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Climate Challenges

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  • UserProf. Rowan Suttion, University of Reading. Prof. Seymour Laxon, University College London. Dr Phillip Goodwin, University of Cambridge. Prof. David Fowler, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
  • ClockThursday 18 October 2012, 14:00-17:30
  • HousePfizer Lecture Theatre, Department of Chemistry.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Alex Archibald.

Please join us for this special CCfCS symposium which focuses on a range of Climate Challenges.

David Fowler. Challenges in predicting the feedbacks between Biosphere-Atmosphere exchange of trace gases and climate. The surface –atmosphere exchange of many of the trace gases at the heart of environmental issues (CH4, O3, NO, NO2, NH3, HNO 3) are very sensitive to changes in climate, either through changes in the partitioning of sensible and latent heat at the surface or directly through the effect of surface temperature and moisture on biological activity. These interactions have the potential to generate important feedbacks in the Earth system and yet current chemistry–climate models have simplistic schemes to simulate the exchange processes. The challenge is to incorporate sufficient understanding of the process into ES models and by bringing them into line with current understanding, to quantify credible feedbacks over the coming decades.

Rowan Sutton. Challenges in understanding and predicting regional climate change. The behaviour, in the recent past and near future, of Earth’s mean surface air temperature, whilst still subject to some significant uncertainties, is quite well understood. By contrast, understanding and predicting the behaviour of climate on regional and smaller scales is vastly more challenging. Yet it is information about these scales that is urgently required to inform the development cost-effective adaptation strategies. This talk will discuss the challenges involved in understanding and predicting regional climate change, and illustrate some recent areas of progress. The key role of numerical climate simulators – often known as climate models – will be highlighted, including the strategies used to assess the trustworthiness of these tools.

Phil Goodwin. Challenges in understanding and predicting climate change on thousand year timescales. Understanding and predicting the effects of carbon emissions on Earth’s climate over the next 100 years is of pressing importance to society. However, the impacts of today’s carbon emissions will not be confined to the next century, but will instead last for many thousands of years. This talk will discuss the challenges involved in understanding and predicting the impact of today’s carbon emissions on climate variables a thousand years from now. The climate variables considered will be mean surface air-temperatures, mean ocean temperatures and the component of sea level rise due to thermal expansion. Recent theory and climate model output will be highlighted, suggesting that a thousand years from now both warming and sea level rise will be nearly linearly linked to the total amount of carbon emitted during the present fossil fuel era.

Seymour Laxon. Challenges in understanding current and future changes in the Earth’s polar ice masses. In September 2012 the Arctic sea ice extent minimum crashed through the previous record in 2007. This rate of decline, much faster than predicted by models, may be due an inadequate representation of the feedbacks and processes. The contributions of ice sheets to sea level rise in the last IPCC excluded the effects of climate dynamics and current estimates of ice sheet mass balance vary considerably. Due to the inhospitable nature of the polar regions large scale synoptic measurements of changes in the polar ice masses can only be obtained from satellites. We will present the most recent observations of changes in the polar ice using state of the art satellite techniques and examine what these mean for the future of the Earth’s polar ice masses.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Centre for Climate Science series.

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