Sunday, March 11, 2012

Aloha from Honolulu

While you were all behaving impeccably in the comments on this post (thanks!), jules and I were enjoying a trip to Honolulu (as Steve Bloom already guessed) for this workshop. Gavin was the instigator and together with the other organisers (especially Axel Timmermann and colleagues at IPRC) put on a very interesting and enjoyable few days. The meeting took place in the grounds of the Bishop Museum, which was a great location - a very "open air" hall with birds hopping in and out, comfortable temperatures with no air-conditioning, and some rather good lunches with not a speck of spam in sight.

In contrast to most workshops of my experience, there really was a shared focus, on this occasion the goal was to see what we could do with paleoclimate simulations (and data!) to validate climate models and perhaps even constrain the range of future projections that these same models produce. Within this round of the CMIP experiments (logically enough, called CMIP5 because last time was CMIP3) there are for the first time official paleo simulations (which are also a major component of PMIP3) so the relationship between past and future should be clearer and more traceable than was previously the case. Unfortunately, relatively few paleo simulations are actually available on the database yet, as they tend to be considered lower priority than the future projections. So meeting IPCC deadlines will be tough - not that the IPCC is the be-all and end-all, but it's an obvious and important target to aim for. IMO the workshop was rather good, there were a lot of like-minded people with enough shared understanding that we were able to have fruitful discussions rather than bicker over definitions (which so often is the outcome at these sort of events) and it seems to have helped to motivate and facilitate some useful work which should happen over the next few months. We'll find out soon enough if this really happens!

The workshop was deliberately arranged to connect up with the rather larger CMIP5 workshop which has just been held this week and which many participants stayed on for. Due to the lack of available output (especially back when abstracts were due), jules and I didn't even submit anything to this, and the session we gatecrashed suggests that there wasn't anything much of note (aside from some nice cakes), as the new models are basically the same as the previous generation, at least in terms of the initial broad brush analyses that have been done so far. [I was gobsmacked at the apparent chutzpah of Thomas Stocker telling Karl Taylor how he could learn from the great system that the IPCC has for dealing with errors, but hopefully I completely misunderstood his comment!]

So instead of the CMIP5 workshop, we stayed on to have a quick visit to IPRC. This is a joint USA-Japan enterprise that in principle we have close links with, and indeed one or two staff members have had close collaboration and exchange visits, but jules and I personally have not previous had much overlap with them. Some shared interests may provide an excuse for closer collaboration and maybe future visits.

Hawaii is a popular destination from Japan, but this was our first visit. While we had realised that the local Shonan coast modelled itself somewhat on Hawaii beaches (eg), it was surprising to find out first-hand what a good job it has done! We found it a rather pleasant and relaxing place, though it's not the sort of destination that we would deliberately choose for a holiday. Sadly, after a few days of mixed weather during Gavin's workshop, the heavens opened the day after it ended, and we had 300mm of rain (a foot, for the metrically-challenged) over the subsequent three days of our stay. One night, a lightning strike even started a small fire in a hotel just down the road from ours. Having gone with intentions of early morning running along sunny beaches, I managed a grand total of two short jogs round the local Ala Moana beach park. I hope we'll have the chance for further exploration in the future.


Hank Roberts said...

> to validate climate models

Pssst, you're giving away the conspiracy, you're supposed to say 'falsify' aren't you? (When I'm testing my bro-in-law's software, I'm not trying to prove it _works_ ....)

I recall Gavin mentioning then the "focus on downcore records (the patterns of change at a single point through time) and the relative lack of integrated products that either show spatial patterns of change at a single time, or that try to extract common elements from multiple events" -- better now?

James Annan said...

The standard criticism of a lack of syntheses came up, but IMO there has been a significant effort in this direction and there are now several of these for the major epochs where there is sufficient data to make it meaningful, particularly the last glacial maximum and mid-holocene periods, also mid-pliocene which was the most recent clearly warmer period (but the data are pretty rubbish IMO).