Scientists Model More Than Earth’s Climate in 2014
December 2, 2013
In leaps and bounds, Jason Smerdon advances climate science using statistics, historical data and climate models.
The public is bombarded by information about Earth’s changing climate almost daily, but the people studying the climate system are rarely seen. The Climate Models wall calendar, which provides a unique look behind the science, intends to change that in 2014.
While many climate scientists use computer models to learn about Earth’s climate system, the Climate Models calendar turns this idea on its head by using climate scientists as models to make climate science accessible to a new audience. Created by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’s Rebecca Fowler and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society’s Francesco Fiondella, the purpose of this new science communication project is to humanize climate science and increase awareness of current climate research.
“These climate scientists are trying to answer fundamental questions about what is happening to the planet. Though climate science is a serious subject, we wanted to show that there are dedicated, fun-loving professionals behind this work,” said Fowler.
The calendar features one Columbia University climate scientist each month in their habitat of scientific study, ranging from the marshes of New York’s Hudson Valley to the tropical forests of Brazil’s Amazon. “A lot of people don't understand what climate scientists study and how they study it. We decided to place the scientists in the landscapes in which they work to give their research real-world context,” said Fiondella.
Included in the calendar is information about the scientists’ research, their favorite dataset and memorable dates in weather and climate history.
The six Lamont-Doherty scientists who participated are Michela Biasutti, who studies the atmospheric and climate dynamics of the tropics; Brendan Buckley, a tree-ring researcher who has linked past climate upheavals in Asia to the fall of the ancient Khmer empire; paleoclimatologist Peter deMenocal, who investigates how changes in East African climate two million years ago may have influenced human evolution; Dorothy Peteet, a paleoecologist who reconstructs past climate using ancient seeds and pollen found in sediment cores; Richard Seager, who examines how ocean-atmosphere processes influence climate in Earth’s semi-arid regions; and climatologist Jason Smerdon, who examines how climate has varied and changed during the last 2,000 years, and how past changes may relate to what the future holds.
“There’s a lot of room for merging art and science. This is just one example. It’s really fun to be in these kinds of experiences, and I also think it’s really important as a means of bringing science, in all facets, to a larger public audience,” said Smerdon.
The calendar also features climate scientists at Columbia’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society: Lisa Goddard, Anthony Barnston, Alessandra Giannini, Tufa Dinku, Kátia Fernandes and Nicolas Vigaud, as well as Allegra N. LeGrande from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Read more about the project at climatemodels.org.
Climate Models for Every Month of 2014, Climate Central, Nov. 15, 2013
Climate Models, XXX = YYY-Wowza! OnEarth Magazine, Nov. 13, 2013
This “Climate Models” Calendar Wants You to Check Out These Model Scientists–And Their Work, Smithsonian Magazine, Nov. 7, 2013