The WCRP approves new Grand Challenges

The WCRP approves new Grand Challenges

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1 May 2016

The 37th Session of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Joint Scientific Committee (JSC) took place from 25 to 27 April 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland. This annual meeting brought together 68 leading scientists, climate experts and planning staff from 18 countries to assess progress towards the organization’s objectives and to set the future science agenda.

The two main objectives of WCRP are to determine the predictability of climate and the effects of human activities on climate. This information can be utilized in a wide range of practical applications of direct relevance, benefit and value to society. WCRP recognizes that there are areas of climate research that face major challenges, either due to lack of data, gaps in scientific understanding or technological constraints. In response, the organization established the WCRP Grand Science Challenges; projects that focus on areas of high-priority research that require international partnerships and coordination, and that yield actionable information for decision makers.

The JSC approved two new 'Grand Challenges'. These focus on climate-carbon interactions and on climate prediction on time scales from years to decades, both very important to our understanding of how Earth’s climate will change in the coming years. WCRP intends to promote these projects through community-organized workshops, conferences and strategic planning meetings as well as to advocate further for international partnership and coordination. In addition to these new foci, WCRP has Grand Challenge projects underway on clouds, sea level change, extreme weather events, water availability and melting ice.

WCRP coordinates a range of activities covering a host of high-profile activities, from observations to modeling. In particular, the Grand Challenges lie on a foundation of four core projects:

CliC (Climate and Cryosphere): improving understanding of the cryosphere  ‘Earth's surface where water is in a solid form' and its interactions with the global climate system, and enhancing the ability to use parts of the cryosphere for detection of climate change;

CLIVAR (Climate and Ocean: Variability, Predictability and Change): understanding the dynamics, interaction, and predictability of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system;

GEWEX (Global Energy and Water cycle Exchanges): observing, understanding, and modelling the hydrological cycle and energy fluxes on the Earth's atmosphere and surface;

SPARC (Stratosphere-troposphere Processes And their Role in Climate): promoting and facilitating international research activities on how chemical and physical processes in the atmosphere interact with a changing climate.

These projects are international programs facilitating research, observations, and science activities relating to the relationship between climate and the global atmosphere, oceans, sea and land ice, and the land surface, which together constitute the Earth's physical climate system. In addition, a fifth project CORDEX (Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment) coordinates the science and application of regional climate downscaling through global partnerships to better understand local/regional climate phenomena, their variability and changes.

The work of WCRP relies on continued improvements of climate and earth system models, observational climate data records and climate reanalyses (where models are combined with observations to give a numerical description of recent climate). WCRP coordinates a number of projects that compare model results for a range of climate scenarios, such as the WCRP Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). CMIP contributes significantly to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports.

The 37th Session of the JSC also called for a revitalization of the organization’s regional climate activities. Regional climate information is required to develop policies, to assess impacts and risks, and to plan adaptation measures. The Committee discussed how best to oversee regional activities across the programme, promote its activities in regions, and serve as an interface to stakeholders. For example, the JSC recognized the need to encourage collaboration with communities to address urban climate issues, particularly in coastal cities.

WCRP is co-sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization, the International Council for Science, and since 1993 by IOC-UNESCO. The Joint Scientific Committee consists of scientists selected by mutual agreement between the three sponsoring organizations, representing climate-related disciplines in atmospheric, oceanic, hydrological and cryospheric sciences.

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