ACPI Regional Climate Prediction and Assessment Centers

 

 

1.0 Role of Regional Climate Centers in the Accelerated Climate Prediction Initiative

 

As part of a joint Strategic Simulation Program, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), in cooperation with the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), are planning an Accelerated Climate Prediction Initiative (ACPI) for achieving a significant advance in the science of climate change prediction and simulation. The goals of the ACPI are:

 

 

As part of this program, DOE intends to establish a network of Regional Climate Prediction and Assessment Centers. Although the work of the Centers will contribute to all aspects of the ACPI, their primary role is to be the instrument for achieving the third goal of the program

 

A principal outcome of the ACPI will be the development of models of the coupled climate system capable of predicting climate on the scale of a few 10s of kilometers, that is, on the scale of weather. This capability will represent a fundamental advance in our ability to understand human-induced climate change; for it will begin to make global-scale climate predictions available at the scales that are necessary to understand the effects of climate change on human activities. Coupled ocean/atmosphere climate models, however, represent only a portion of the complex global climate system. The practical application of the information generated by these models can only be accomplished in the context of an integrated approach that accounts for the coupled relationships between human activities and the physical and biological systems that support them. Such an approach must encompass significant understanding of the effects of a changing climate on human activities, how these activities might change in response to climatic change, and how these altered activities, in turn, affect the climate system.

 

The purpose of the Regional Climate Prediction and Assessment Center (RCPAC) component of the ACPI is to provide the link between advanced climate prediction models and those who will use the output of these models for scientific research and for assessing the possible impacts of climate change, interannual climate variability, and extreme weather events on the environment and society. The vision of the RCPAC is to meet the needs of researchers and users of climate information by advancing and supporting scientifically grounded assessment of the regional consequences of climate change and climate variability.

 

The RCPAC will incorporate a four-part strategy to achieve this vision:

 

  1. Information in the form of specialized climate products, an archive of quality-assured global-scale climate simulations, and other essential information required for impact assessment.
  2. Models for assessing the local-scale effects of climate variability and climate change and for producing the specialized climate products needed to drive or inform them.
  3. Expertise for assisting the assessment community, government and the private sector in understanding the possible effects of climate variability and climate change on human activity and in evaluating measures for mitigating or adapting to these changes.
  4. Service to the research community, government, and the private sector by providing them the tools, products, and information they need to perform their jobs.

 

The RCPAC component of the ACPI will consist of several linked regional research centers. Each research center will develop strong partnerships with research universities and other government laboratories engaged in climate and climate impacts research [e.g., the National Center for Atmospheric Research, NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), regional NOAA laboratories and NOAA-sponsored institutes, NASA, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency]. These partnerships will ensure that the activities of the RCPAC enhance but not duplicate those of other regional centers.

 

The immediate effects of climate variability and climate change are inherently local and regional. Thus each research center will focus on problems of particular regional significance. The implications of these regional effects, however, have national and international significance. In addition, the economic impacts of climate variability and climate change can usually be understood only in the context of a global perspective. Thus, an essential function of the RCPAC will be to provide the national and global integration that is necessary for the development of national and international strategies for mitigating and adapting to the consequences of human-induced climate change.

 

 

2.0 The Need for Regional Climate Prediction and Assessment Centers

 

Although the ACPI will be developing coupled climate models of unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution, these models will not be capable of providing all of the information needed for assessing the potential effects of climate variability and climate change on human activities. The real impact of phenomena such as drought, heat waves, cold-air outbreaks, storms, floods, salt water intrusion and so forth occur at scales smaller than is reasonable to treat in a global scale model. These phenomena also affect systems and interests that have a uniquely regional flavor. The RCPACs, therefore, will play an essential role in the national global change research enterprise. They will not just be the mechanism for delivering the results of the ACPI modeling efforts to climate specialists. They will be the focal point for providing the information, data analysis and impact-assessment tools, expertise, and links to the users of climate information that can turn large-scale simulation output into scientific products that are useful to the user community

 

The RCPACs will serve and collaborate with a broad spectrum of uses. These users are expected to be

 

 

Improvements in the accuracy and usefulness of short-term climate forecasts will result in increased interest in using them to mitigate or hedge against the effects of climate variability or extreme weather events on weather-sensitive activities and systems. In addition, increasing confidence in the usefulness of longer-range climate change forecasts will affect activities whose planning horizon (e.g., the design of new water or irrigation systems, roads, power plants, etc.) is comparable to the time-scale of global climate change. There will be increasing need for information on climate change and climate-change effects that is tailor made for the application at hand. Consequently, the assessment of climate effects will move from being a part-time academic research exercise to a professional, customer-driven service.

 

DOE’s Regional Climate Prediction and Assessment Centers will be designed achieve this transition. By working directly with the potential users of climate information, they will translate the output from ACPI’s global climate models into the types of climate information, assessment tools, and assessment products needed by the government and the private sector. Although the development of the necessary information and assessment tools will call for a significant level of research and development, creating these types of products will require a stable staff of professionals whose primary focus is on satisfying customer needs.

 

 

3.0 A Functional Model for the Climate Prediction and Assessment Centers

 

Figure 1 depicts a functional model for a Regional Climate Prediction and Assessment Center. As mentioned in the previous section, each RCPAC will serve a diverse set of users with widely differing needs and expectations. The RCPAC user interface will be the mechanism the RCPAC will use to deliver products to these users, and it will be mechanism by which the users will communicate their needs to the RCPAC staff and to the ACPI modeling program in general. The products and services of the RCPAC will be value-added information, data, models and other specialized methods and tools, and special services and collaborations. In providing these products and services RCPAC staff will be engaged in user support, data management, research and development, and analysis and diagnostics. The following sections describe this functional model in more detail.

 

3.1 Users and their Information Needs

The RCPACs will serve the needs of a broad community interested in the potential impacts of climate variability and change. Some of these users and the types of information they might seek include:

 

State and Federal Agencies: State and federal officials planning infrastructure projects and other initiatives with long time horizons will seek information about changing climatic patterns and how to best prepare for the range of likely conditions in long term planning.

 

University, Private Sector and Government Research Community: Researchers studying the science of climate prediction and impacts assessment will seek access to the data sets produced by climate simulation models.

 

Land Use and Resource Managers: Managers planning long range land use and natural resource management will require information about temperatures, precipitation and other climate-sensitive parameters such as flooding, sea-level changes and frequency of storm events.

 

Business/Industrial Community: Businesses seeking to evaluate opportunities and risks associated with climate change will require information about changing climatic parameters such as temperatures, precipitation, wind and storm events.

 

Educators: As our understanding of the science of climate prediction improves, educators at the K-12, undergraduate and graduate levels will seek information, access to models, and data sets for use in a wide range of educational contexts.

 

To successfully serve the diverse needs of its users the RCPACs must 1) provide the range of products and services desired and 2) provide them using the appropriate level of information technology. This level will be determined by the users’ degree of sophistication in the use of information technology.

 

Computationally sophisticated users will want computer-based data visualization and analysis tools to enable them to carry out their specific research projects. These users may want access to the centers’ tools and methods in order to create additional data processing tools of their own. These university, government, and private sector scientists will be able to meet their information processing needs either by collaborating with researchers in the centers to produce specialized analysis tools or products, or by simply using the centers’ tools and information to create their own methods and materials.

 

Other users may be computationally unsophisticated or they may simply prefer to contract with RCPAC researchers to provide the information products they seek. This community will likely consist of policy makers, public officials, and some private sector users. Products for this class of users may be delivered in the form of maps or as files for use in geographical information systems. In providing these products to this user community it will be extremely important to portray uncertainties in the results in ways that are understandable and useful. A close working relationship will need to be established with these users to ensure that their needs are met and that they interpret the results in a fashion consistent with the science behind the products.

