Surprises and Scaling Connections between Climatology and Ecology

Tuesday, April 20, 1999 - 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Keller 3-180
Stephen Schneider (Stanford University)
The climate effects working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 1995 Second Assessment Report concluded it's Summary for Policymakers with the statement that non-linear systems when rapidly forced are particularly subject to unexpected behavior, i.e., surprises. Examples include rapid decrease in the thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic Ocean, excitation of certain dynamical modes of response of the climate system, rapid decarbonization of terrestrial ecosystems (e.g., forest die-back in fires or insect outbreaks), catastrophic deglaciation of ice shelves in the West Antarctic or instabilities in simple climate models . Conditions under which some of such imaginable surprises can be anticipated will be discussed. Methods to estimate uncertainties, particulaly using decision analytic techniques, will be presented. Scaling of atmosphere/biospheric interactions from stomatal openings to general circulation model grid boxes (some ten orders of magnitude different) will be discussed, and one technique, strategic cyclical scaling (see Root & Schneider, 1995) will be explained.

Reference: Root, T.L. & S.H. Schneider, 1995. Ecology and climate: Research strategies and implications.Science, 269,331-341.