“Science is so, so visual!” – Neil McCoy
For the last two years I have been studying decision making in winter wheat farming in the Southern Great Plains. I want to help forecasters provide seasonal climate forecasts that do a better job of warning farmers of upcoming bad conditions, such as drought, extreme rainfall, or heat.
Now, seasonal forecasts are nothing new. The National Weather Service has been issuing them for decades. But farmers don’t use them very much because they are hard to understand and overall don’t contain the sort of information farmers need to make decisions.
In recent years, numerous climate projections (such as MACA or LOCA) have been made available for use in impact assessments and adaptation planning. However, the breadth of available projections presents a daunting challenge to managers and scientists who are trying to determine which projections are appropriate for a particular decision context.
Looking back over the last ~10 years, it’s been a joy to be a scientist. I get to explore questions of interest to me and help climate science be useable. Scientific communities are critical to society, so it’s important that they be trusted. It’s an interesting time to be involved in the study of climate, particularly from my perspective. I happen to be something most might think a contradiction. I am a climatologist, but I am also politically conservative. I have some remarks from my (sometimes awkward) perspective.
On getting climate model projections in the hand of managers.
In the past several decades, climate scientists have developed robust models that simulate past climate conditions and provide meaningful projections for the future. In the past several years, researchers have developed downscaled climate projections that provide the kind of local guidance resource managers have been demanding. And now all those managers are making climate-informed decisions.
When I tell people that my undergraduate majors were environmental studies and philosophy, they usually respond with a confused look and a comment like, “Hmm, those are very different topics!” Of course, science and philosophy are fundamentally different in the questions they ask and in how they answer those questions. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t related in critically important ways. To me, the relationship between the environmental sciences and philosophy has always been a natural and necessary one.
Climate negotiations, like last December in Paris, are complex, complicated, and not always fruitful. Last year, an innovative class for undergraduates at the University of Oklahoma gave students hands-on experience of how climate policy is made. This fall the class will go online for everyone around the world to participate. Here is my interview with the instructor and students of this class to summarize their experience with context to the recent Conference of the Parties (COP21) negotiations.
Most folks know that I’m not usually a huge fan of big meetings. They have great energy, but there’s so much going on that you can’t see or do everything you want to. So I have to admit that as a first time attendee to the largest Earth and space science meeting in the world, I had some mixed feelings about going.