Announcing the 2017 Center for Climate and Life Senior Fellows

The Center has awarded nearly $1 million to four scientists whose research will improve understanding of how climate change impacts the essentials of human sustainability.

Rebecca Fowler
June 23, 2017

Continuing its commitment to accelerate the science needed to understand how climate change impacts the essentials of human sustainability, the Center for Climate and Life announced Tuesday a cohort of four new Climate and Life Fellows, with awards totaling nearly $1 million.

Research by the Fellows will address and provide new perspectives on topics such as sub-seasonal forecasts of weather and climate; the instability of the Greenland Ice Sheet and related sea level rise; and the historical picture of long-term climate variability over the Northern Hemisphere.

“These Fellows were selected from a very competitive pool of our top, senior talent in climate and life sciences at Columbia,” said Peter de Menocal, director of the Center for Climate and Life. “Their work will significantly advance the Center’s mission to accelerate our scientific understanding of climate change impacts on life’s essentials that’s needed to make informed decisions about the future.”

The Center for Climate and Life Fellows Program provides researchers flexible funding and the opportunity to investigate critical questions in their areas of research. Fellows are selected based on the creativity, promise, and potential impact of their proposals; they receive funding at the level of one-third their annual salary for up to three years, with additional support for research travel and fieldwork.

Through this program, the Center for Climate and Life aims to support researchers whose projects have a clear value to society and a strong likelihood of producing critical results of interest to government, industry, finance, NGOs, and other sector of society.

2017 Climate and Life Senior Fellows and Research Proposals:

Edward Cook, Ewing Lamont Research Professor, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; “A Benchmark Northern Hemisphere Drought Atlas for Climatic, Environmental, and Human Impact Studies”

Cook, director of Lamont’s Tree-Ring Lab, will develop the Northern Hemisphere Drought Atlas (NHDA), a benchmark reconstruction of past hydroclimatic variability. This drought atlas will cover most of the Common Era and be of use to scientists across a broad range of research disciplines including climate modeling, global change, hydrology, ecology, and archeology. The NHDA is also expected to provide impactful results to governments for decision-making and policy, as well as to industry, finance, NGOs, and insurance providers, on matters relating to food, water, energy, and sustainability due to the importance of water to humanity and the environment.

Andrew Robertson, Senior Research Scientist, International Research Institute for Climate and Society; “A Seamless Real-Time Forecasting System For Sub-Seasonal Weather And Climate Impacts”

Robertson will create the world’s first multi-model global probabilistic forecasting system for routine sub-seasonal weather and climate fluctuations — about a week to a month ahead, issued every week — tailored to societal impacts such as floods, droughts, heat and cold waves, wind speeds. The system will providing early warning for early action in the intermediate time range between existing weather and seasonal climate forecasts; it will fill the gap between weather and climate where many sectorial decisions arise in adapting to changing climate impacts on life’s essential resources. Ultimately, the creation of skillful seamless forecasts of weather and climate will provide tools to help societies adapt to changing climate impacts on life’s essential resources and build resiliency to them.

Joerg Schaefer and Gisela Winckler, Lamont Research Professors, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; “Greenland Ice Sheet Instability—Higher Sea Level Rise Projection and the Impact on Climate and Life”

Rising seas pose a major threat to societal welfare, and Polar Ice Sheet instability will be the driving force of sea level rise in the next decades.The predicted rate of ice sheet and sea level change is central to designing mitigation and adaption strategies for the next century, but understanding of the rate of ice sheet melt remains limited. This project, shared by Schaefer and Winckler, will produce the first comprehensive direct record of the past dynamics of the Greenland Ice Sheet, an update on sea level predictions, and a first analysis of its impact on societies. Results from their previous research shows that the Greenland Ice Sheet was much less stable than previously thought, and that sea level rise predictions need to take into account a higher contribution of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The results of this project will provide more realistic impact scenarios of near-future sea level rise on near-shore communities in the United States and beyond.

Learn more about the Center for Climate and Life Fellows and sign up for the Center mailing list to receive updates about their research.