The difficulty with multidisciplinary research is finding common ground for scientists, whose approach to a particular scientific problem can differ radically. For example, there is agreement between the geophysical community and the food science and technology community that food security is an important issue. However, the climate change community sees possible solutions coming from more detailed studies on the links between climate change and agriculture, whereas the food science community sees possible solutions emerging from studies of food logistics and supply chains.
To discuss how to strengthen multidisciplinary research, scientists from around the world met in mid-April for the first Commission on Climatic and Environmental Change (CCEC) workshop, held at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Beijing. A primary goal of the meeting was to link interdisciplinary research to Future Earth, a new interdisciplinary research program.
The first day of the workshop concentrated on identifying diametric views and seeking research links to resolve them. The remote sensing community has produced two global land cover data sets at 30-meter resolution for two baseline years, 2000 and 2010, and aims to use this information to deduce interactions between human activities and land systems. At present, the meteorological and climate communities primarily use the 1-kilometer resolution International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme–Data and Information Systems (IGBP-DIS) data set. Incorporating higher resolutions will require substantial increases in computer storage, processing capability, and adaptation of model codes to produce information that can then also be used to examine the vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation of humans and ecosystems to climate change and to extreme weather.
The availability of sufficient clean water is a focus of the hydrological community’s decade-long research activity known as Panta Rhei (from Greek for “everything flows”). Participants noted that even though these problems are all global in scope, solutions need to be found and implemented at the local level, and the Asian region has taken on the challenge because of the region’s diverse climates, ecosystems, and social-historical conditions, as well as the many problems arising from rapid urbanization and industrialization in Asia.
The second day of the workshop concentrated on scientific activities that could be used to foster internal linkages between and within the geodetic and geophysical communities. Findings of solar variability effects on the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) were contested because the scientific challenge in understanding natural climate variations is to find a physical mechanism to link such oscillations to solar variability. The physical, biological, social, and cultural changes that result from large changes to the high-latitude cryosphere, especially in the Arctic, will be profound, both regionally and globally. If there is no Arctic, then perhaps there will be no Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Such tipping points are being examined through linkages with various governmental entities. The role of the NAO as a predictor of Northern Hemispheric temperature and the role of the AMOC were extensively discussed.
—Tom Beer, Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Aspendale, Australia; email: [email protected]; Jianping Li, State Key Laboratory of Numerical Modeling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China; and Keith Alverson, Climate Change Adaptation and Terrestrial Ecosystems Branch, Division of Environmental Policy Implementation, United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya