In 2013, the vast majority of worldwide climate indicators—including greenhouse gas concentrations, sea levels, and global temperatures, among others—continued to reflect evidence of a warming planet. That was the conclusion of the State of the Climate in 2013, a report published in July 2014 by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS). Scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) served as the lead
Since 1989, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) has submitted annual reports to Congress called Our Changing Planet. The reports describe the status of USGCRP research activities, provide progress updates, and document recent accomplishments
In particular, Our Changing Planet highlights progress and accomplishments in interagency activities. These highlights represent the broad spectrum of USGCRP activities that extend from Earth system observations, modeling, and fundamental research through synthesis and assessment, decision support, education, and public engagement.
Extreme events such as heavy rains, severe storms, drought, and heat waves can have devastating effects on infrastructure, the economy, and vulnerable segments of the population. A growing field of climate science seeks to understand the drivers behind extreme events and how they connect to broader climate trends. Building on efforts to monitor the global climate (see Highlight 1), a recent report published in BAMS integrates findings from 20 different research
The international Global Carbon Project released its annual Global Carbon Budget in September 2014, shining a spotlight on rising carbon dioxide emissions and their significance for international efforts to reduce climate change. The 2014 Budget comprises analyses of emissions data for 2013, projections through the end of 2014, and implications for future climate and energy choices. The emissions data are available to...
In addition to being hotbeds of biodiversity, tropical forests are important to Earth’s water, energy, and carbon cycles—but they are increasingly impacted by climate change and human activities. Atmospheric chemistry in the once-pristine Amazon Basin, for example, is rapidly changing with deforestation, biomass burning, and pollution related to development in the region.
Like other forests, tropical forests naturally generate and emit volatile organic compounds that can react with other elements to form aerosols, or fine particles suspended in the
In 2012, spring came earlier for the contiguous United States than in any year since 1900, according to recent research by a team of scientists with the USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN). This research used the USA-NPN suite of “spring indices”—or algorithms based on the accumulated warmth needed to initiate growth in temperature-sensitive plants, which are validated by nationwide historical
The majority of terrestrial (land-based) carbon is stored in soil. With changes in climate and land use, understanding this key player in the carbon cycle is increasingly important. In October 2014, a group of scientists from 13 countries gathered in South Carolina for the Sixth International Workshop on Soil and Sedimentary Organic Matter Stabilization and Destabilization (SOM6). Participants engaged in focused discussions and shared results from
The 2012–2021 Strategic Plan emphasizes the need for synergy between Earth observations and Earth system modeling—two cor- nerstones of global change research. Obs4MIPs (or Observations for Model Intercomparison Projects) is an emerging activity that uses observations to better support the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP), an international effort under the
Civil Earth observations support key public services, long-term research, scientific discovery, and technological innovation. The Federal Government makes significant investments each year in civil Earth observations and data across multiple agencies, in addition to utilizing investments made by academia, industry, and state, local, and tribal governments. Planning and evaluation are critical to ensure that these investments lead to Earth observations that are streamlined, effective, and immediately useful.
Modeling Earth’s climate furthers priorities of national interest, from experimental research to understand the Earth system to operational forecasts and projections that inform decisions. Coordination among the Nation’s premier modeling centers—particularly between experimental and operational programs (see also Highlight 31)—has the potential to advance forecasting capabilities, yield more robust predictions, and bridge models of near-term weather and longer-term climate that currently are separated by high-uncertainty gaps in coverage.
The carbon cycle—or the continual flux of carbon through the atmosphere, oceans, soil, and living organisms—is a foundational component of the Earth system that interacts with climate change and human activities. Through USGCRP and its U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program, Federal agencies are working together and with the scientific community to advance fundamental and applied research in this critical field. Some examples are highlighted below:
In 2014, NASA, USDA, DOE, and NOAA