 

A large class of users will be individuals interested in learning more about climate change and its effects on natural systems and human activities. To reach this group, the centers will provide packaged results, learning materials, or simple exploration tools for a guided learning experience. This group represents the general public, educators, and students. This will be a principal service activity of the centers, and in order to meet this need the centers will be staffed, on either a full-time or rotational basis, with professionals expert in the development of innovative educational materials.

 

A final group of users of RCPAC information technology will be other government and private research centers. For this group the RCPACs will develop information management tools which allow the centers to inter-operate by sharing models, data, and resources. This activity will be focused primarily on the development of these tools and their transfer to other research centers.

 

3.2 User Access

Good communication between users and center staff will be a critical success factor for the RCPACs. This type of accessibility will be provided through a network-based suite of tools, through user support personnel, through outreach activities, and through prepared materials.

 

Initial access to the centers will be through a web-based portal, which ties all centers together. The users must be able to easily navigate to their direct interests, whether inside or outside their regional or at some other scale, without any concern over the physical location of the resources. The centers should have a coordinated look-and-feel to the way information is organized so users can enter through any center and still obtain the information they need. In addition, all information management tools should be accessible from any site.

 

Simulation Scientists and center staff will access the center’s resources through web-based tools that will be created by center staff. These tools will provide direct access to the products of the centers through Problem Solving Environments. These environments allow scientists or other professionals to hook together the resources needed for their desired study or assessment. This set of tools will insulate the users from the underlying architecture of the computational and I/O resources.

 

Additional access to the centers should be provided through a user support staff who can provide the information needed by phone or by email. These professionals must be able to address the user’s questions or quickly route them to the appropriate staff or collaborator.

 

To address the needs of larger communities, the centers will be expected to engage in a number of outreach activities. These activities could encompass workshops on topics of regional interest, tutorials on models and computational resources, and interactions with professional societies, government organizations, and other science centers.

 

The centers will also provide materials for user information. This would consist of help files on information and models resources, pointers to additional resources, and educational materials suitable for the public. Educational materials for teachers and a program of outreach to students will be part of each centers activity. These materials will concentrate on both climate science and computational science to engage students in both climate change prediction and assessment activities and in simulations.

 

3.3 Products and Services

Each regional climate center will provide general and region-specific products and services. These products and services will include specialized and non-specialized user information (such as value-added products, reports, and analyses of specific regional climate issues), data (minimally processed model output and other relevant climate related data), models and other analytical methods (for impact assessment, data display, and so forth), and special services and collaborative research. Each center will provide interactive remote information retrieval as well as direct telephone access. Regional center products and services will include:

 

 

Providing data from ACPI model simulations in formats that are of use to various groups will be the fundamental service of each regional center. Table 3.1 provides an initial breakdown of the types of climate data currently used in climate change assessment. The temporal and spatial scales will vary according to specific needs, as will the formats. It is also expected that the types of data and their formats will change over the lifetime of the RCPACs as methodologies for assessing the effects of climate variability and climate change evolve.

 

Table 3.1

 

 

Climate Variables

Water Resources

Agriculture

Fisheries

Forestry

Health

Energy

             
Precipitation            

Amount

X

X

 

X

 

X

Type

X

X

 

X

X

X

Intensity Distribution

X

X

X

X

 

X

             
Temperature            

Mean

X

X

 

X

X

X

Tmin/Tmax

X

X

 

X

X

X

Stream Temperature

   

X

     
Humidity

X

X

 

X

X

X

Solar Radiation

X

X

X

X

X

X

             
Soil            

Moisture

X

X

 

X

X

 

Temperature

X

X

 

X

X

 
Surface Evaporation

X

X

 

X

   
             
Snow            

Snow accumulation

X

       

X

Snowmelt

X

       

X

Streamflow

X

X

X

   

X

             
Atmospheric Fields Storm tracks, general atmospheric state analysis    

X

 

Height anomaly

           

Vertical velocity

           

Upper/low-level jet

           

 

 

In addition to the types of information listed in the Table 3.1, other types of value-added products could include filtered data sets, mapped or re-gridded data, and various averaged variables. In addition, output data from regional and fine-scale models such as stream flow, snow pack, agricultural productivity will also be produced and made available.

