investigate the consequences for society.

The article describes preliminary plans for the next phase, CMIP6, and sets the stage for feedback from scientists and model users during 2014. Three broad issues motivate these plans: Earth system response to forcing; systematic model biases; and variability, predictability, and uncertainty. For the first time, CMIP participants are proposing a "ScenarioMIP". Specific scenario-related research topics would investigate air quality and climate interactions, the influence of land use/land cover change on regional climate, and impacts and responses associated with different levels of change. The international team discussed these plans at two workshops in 2013 that are reported on in this article.

A number of PNNL scientists are involved in CMIP. In addition to Moss, those participating in the scenario-development effort include Jae Edmonds, Katherine Calvin, Stephanie Waldoff, and Steven J. Smith. Moss is a senior scientist at PNNL, working at the Joint Global Climate Change Research Institute, a partnership between PNNL and the University of Maryland. He is highly regarded for his work in the climate change impacts and adaptation research community. Moss is Chair of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Board on Environmental Change and Society and serves in many leadership roles for the National Climate Assessment and the IPPC Fifth Assessment Report. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a 2001 Aldo Leopold Fellow.

Reference: Meehl GA, R Moss, KE Taylor, V Eyring, RJ Stouffer, S Bony and B Stevens. 2014. "Climate Model Intercomparisons: Preparing for the Next Phase." EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 95(9):77-78.


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