Iowa State University

Climate Science Program

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About the Climate Science Program

Iowa State will be a nationally and internationally acknowledged leader in the science of regional climate change and climate variability and in transforming this scientific information into forms directly usable and used by decision-makers.

The Climate Science Program (CSP) is established in response to urgent needs and opportunities for authoritative information certain to be forthcoming through almost every federal agency that supports research, state agencies, and the private sector in response to rapidly emerging public concern over global climate change and its regional implications. Because of its impact on every segment of society, and most directly the basic resources of soil and water and their role in food (and now fuel) production, climate change is a quintessential land-grant-university research issue.

Iowa State University with its wide range of expertise in engineering, agriculture, basic sciences, and cyberinfrastructure, is well positioned to lead both regionally and nationally in conducting forefront research in climate science that draws on this research capacity. This initiative complements and draws synergy from recent University focused attention to biofuels, basic plant sciences, and cyberinnovation.

Weather/climate arguably is the most common societal topic of discussion, which means that every citizen can relate in a personal way to climate change and hence the activities of CSP. What this means is that there will be a very broad range of interest in its work, particularly if it is recognized as a source of authoritative information. While the initial focus of CSP for the first few years will be on developing a broad and substantial base of externally funded research, the eventual opportunities for adding educational and outreach components are self-evident.

The vision is that the ISU Climate Science Program will have a broad range of expertise that could be marshaled to provide authoritative, scientifically based information for short-term and long- term decision-making that would be consistent with long-term resilience to climate change and climate variability.

CSP is designed to support a variety of modes of interfacing climate science with other disciplines. The following are examples:

  1. Cutting-edge your-science with cutting-edge climate-science
    1. New methods of cyber knowledge discovery used to mine correlations from multi-model ensembles of seasonal climate forecasts for improving skill of long-range climate forecasts
    2. Discovering cropping strategies for sequestering higher amounts of carbon by coupling a regional climate model with plant physiology models of different or newly designed crops
    3. Bioeconomy cropping scenarios (crop-yield models) interactive with future regional climate scenarios
  2. Cutting-edge your-science with climate-change scenarios
    1. New model for plant disease or agricultural drainage tile together with off-the-shelf climate-change scenarios
    2. Bioeconomy cropping scenarios (crop-yield models) interactive with past regional climate scenarios to assess vulnerability
  3. Off-the-shelf your-science together with cutting-edge climate modeling or climate-change scenarios
    1. Ensemble of seasonal climate forecast models focusing on simulating specific parameters needed for forecasting monthly output of a wind-power farm
    2. Use of conventional methods of spatial statistics to discover how precipitation patterns in future climate will differ from those of the past
  4. Off-the-shelf your-science together with off-the-shelf climate modeling or climate-change scenarios
    1. Standard stream flow model driven by off-the-shelf climate-change scenarios to assess future stream flow levels and water quality
    2. Use climate-change scenarios together with plant hardiness zone weather factors to determine hardiness zone boundaries for the point in the future when a (maple, oak, etc.) tree planted this year will mature