 

Each regional center will interact and collaborate with linked groups for advancing local needs. Universities will play a key in providing aligned expertise and students. The regional centers and its partners will conduct an on-going program of directed research and development. Depending upon demand, this list might include:

 

 

 

3.4 Functions

Data management at the regional centers will entail the assimilation of portions of the primary ACPI simulations. Data will be stored in a standard self-describing format allowing access to specific temporal or spatial slabs for experienced users. One of the services provided will be data translation to more user-friendly formats for less sophisticated users. Once the data has been checked and quality controlled the centers will provide "quick look" diagnostics to provide an overview of all retrieved fields. The regional centers will also generate a standard set of diagnostic variables commonly used by users interested in hydrology, land use, assessment etc.

 

Users of the regional center generated data will require a variety of support activities. These activities will range from individual assistance to less experienced users to a WWW based data description and access for more advanced users. The centers will provide the users basic tools and computational facilities to perform analysis of the data. The centers will also have support staff who will extract requested data from the archive and/or produce diagnostic variables from the existing data.

 

Another function of the centers will be to standardize basic data analysis and diagnostic methods that can be shared among the other centers. Using a common format and sharable diagnostic modules, a library of standard tools, techniques and display methods will enable the centers to work together on common problems. Although it is recognized that individual users will have specific calculations to perform, often the basic statistics and diagnostics needed are common.

 

The research staff at the centers will perform two basic functions. The first is infrastructure support for the user community and will include first look analysis of the regional data, quality control, validation against observations, assimilation of the ensemble runs and general tool development. This effort will be balanced by individual and team research projects using the data produced by the simulations. In order to attract quality staff and provide the community with useful products, it is important to keep this balance by providing the support necessary to enable center staff to engage in research that supports the functions of the regional centers.

 

 

 

 

4.0 Infrastructure

 

The critical infrastructure needs of the centers are processing, storage, connectivity, and access. Two levels of processing capability will be needed. The centers must have dedicated computers for tool development and model building. The local resources will address the cutting edge computing needs of the staff and collaborators for building the next generation information management tools and for quickly processing their data requests. Two key factors are stability, as these should be production and not experimental systems, and scalability. They should provide a development platform that would allow easy migration of the codes to larger systems. The centers’ systems should ultimately be coupled to allow dynamic resource sharing between the centers to enable large development or production runs. These production systems should build through the life of the project to be in the teraFlop range of processing capability.

 

Each center should have storage resources for the portions of the global data that are needed to perform their regional analysis functions. In addition they will require space for storing the production runs of region-specific models, and keeping local copies of commonly needed data. Some means of archiving data will be needed, but the data for the centers should be completely on-line for quick access. The local storage capacity would be expected to be in the tens of terabytes for the on-line storage capacity.

 

A critical need for the centers is to have network connectivity with gigabit per second bandwidth. Since the centers must exchange data between themselves and the GCM archive, and must appear to the user to be a coherent whole, they must be fully interconnected with the largest possible bandwidth. The connectivity should be sufficient to allow dynamic resource sharing between the centers to make the best use of the computational power for special situations. The network should also be tuned for rapid data retrieval from other centers. Additionally the centers must have state-of-the-art connectivity between their internal processing and data storage systems so that the calculations will not be communications limited.

 

The final infrastructure resource is for access to the data, method, and model libraries within the centers from the user community. A web-based front end should allow access to the larger user community while not degrading the performance of the regional downscaling models being developed and run by the staff and collaborators.

 

 

5.0 Key Attributes of a Regional Climate Prediction and Assessment Center

 

DOE’s Regional Climate Prediction and Assessment Center system will be faced with broad challenges to ensure that we move beyond the current business as usual practices in dealing with the development and distribution of regional climate change and impact assessment information. Sound practices in dealing with users and establishing partnerships for research and assessment purposes are required to deal effectively with problems of complexity in global change studies and large interdisciplinary assessment projects.

