The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report identified key challenges for climate change research. Specifically, climate models need to perform at higher resolutions to better capture regional, rather than continental or global, consequences of climate change. Further, observational data from field sites and instrumented stations is spotty in developing nations, and more information is needed about the carbon cycle to set emissions goals aimed at curbing climate change effects.
Since its inception in 2009, the Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has addressed these and other challenges through four research theme areas—Earth System Modeling; Data Integration, Dissemination, and Informatics; Terrestrial Ecosystem and Carbon Cycle Science; and Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability Science.
These four groups are co-located and work synergistically across multiple projects. Modelers work with field experimentalists, who collect data that in turn improves the models. Moreover, these researchers work with others—data experts—to enhance availability and analysis of information. Other research collaborators use the climate change scenarios from the modeling group to determine impacts on various stakeholders. This interdisciplinary model for research has proven very effective in conducting climate change science research.
Earth System Modeling uses high-performance computing resources at ORNL, including America’s fastest supercomputer, Titan, to retool global Earth modeling techniques to operate at higher resolutions.
Data Integration, Dissemination, and Informatics hosts a number of projects aimed at merging data from separate archives into single portals geared toward a broad range of scientists and stakeholders interested in climate change information.
Integrative Ecosystem Science makes model-inspired measurements and observations in ecosystems ranging from Arctic tundra, to northern peatlands, to temperate and tropical forests.
Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability Science develops analysis tools and methods for assessing adaptation strategies and advising stakeholders who must prepare people and infrastructure for risks associated with climate change.