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The Art of Climate Modeling

June 4-16, 2006
Boulder, CO
Advanced Study Program and the Climate and Global Dynamics Division of NCAR

Primary Organizers: Philip Rasch, (NCAR), Natalie Mahowald (NCAR), and David Noone (University of Colorado, Boulder)

" ... Several sciences are often necessary to form the groundwork of a single art. Such is the complication of human affairs, that to enable one thing to be done, it is often requisite to know the nature and properties of many things... Art in general consists of the truths of Science, arranged in the most convenient order for practice, instead of the order which is the most convenient for thought. Science groups and arranges its truths so as to enable us to take in at one view as much as possible of the general order of the universe. Art... brings together from parts of the field of science most remote from one another, the truths relating to the production of the different and heterogeneous conditions necessary to each effect which the exigencies of practical life require." (John Stuart Mill, 1843[1])

"Science is knowledge which we understand so well that we can teach it to a computer; and if we don't fully understand something it is an art to deal with it." (Donald Knuth, 1974[2])

Climate system models incorporating important physical, chemical and biological interactions between the land, ocean and atmosphere are currently being developed and used to predict future climate and guide policymakers. These models include processes that span traditional disciplines, and understanding the behavior of the coupled system will require a new type of scientist. This symposium is designed to introduce accomplished graduate students with a strong background in a physical science and mathematics to the fundamentals of climate modeling. The program aims to foster the next generation of climate modelers (as distinct from climate model users) by engaging students in lectures, modeling laboratory classes and project work involving coupled climate models at an early stage in the graduate careers. The goal of the course is to provide advanced training not only in how to use the model, but in understanding their theoretical and practical underpinnings to be able to improve them for emerging scientific tasks. In the spirit of Mills and Knuth we believe that climate modeling is both science and art, and that an introduction to it requires treatment from both points of view.

Organization : Students will be engaged in lectures and tutorial sessions, but devote a large fraction of time to a research project to be developed in a small group. The course will: 1) introduce students to the theory and intent of climate modeling; 2) provide practical hands on experience with a well designed and comprehensive climate model; 3) develop appreciation of methods to exploit the strengths of climate models in hypothesis testing; 4) expose students to the broad range of scientific problems that can be tackled with climate models; 5) outline strategies for defining research questions that can be addressed with a climate systems modeling strategy, and 6) facilitate informed discussion of the limitations of climate models.

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Requirements: Because of the advanced and quantitative nature of the proposed course, the course prerequisites are: 1) One year of graduate school in a quantitative physical science relevant to climate, 2) Mathematics through partial differential equations, 3) A course in numerical methods used for solving integro-differential or algebraic equations with computers; 4) Knowledge of a high level computer language; 5) Familiarity with the Fortran 90 computer language; 6) Working knowledge of a Unix or Linux variant of an operating system, and 7) Working knowledge of an interpreted language.

Colloquium participants are strongly encouraged to also attend the NCAR Community Climate System Model (CCSM) Workshop in Breckenridge, Colorado 20-22 June. We are hopeful that funds to attend the CCSM Workshop will also be available for colloquium participants. More details will follow.

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