NOAA Support for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): People, Expertise and Technology

February 2, 2007
Cover of Working Group 1 report.

NOAA individuals and technology made major contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) international climate science report, of which the summary of the first chapter was released today in Paris. That summary, the Summary for Policy Makers, was subjected to line-by-line approval of the participating governments.

The IPCC was created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program to every six years assess the risk of human-induced climate change, potential impact and options for adaptation and mitigation. The report is issued throughout the year through the release of three chapters culminating in a synthesis report in November.

"The depth of NOAA's contributions in this international effort, from a leadership role, providing observations, data, model simulations, analysis, authors and review editors, highlight the preeminent science conducted by our agency," said Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., U.S. Navy (Ret.) undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "The efforts contribute to NOAA's goal to understand climate change and variability to enhance society's ability to plan and respond."

Projected change in annual mean surface air temperature.
Credit: NOAA

Projected change in annual mean surface air temperature from the late 20th century (1971-2000 average) to the middle 21st century (2051-2060 average). NOAA GFDL

Susan Solomon, a senior scientist of the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., is co-chair of Working Group 1 (WG1), the Physical Science Basis. Nine of the lead and review authors are from NOAA and 20 of the model runs were done by the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. Lead authors are nominated by their governments.

Model-simulated change in seasonal mean surface air temperature
Credit: NOAA

GFDL CM2.1 model-simulated change in seasonal mean surface air temperature from the late 20th century (1971-2000 average) to the middle 21st century (2051-2060). The left panel shows changes for June July August (JJA) seasonal averages, and the right panel shows changes for December January February (DJF). The simulated surface air temperature changes are in response to increasing greenhouse gases and aerosols based on a "middle of the road" estimate of future emissions. NOAA GFDL

NOAA authors and IPCC review editors for WG1 include Thomas Peterson, David Easterling, Thomas Karl, Sidney Levitus, Mark Eakin, Matthew Menne of the NOAA Satellite and Information Service; and Venkatachala. Ramaswamy, David Fahey, Ronald Stouffer, Isaac Held, Jim Butler , Paul Ginoux, John Ogren , Chet Koblinsky, Dian Seidel, Robert Webb, Randy Dole, Martin Hoerling of the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and Arun Kumar of the NOAA National Weather Service. Roger Pulwarty of OAR is an author for Working Group 2, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, slated for release April 5.

In addition, a cadre of NOAA scientists from the laboratories and programs, including the joint and cooperative institutes, served as contributors and government reviewers of the final report, which is a state of the science based upon published peer-review literature. For this report, more than 5,000 scientific publications are referenced.

Sea ice concentrations simulated by the GFDL CM2.1 global coupled climate model.
Credit: NOAA

Sea ice concentrations simulated by the GFDL CM2.1 global coupled climate model averaged over August, September and October - the months when Arctic sea ice concentrations generally are at a minimum. Three years (1885, 1985 & 2085) are shown to illustrate the model-simulated trend. A dramatic reduction of summertime sea ice is projected, with the rate of decrease being greatest during the 21st century portion. The colors range from dark blue - ice free - to white - 100 percent sea ice covered. NOAA GFDL

The NOAA National Weather Service, through the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction participated through climate reanalysis efforts. IPCC uses climate reanalysis data sets to document climate trends and to verify climate change model simulations from 1950 to the present.

The Climate Reanalysis effort at NCEP started in 1995. The first reanalysis, a collaborative effort by NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction and the National Consortium on Atmospheric Research is maintained and extended in real time at NCEP as a continuous real-time operational climate monitoring tool. The updated CDAS data sets are distributed internationally via various channels.

Arun Kumar, deputy director of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, also participated in the U.S. review of the WG1 report.

The NOAA Satellite and Information Service provided numerous observational data sets from satellites and surface-based data that were critical to the assessment related to a wide variety of ocean and atmospheric climate variables.

NOAA's investment in enhanced computing power at the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab made it possible for the lab to provide 20 model runs to the IPCC. GFDL is one of 12 international centers participating in the IPCC.

These models used two of the lab's coupled models, which incorporate data from the ocean, atmosphere, sea ice and land surface. These two models were among 23 used for the IPCC. One of the WG1 chapters focuses on the improvement of the climate models since the last IPCC report in 2001.

Change in annual average precipitation.
Credit: NOAA

Change in annual average precipitation projected by the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory CM2.1 model for the 21st century. Blue areas are projected to see an increase in annual precipitation amounts, and brown areas are projected to receive less precipitation in the future. NOAA GFDL

Many of the IPCC efforts were supported through the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the NOAA Climate Program Office. For example, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Report on temperature trends, led by NOAA, was a key input used in the IPCC Assessment.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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