Physics of Climate Change

Coordinators: Jean M. Carlson, Gregory Falkovich, John Harte, J. Bradley Marston, Raymond Pierrehumbert

Scientific Advisors: Paul Kushner

Climate change is upon us. The need for accurate and detailed predictions is pressing, but even the most sophisticated models running on the world’s fastest computers are far from directly capturing crucial physics such as cloud formation and deep convection. First-principles models of ecosystem dynamics are even further out of reach, yet ecosystems respond to and affect climate in a wide variety of ways.

The basic equations governing climate variables such as wind velocity and soil moisture were assembled by Lewis Fry Richardson nearly a century ago. The program is premised on the idea that the science of climate can again be advanced by an infusion of ideas from modern physics. As our central goal we seek to identify outstanding questions that would benefit from physics input, and to determine the most intelligent ways to go about answering these questions. Large-scale atmospheric and oceanic circulation, cloud physics, and ecosystems are three broad areas of interest. In addition connections will be made between experts in different fields, enabling the solution of outstanding open problems. Coordination is planned with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (<>). A secondary goal is to inform other physicists as well as the public (through a forum) about the science of climate change.

To focus attention on key questions, a conference will be held near the beginning of the workshop, scheduled for Tuesday through Saturday, May 6 to 10, 2008. Please see Conference Page for details.