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WCRP Grand Challenges

We are pleased to share with you the latest draft of the WCRP Grand Science Challenges that have emerged as a result of deliberations of the WCRP Joint Scientific Committee and based on a series of consultation with WCRP sponsors, stakeholders and affiliate network of scientists during past several years.  They represent major areas of scientific research, modelling, analysis and observations for WCRP and its affiliate Projects in the ensuing decade.   The WCRP intends to promote these Grand Science Challenges through community organized workshops, conferences and strategic planning meetings to identify high priority and exciting research that require international partnership and coordination, and that yield “actionable information” for decision makers. 

We envision that these Grand Science Challenges will evolve with time, but they will continue to:

  • be both highly specific and highly focused identifying a specific barrier preventing progress in a critical area of climate science
  • enable the development of targeted research efforts with the likelihood of significant progress over 5-10 years, even if its ultimate success is uncertain
  • enable the implementation of effective and measurable performance metrics
  • be transformative, a Grand Challenge should bring the best minds to the table (voluntarily), building and strengthening communities of innovators that are collaborative, perhaps also extending beyond “in-house expertise”
  • capture the public’s imagination: teams of world-leading scientists working to solve pressing challenges
  • can offer compelling storylines to capture the interest of media and the public
 
Regional Climate Information

During the last several decades, strong research activities have taken place in the areas of seasonal to interannual prediction and long term climate change projection, while more recent is the development of activities in decadal predictability and predictions. Despite these efforts, to date the use of regional climate information at different temporal scales has been quite limited, in part because of the (sometimes perceived) poor skill of the prediction systems and in part because of a communication gap between the scientific and stakeholder communities. However, the inception of the GFCS and of numerous new programs in climate prediction/projection not only have allowed substantial recent progress in these areas of research, but have offered the opportunity for a true leap in the quality and use of regional climate information, laying the grounds for this Grand Challenge.... read the white paper

 
Sea-Level Rise and Regional Impacts
Accurate predictions of regional sea level change on decadal to centennial time scales are required for impact, adaptation and vulnerability assessments, especially for the coastal communities and ecosystems. Observations are key to our understanding of sea-level changes in the past and present, but models are essential to obtain best projections of change in the future. However, the majority of existing climate models largely disagree about patterns and magnitudes of sea level variability and change on regional scales, and it is unclear whether they have sufficient skill in projecting regional sea level... read the white paper
 
Cryosphere in a Changing Climate
The prospect of an ice-free Arctic Ocean; the fate of mountain glaciers providing fresh water to hundreds of millions of people worldwide; the strength of positive feedbacks between the warming climate and natural emissions of greenhouse gases from the thawing permafrost (both terrestrial and sub-sea); the role of ice-sheet dynamics in amplification of Greenland’s contribution to the global sea-level rise. These issues are getting increasing attention in the international scientific research community and relate directly to societal needs for information about climate change and its impacts. These and other processes, in which components of the cryosphere play a central role, remain an important source of uncertainty in projections of future climate change, and so improved understanding of the cryosphere in a changing climate (CCC) clearly is a “Grand Challenge"... read the white paper
 
Clouds, Circulation and Climate Sensitivity
Limited understanding of clouds is the major source of uncertainty in Climate Sensitivity, but also contributes substantially to persistent biases in modelled circulation systems: how do clouds couple to circulations in the present climate, how will clouds respond to global warming or other forcings, and how will they feed back on it through their influence on Earth's radiation budget? As one of the main modulators of heating in the atmosphere, clouds control many other aspects of the climate system... read the white paper
 
Changes in Water Availability
The prospect of an ice-free Arctic Ocean; the fate of mountain glaciers providing fresh water to hundreds of millions of people worldwide; the strength of positive feedbacks between the warming climate and natural emissions of greenhouse gases from the thawing permafrost (both terrestrial and sub-sea); the role of ice-sheet dynamics in amplification of Greenland’s contribution to the global sea-level rise. These issues are getting increasing attention in the international scientific research community and relate directly to societal needs for information about climate change and its impacts. These and other processes, in which components of the cryosphere play a central role, remain an important source of uncertainty in projections of future climate change, and so improved understanding of the cryosphere in a changing climate (CCC) clearly is a “Grand Challenge"... read the white paper
 
Science Underpinning the Prediction and Attribution of Extreme Events
Weather and climate-related extreme events have major impacts on human and natural systems, including loss of lives, damage to buildings and other infrastructure, and damage to ecosystems. There are many different types of extreme events, from heat waves, droughts and wild fires to cold outbreaks, flooding, blizzards, storm surges and severe storms. They span a very wide range of temporal scales, from minutes to years, and spatial scales, from a few kilometres to thousands of kilometres. Improved understanding and prediction of extreme events, as well as adapting to extremes and reducing societal vulnerability to extremes, requires scientific inputs from and collaboration among all the WCRP research projects and working groups.... read the white paper

 

 

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