MIT is trying to sell (“pursuing partnerships”) to policy makers and city planners a new computer modeling tool they say will project the effects of climate change on communities. In their press release, researchers with MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change say that Hurricane Sandy is a glimpse of what will happen in the future of the world as it becomes more vulnerable to climate change.
…MIT researchers have developed a new tool to help policymakers, city planners and others see the possible local effects of climate change. Its regional projections of climate trends — such as long-term temperature and precipitation changes — allow local planners to evaluate risks, and how these risks could shape crops, roads and energy infrastructure.
“As we see more extreme events like Sandy, the importance of assessing regional impacts grows,” says lead researcher Adam Schlosser, assistant director for science research at MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. “Our approach helps decision- and policymakers balance the risks … so they can better prepare their communities for future impacts climate change might bring.”…
In this new method, the researchers quantify the likelihood of particular outcomes and add socioeconomic data, different emission levels and varying degrees of uncertainty. Their technique combines climate-model projections and analysis from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the MIT Integrated Global System Modeling framework. The MIT framework is itself a combined computer model that integrates an economic, human system with a natural, earth system.
Their initial study, published in the Journal of Climate, created a scenario of lowering emissions that they said reduced the odds of regional warming and precipitation changes. “In fact, for many places, the likelihood of the most extreme warming from the business-as-usual case could be eliminated almost entirely.”
Junkscience readers may enjoy reading the description of their computer model from the study abstract:
Herein, we present a technique that extends the latitudinal projections of the 2-D atmospheric model of the MIT Integrated Global System Model (IGSM) by applying longitudinally resolved patterns from observations, and from climate-model projections archived from exercises carried out for the 4th Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The method maps the IGSM zonal means across longitude using a set of transformation coefficients, and we demonstrate this approach in application to near-surface air temperature and precipitation, for which highquality observational datasets and model simulations of climate change are available. The current climatology of the transformation coefficients is observationally based. To estimate how these coefficients may alter with climate, we characterize the climate models’ spatial responses, relative to their zonal mean, from transient increases in trace-gas concentrations and then normalize these responses against their corresponding transient global temperature responses. This procedure allows for the construction of metaensembles of regional climate outcomes, combining the ensembles of the MIT IGSM—which produce global and latitudinal climate projections, with uncertainty, under different global climate policy scenarios—with regionally resolved patterns from the archived IPCC climate-model projections. This hybridization of the climate-model longitudinal projections with the global and latitudinal patterns projected by the IGSM can, in principle, be applied to any given state or flux variable that has the sufficient observational and model-based information.
Got all that?