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AGU 2008: conference kicks off

Over the past 24 hours, some 15,000 earth scientists descended on San Francisco for the annual Fall conference of the American Geophysical Union. Delegates were a dead give away at the airport and on the BART yesterday with their large poster tubes in tow. It’s my first AGU and it could be the jet lag, but I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed by the sheer size and number of parallel sessions; at any given time I could be at one of at least four climate-related talks and invariably find myself wondering why the session next door is receiving louder applause.

A number of talks today focused on the need for climate science to become less curiosity driven and more specific to the needs of stakeholders such as local authorities and natural resource managers.

This is a topic that’s been getting a lot of attention recently. Earlier this year, for example, scientists called for a billion dollar investment in climate computing facilities to enable regional scale climate predictions on decadal time scales. At a press conference this morning, scientists including Jonathan Overpeck from the University of Arizona and Jack Fellows of UCAR highlighted the importance of partnerships between universities and decision makers in enabling states and regions to plan for climate change.

Throughout the day, scientists and resource managers spoke of their first-hand experiences of such collaborations. In a session this afternoon, Phil Mote of the University of Washington talked about their interaction with decision makers and utilities through NOAA’s (Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments) RISA program. In its fifteenth year, RISA supports research that can provide regional-level information to policymakers in various states throughout the US. While massive inroads have been made in raising awareness of climate change in recent years, only now is that information being incorporated into decision making at local scales.

‘Actionable science’ was a particularly illustrative phrase to come out of the session, with utilities and resource managers calling for the kind of information that can be used to make investments. This kind of research can be expensive though, and there’s a need for further investment in the science itself – particularly to overcome some challenging bottlenecks in climate observations and modelling. Aside from the need to fine-tune regional predictions of change, climate scientists are facing the challenge of collabarating with scientists outisde of their field and of communicating with a variety of stakeholders.

But it seems as though an applied climate science is evolving here that could ultimately aid adaptation. More later…

Olive Heffernan


  1. Report this comment

    Alena said:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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    Hank Roberts said:

    Olive, have you any pointers to people blogging the sessions this year?

    PS, the ‘Alena’ is a newly active blogspamming bot; it doesn’t do much to vary its text.

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