Sunday, October 28, 2012
Potential Graduate Research on Extreme Weather Events and Climate Science
Yesterday, during a press conference about Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was asked a question about the ways in which climate change may be causing recent extreme weather events that have been occurring with increasing frequency and intensity across the globe. The reporter was, of course, referring to events like the impending Hurricane Sandy, as well as Hurricane Irene, Snowtober, Thundersnow, and dozens of other events such as the earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornados that have caused so much destruction and loss of life in recent times. Governor Christie, intelligently and level-headedly, said that his immediate concern was more of the practical, rather than theoretical, nature, but that in the coming months and years we should encourage the academic community to respond to these questions. Within his response, he said, "That's why we have an academic community" -- and my impression of the comment was that he was implying that we would, and should, defer to the scholarly conversation on the subject.
The comment made me think about the response that graduate research students might have to this reporter's important, if misplaced, question. After some research of my own -- researching research, I suppose -- I learned that the academic response to climate change issues and questions reaches across dozens of disciplines, creating an intense and intricate multi- and interdisciplinary conversation over the last few years. It involves the criss-crossing of studies of the atmosphere, geology, geophysics, sociology, socio-economics, ecology, oceanography, geo-engineering, civil engineering, chemistry, biology, meteorology, environmental studies, environmental engineering, marine geology, and glaciology -- an inexhaustive list! There are dozens of journals publishing articles and studies in the field -- check out this cool list compiled by Jim Prall, author of the "Green Herring" blog.
In my investigation of the subject, I also learned about the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This organization, created by the UN and the WMO, "reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical, and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change" (See the IPCC website for more information). I assume this body, with its pulse on the academic and scientific conversation on climate science, would provide the world's government leaders with the information about weather and climate related policy decisions -- information that could potentially answer questions like the one the reporter asked Governor Christie yesterday.
To me, due to the multi- and interdisciplinary nature of the field, and both the scientific as well as socio-cultural aspects of climatology, climate studies seem like a worthwhile, fascinating, and necessary pursuit. Not only will it benefit the world, but it also seems like a good career move for an individual's academic career, as the demand for these kinds of studies will only increase over time.
Just some thoughts I have been having as I watch the Sandy coverage and get ready to bunker down for the next few days! I want to know what YOU think! Are you currently a graduate student working on climate-related research? If so, what are your interests? Let us know, here!
Stay safe! -- Liza