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Interweaving climate research and public understanding (Bolin Talk - AGU)

Talk Given At:
AGU annual conference, San Francisco
Date of Talk:
December 14th, 2016

For the past 10 years I have been using research into land-atmosphere-cloud coupling to address Vermont’s need to understand climate change, and develop plans for greater resilience in the face of increasing severe weather. The research side has shown that the fraction of days with snow cover determines the cold season climate, because snow acts as a fast climate switch between non-overlapping climates with and without snow cover.

Clouds play opposite roles in warm and cold seasons: surface cooling in summer and warming in winter. The later fall freeze-up and earlier spring ice-out on lakes, coupled to the earlier spring phenology, are clear markers both of a warming climate, as well as the large interannual variability.

This past decade I have given 230 talks to schools, business and professional groups, as well as legislative committees and state government. I have written 90 environmental columns for two Vermont newspapers, as part of a weekly series I helped start in 2008. Commentaries and interviews on radio and TV enable me to explain directly the issues we face, as the burning of fossil fuels destabilizes the climate system.

The public in Vermont is eager to learn and understand these issues since many have roots in the land; while professional groups need all the information and guidance possible to prepare for the future. My task as a scientist is to map out what we know in ways that can readily be grasped in terms of past experience, even though the climate system is already moving outside this range – and at the same time outline general principles and hopeful strategies for dealing with global and local climate change.

Note: This lecture at the AGU on Wed, 14 Dec. 9-10am Pacific time, is part of the free live/on-demand video series. You will find it under "Science and Society". You have to register at AGU on Demand

It is part climate science (with just a few technical slides) and part a reflection on the global issues we all face.

The slides you will find on the right and on my research page.