MIT Joint Program researchers to share recent findings at AGU Fall Meeting Mark Dwortzan | MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change Thursday, October 19, 2017

More than 20 researchers and affiliates of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change are scheduled to convene and chair two sessions and deliver or contribute to 21 oral or poster presentations at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2017 Fall Meeting on December 11-15 in New Orleans. The largest Earth and space science conference in the world and host to some 24,000 attendees in 2016, the AGU Fall Meeting provides a platform for new research and emerging trends in more than 25 disciplines, including global environmental change.

Joint Program studies featured in this year’s sessions, talks and posters cover several of the program’s research focus areas, including infrastructure resilience; Earth system science; food, water and forestryclimate policy; air quality and health—and the program’s core research tool, the Integrated Global System Modeling (IGSM) framework. (Unless otherwise stated, all researchers mentioned below are members of the Joint Program.)

Infrastructure resilience

Joint Program offerings on infrastructure resilience will focus on changing risks to energy, water and land resource-systems and large power transformers; a new framework for water infrastructure planning; and the benefits of climate mitigation for the U.S. power sector.

The changing incidence of flooding, heatwaves, wildfires and other natural phenomena poses risks to natural resources and the built environment. Deputy Director C. Adam Schlosser will serve as the convener and chair of a session on integrated human-Earth systems modeling for vulnerability and risk assessment, adaptation and resilience.

More frequent and intense heat waves can accelerate degradation of large power transformers’ insulation and cooling systems. Schlosser will present a paper co-authored by Research Scientist Xiang Gao that assesses the extent to which (1) changes in heat waves/events present a rising threat to the transformer network in the Northeast U.S., and (2) climate mitigation can reduce this risk.

In a study led by Joint Program-affiliated IDSS graduate student Sarah Fletcher and co-authored by Research Scientist Kenneth Strzepek, researchers advanced a new framework for cost-effective, flexible water-supply planning. In two talks, Fletcher will present the study’s findings and their applications in Melbourne, Australia and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Strzepek is also a contributor to another presentation which will illustrate how climate mitigation policy reduces climate impacts on the U.S. electric power sector by moderating temperature-induced load and lessening water- and temperature-based performance constraints.

Global framework: Integrated human-Earth system modeling

Increased recognition of the interdependence of energy, water and climate systems has given new momentum to interdisciplinary studies of complex interactions between human and Earth systems, and efforts to improve how they are represented in models. Principal Research Scientist Erwan Monier will serve as a convener and chair of a session on Integrated Assessment Models and their Applications to Global Change Research highlighting recent advances and research applications for Integrated Assessment Models such as the Joint Program’s IGSM framework.

Earth system science

Joint Program talks and posters on Earth system science will explore challenges in modeling the Earth system, new directions for global change modeling of Northern Eurasia, the use of soil moisture data to improve climate modeling, and an assessment of ozone-depleting chloroform emissions in China.

Erwan Monier and Research Scientist Andrei Sokolov are among the co-authors of a poster that uses multiple runs of the program’s MIT Earth System Model (MESM) to show how different factors contribute to uncertainties in the model’s results, and estimate uncertainty levels for climate sensitivity of the Earth system.

A recent international, Joint Program-led study assessing the state of global change modeling for Northern Eurasia found that many past studies focused on the region’s land system, without reference to interactions with the oceans, atmosphere and cryosphere—or to the planet as a whole. Lead author Erwan Monier will deliver an invited presentation on the study’s findings and the need for improved modeling. (Co-authors include Andrei Sokolov and Deputy Director Sergey Paltsev.) Monier, Sokolov and Co-Director John Reilly contribute to a related presentation on Northern Eurasia.

Soil moisture plays a key role in modulating methane and nitrous oxide emissions, significant contributors to global warming. A poster by Xiang Gao (co-authored by C. Adam Schlosser) uses high-resolution soil moisture data from the SMAP satellite to reduce the uncertainty of estimates of methane and nitrous oxide emissions and thus enable models to more accurately assess their relative impact on the climate under different climate change scenarios.

Finally, MIT Center for Global Change Science (CGCS) postdoctoral associate Xuekun Fang is the lead author of an AGAGE poster co-authored by fellow CGCS postdoc Alicia Gressent and Joint Program Co-Director/CGCS Director Ronald Prinn showing that during 2007-2015 in China, emissions of chloroform, an important but unregulated source of stratospheric halogens, were stable during 2007-2011 but more than doubled after 2012, indicating a growing threat to the ozone layer.

