The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report on “The Physical Science Basis” of climate change has been completed and will appear online on Sept. 30, 2013. This report represents a milestone in the understanding of the Earth system and climate science. Scientific research funded by NOAA’s Climate Program Office (CPO) is foundational to advancing IPCC reports. CPO supports climate science research reflected in the IPCC’s report through its Climate Observations and Monitoring (COM); Earth System Science (ESS); and Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) programs. These programs sponsor interdisciplinary collaborations involving NOAA labs and the external science community to extend the agency’s research and operational capabilities, and to improve scientific understanding, observations, and modeling of the climate system. This work is foundational to this first report of the IPCC’s 5th Assessment.
Working with academic, federal, and international partners, CPO’s COM program sustains ocean-wide observations of sea level, temperature, salinity, currents, chemical composition, and heat and gas exchanges with the atmosphere. These observations are essential to improving our understanding of the movement and budget of energy and matter within the climate system, and to advancing understanding of the processes that underlie climate variability and change.
The ESS program supports research related to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a major oceanic transporter of energy and matter. Scientists study the AMOC to better understand its role in long-term climate, potentially improving scientists’ ability to predict global climate on timescales ranging from a year to a decade. ESS supports research to understand AMOC mechanisms and variability in present-day and future scenarios.
The Arctic region has undergone rapid change over the past few decades. Understanding, observing, and modeling these changes is critical because of the region’s sensitivity to warming, as well as the United States’ geopolitical interests in the region. Additionally, there are connections between the Arctic and climate patterns elsewhere around the world.
Changes in the concentration of human-produced greenhouse gases and aerosols in the atmosphere are at the core of all IPCC assessments. The scientific community’s understanding of how these gases and particles influence climate has grown with each report. ESS-sponsored collaborations involving NOAA scientists and academic researchers have enabled advances in quantifying poorly understood aerosol formations and their effects on clouds. Greenhouse gases have been monitored for decades by NOAA scientists via surface and aircraft measurements. Utilizing this data, ESS recently established a Carbon Tracker Science Team focused on delivering North American carbon fluxes for use as a benchmark for scientists and decision makers. Additionally, ESS supports studies that further improve understanding of the sources and sinks of all greenhouse gases as well as aerosols and their precursors.
Understanding of North American climate, as simulated by models for the 20th and 21st centuries, is documented in a special collection of new papers published by the Journal of Climate. Utilizing CMIP5 data, Task Force
research evaluates model performance to better characterize uncertainty at regional scales, understand how model performance is changing over time, and explore model capabilities in simulating basic processes in the climate system. ESS- and MAPP-funded researchers are examining the prospects for decadal prediction considering predictability associated with AMOC and exploring potential prediction methodologies. Research projects are also focused on improving the representation of clouds in climate models. Observational platforms sponsored by the COM program are critical to all of the work described above.
CPO-funded scientific research is critical to observing, understanding, and modeling the climate system. To accomplish this work, CPO programs facilitate collaboration between NOAA’s scientific enterprise and the external scientific community. Major CPO partners include NOAA climate research laboratories, centers, and cooperative institutes; other national climate research institutes; and the academic community. CPO also partners with relevant programs at other U.S. agencies via the U.S. Global Change Research Program and World Climate Research Program.