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January 2017 Issue


Charting the Course for
Climate and Ocean Research



By Nico Caltabiano
Deputy Executive Director
International CLIVAR Project Office



The year of 2016 was the celebration of CLIVAR’s (Climate and Ocean: Variability, Predictability and Change Project) 25 years of success. CLIVAR is the World Climate Research Programme’s core project on climate and the ocean, addressing key questions of climate variability, predictability and change. Addressing these questions requires international coordination that takes into account the ongoing changes in the climate system, as well as an evolving political framework dealing with these changes. During these 25 years, CLIVAR has provided fundamental knowledge about the characteristics and dynamics of mechanisms of variability in the coupled climate system. CLIVAR scientists have been instrumental in the development of ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) seasonal prediction systems and pioneered initialized decadal predictions. Originally as part of CLIVAR, the developments of coupled models contributed significantly, through the development of coupled climate modeling capabilities and of climate model intercomparison projects, to the understanding of the response of the climate system to anthropogenic increases in radiatively active gases and changes in aerosols.

CLIVAR Open Science Conference
The main activity in the past year was the organization of the CLIVAR Open Science Conference (OSC) in Qingdao, China. The OSC was hosted by the Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (QNLM) and had more than 600 scientists from 47 countries. The Scientific Organizing Committee developed a program designed to maximize opportunities to share ideas, foster collaborations and develop future plans. The objectives of the CLIVAR Open Science Conference were: to review progress toward improved understanding of the dynamics, interaction and predictability of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system; to shape ideas to meet emerging ocean and climate science challenges; to engage with the future generation of climate scientists; to identify key climate research and stakeholder issues; and to develop and strengthen collaborations across nations, disciplines and age groups and promote integrative studies.

Over the five-day period scientists showcased the major advances in climate and ocean research since the first CLIVAR Conference in 2004 and argued for continued efforts to improve our observational records (including paleo), models, process understanding and our ability to communicate scientific discoveries and their implications and translate knowledge into useful information. The presentations covered scales ranging from a centimeter to a global scale and from hours to decades and longer. Throughout the conference the value of cross-disciplinary integration and international cooperation was emphasized. Critical issues addressed included the impacts of a warming ocean on future climate, regional variations in ocean and climate warming, the respective contributions of thermal expansion and melting ice to sea level rise, the connections between the oceans and the global water and energy cycle, the changes taking place deep in the ocean, and the consequences of excess carbon on sea life.


CLIVAR Early Career Scientists Symposium
One of the important aims of the conference was to engage the future generation. Jointly with the OSC, CLIVAR successfully organized an Early Career Scientists Symposium (ECSS), hosted by China’s First Institute of Oceanography (SOA/FIO). More than 120 students and early career scientists participated in the symposium. Participants enjoyed an informal atmosphere, while discussing in groups the key research challenges that the scientific climate community face at the moment and highlighting the need for international science collaboration. They also discussed the best ways to engage potential stakeholders with their scientific information and suggested their vision for the future of CLIVAR.

The conference injected an amazing degree of enthusiasm about CLIVAR’s research and fortified the notion that CLIVAR will be critical to meet society’s needs for climate information. International cooperation of the type that CLIVAR fosters will continue to be indispensable to developing the human capacity and infrastructure that underpins all major scientific breakthroughs.

The conference and the ECS symposium certainly helped in passing on the enthusiasm for CLIVAR and its science to the next generation, whose excitement is a promise for a very bright future.


New CLIVAR Science
CLIVAR’s research is guided by and organized around three main science challenges: determining mechanisms of climate variability, climate change and climate sensitivity; quantifying fundamental physical processes that need to be properly represented in climate models; and identifying the ocean’s role in climate predictability with implications for extreme events. These are long-standing challenges that motivated CLIVAR initially. And while substantial progress has been made important questions remain, along with newly emerging ones.

One of the expected outcomes of CLIVAR research is the development of improved predictive capability of climate and climate change for the benefit of society. CLIVAR is developing a new Science Plan in consultation with its wider community. The plan will be updated on a continued basis to take into account newly emerging challenges and demands from the science community and nations worldwide.


Conference on Regional Sea Level Changes, Coastal Impacts
To meet urgent societal needs for useful information on sea level, the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) has established the theme “Regional Sea Level Change and Coastal Impacts” as one of its cross-cutting “Grand Challenge” (GC) science questions. The GC Sea Level has designed and developed an integrated interdisciplinary program on sea level research ranging from the global to the regional and coastal scales. Eleven years after the first WCRP sea level conference took place in Paris in 2006, and three years after the last AR5 report, WCRP, jointly with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC), is organizing for July 10 to 14, 2017 in New York, New York, an international conference on sea level research that will address the existing challenges in describing and predicting regional sea level changes and in quantifying the intrinsic uncertainties. The conference (www.sealevel2017.org) will attempt to link large-scale sea level information to coastal areas, address societal implications of those changes to coastal communities, and discuss feedback of societal actions on coastal sea level.




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