Food, water and forestry

A poster co-authored by Erwan Monier, several Joint Program researchers and a Joint Program sponsor representative (Martin Haigh, senior energy advisor on the Shell Scenarios Team) describes how multiple climate impacts can be integrated into a coupled human and Earth-system modeling framework to produce timely assessments of evolving global climate policy. A sample application shown in the poster indicates that unconstrained emissions pose considerably higher risks than a 2°C climate policy to the oceanic food web, human health, water stress and agricultural productivity.

A recent Joint Program-led study co-authored by postdoctoral associate Amy Dale (lead author), Kenneth Strzepek and others coupled a crop model to a water resource management model to predict national trends in the impact of climate change on crop production, irrigation water demand, and the availability of water for irrigation across Africa. A poster will show results for several major crops and river basins.

Climate policy

A poster co-authored by Joint Program researchers Andrei Sokolov, Sergey Paltsev, Y.H. Henry Chen and Erwan Monier, among others, estimates the impact of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on the future of the climate using the IGSM framework. The analysis shows that full implementation of the Paris Agreement will increase the probability of surface air temperature in the 2090s increasing by less than 3oC above pre-industrial levels from about 20% for “no climate policy” to about 86 percent. Withdrawal of the U.S., China, Europe or India would likely reduce this probability to about 63, 67, 75 and 82 percent, respectively.

Air quality and health

Joint Program offerings in this space will examine models and measurements of climate change impacts on air quality and health; the use of simplified atmospheric models to reduce computational costs; the impact of firm-level decisions on China’s air quality; efforts to quantify and predict severe ozone haze events in Southeast Asia; and air quality measurements from the Rwanda Climate Observatory.

As it leads to increased heat waves and stagnant air conditions, climate change may reduce air quality and degrade human health by boosting concentrations of ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). A study presented by MIT EAPS graduate student Mingwei Li (lead author) and co-authored by Erwan Monier and Joint Program-affiliated IDSS/EAPS Associate Professor Noelle Selin, among others, evaluates the magnitude of this “climate penalty” in China and India using a modeling framework that links the MIT IGSM to the Community Atmosphere Model (MIT IGSM-CAM).

In a related poster, the lead author, postdoctoral associate Daniel Rothenberg, estimates the spatially-varying "time of emergence" of climate penalty signals with a modeling effort based on the MIT IGSM framework. Contributing to the study are Noelle Selin, Erwan Monier and Joint Program-affiliated EAPS Professor Susan Solomon.

A poster co-authored by former postdoctoral associate Benjamin Brown-Steiner, Noelle Selin, Ronald Prinn, Erwan Monier and others summarizes two methods that could enable research communities to identify signals from ozone data. As a result, they could use simplified representations of atmospheric chemistry that are far less computationally intensive than high-resolution, high-complexity models.  

A poster co-authored by IDSS doctoral student Minghao Qiu, Noelle Selin, Joint Program-affiliated Sloan School of Management Assistant Professor Valerie Karplus and others uses a unique firm-level data set from China to examine how an energy-efficiency policy affects sulfur dioxide emissions, and estimates its effects on atmospheric PM2.5. The researchers show that technology and behavioral responses of covered firms can significantly impact air quality co-benefits of energy intensity policies.

In a recent study, Hsiang-He Lee, a postdoctoral associate in Senior Research Scientist Chien Wang’s group, Wang and others conducted numerical simulations to quantify the contributions of fossil fuel and biomass burning aerosols to air quality and visibility degradation across Southeast Asia. A poster describing the study suggests that emissions reductions from both sources are needed to improve the region’s air quality. Related presentations—an invited talk by Wang and a poster by Lee and others—apply machine learning algorithms to observational data to predict the frequency of severe haze events in Southeast Asia.

Finally, a presentation by CGCS Research Scientist Langley Dewitt (co-authors include CGCS researchers Jimmy Gasore, Katherine Potter and Ronald Prinn) on long-term measurements of long-lived greenhouse gases and short-lived climate-forcing pollutants taken at the AGAGE Rwanda Climate Observatory (a joint partnership between MIT and the government of Rwanda) indicate that air pollution is a current and growing problem in equatorial East Africa that deserves immediate attention.


Photo: AGU Fall Meeting Poster Hall (Source: AGU)


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