 

Successful centers will also be faced with providing innovative science and technology solutions. It is anticipated that the regional climate related issues to be addressed by the RCPACs now and in the future will require new methods, models, and data products to adequately address the interdisciplinary framework of regional climate and assessment questions. Of course, all of this must be accomplished within economic constraints and must take advantage of learning from existing centers and programs that deal effectively with users and sponsors.

 

To help guide RCPACs, it is believed that a number of key attributes should be considered in the organization and development of a center. These key attributes are as follows: a strong user focus, developing solutions through partnerships, learning from past successes, staffing the center with subject area expertise, and using innovative science and technology to increase our knowledge base. Each of these key attributes should be considered within the context of moving beyond where we are current at in dealing with information, data, models, and science and technology. In other words, moving beyond the status quo should be an organizing goal of a RCPAC.

 

A strong User Focus

 

As described previously, the RCPACs must serve a number of users. The diversity of needs of these various user groups presents a significant challenge to the RCPACs—perhaps, more so than for many existing data and information centers. What should be clear is that users’ needs will focus the activities of the RCPACs. RCPACs will be judged by their responsiveness to providing services and products to users that span a broad spectrum of needs to understand global systems. No matter how difficult, these challenges must be addressed by the RCPACs in a fashion that is inclusive and responsive to the needs and requests of each of these user groups. Priorities must be established that are equitable, and products and services must be delivered in a timely fashion.

 

Developing Solutions through Partnerships

 

The complexity of global systems issues that will be the subject matter of the RCPACs necessitates the development of strong institutional partnerships. Such partnerships or collaborations will be needed to ensure that solutions to vexing regional climate and assessment problems, development of information products, and production of data compendiums will be of sufficient quality and scope to adequately assist users in meeting their goals and objectives. Partnerships that include academic institutions, federal and non-federal research labs, and state agencies are needed to provide a broad spectrum of talent and perspectives to develop specific regional solutions and/or information products and services to meet users needs.

 

Learning from Past Successes

 

The National Research Council (Finding the Forest In the Trees, NRC, 1995) recently completed a pilot study that identified a number of keys to success that were common to a number of national centers and programs dealing with environmental data. These lessons learned provide a valuable insight for the organization and implementation of the RCPACs, and they should be applied as an essential part of the implementation of the program.

 

Staffing the center with subject matter expertise

 

Those centers (private and public) that deal effectively with users and create information products and services considered of high quality and usefulness also share another trait that should be embodied within the RCPACs. This key attribute is a staffing strategy that includes staff who have both a research function and a service function. RCPACs will be challenged to emulate these successful centers and to develop an intellectual climate that promotes a staffing solution, which emphasizes dual responsibilities of research and service for their staff and leadership.

 

Innovative science and technology to increase our knowledge base

 

Developing regional climate projections and providing information for interdisciplinary climate impact assessments will challenge our ability to use multi-disciplinary sciences to provide meaningful information to a broad array of users. Addressing the level of complexity of regional interactions will require more that incremental improvements in our methods and approaches currently being used to understand how climate will change on a regional scale and to assess the consequences of these changes on a broad assortment of regional issues. RCPACs will be challenged to use innovative science and technology to create data and information products on small spatial and temporal scales that go beyond our current state of the art. RCPACs must be at the forefront of science and technology, and they must develop products and services that can easily incorporate new advances on a timely basis.

 

 

6.0 Management

 

Successful implementation of the RCPAC concept requires that the centers function effectively as a team. Achieving this goal will require an appropriate management structure to assure coordination among the centers and with the rest of the ACPI. RCPAC management will be responsible for assuring that the highest standards of service and scientific and technical competence are achieved at each center. Management coordination will also be needed to establish necessary technical standards to achieve the goal seamless compatibility between the various components of the RCPAC system.