2008 IARC Summer School

Modeling of Arctic Climate

Location:  International Arctic Research Center 
University of Alaska Fairbanks 
Fairbanks, Alaska, USA

Dates:  May 26-June 7, 2008

Coordinators:  John Walsh, Vladimir Alexeev, and Elena Sparrow

Background:  Arctic climate is the result of a complex interplay between the atmosphere, the ocean, sea ice and a terrestrial component in which freezing and thawing are critical to variations over a range of timescales. In view of the delicate balances between these components and their poorly documented sensitivities, it is not surprising that global climate models show the largest disagreement among themselves, and the strongest greenhouse-induced changes in the polar regions. Since changes in the Arctic may well have global implications, it is essential that Arctic climate simulations be enhanced in order to reduce the uncertainties in projections of climate change. 

Scientific Program:  The two-week summer school brought together graduate students and young scientists, on the one hand, and specialists in Arctic climate and climate modeling, on the other hand, in order to convey to a new generation of scientists the opportunities and challenges of Arctic climate modeling. Specifically, young scientists gained:

  1. perspectives on the key issues in Arctic climate from observational, diagnostic, and modeling perspectives;
  2. exposure to the types of models used in addressing Arctic climate and climate change;
  3. hands-on experience in the analysis of climate model output or in climate model experimentation at a level consistent with the students’ expertise. 

The summer school consisted of background pedagogical lectures in the mornings and mini-projects and informal discussions in the afternoons. The mini-projects were performed in collaboration with faculty members or lecturers, and utilized existing databases and available models. Students had access to personal computers and workstations for their mini-projects, on which they gave short presentations at the end of the two-week period. The first week was spent in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the second week in Barrow, Alaska, in coordination with the Barrow Arctic Sciences Consortium (BASC).

Key topics covered in the lectures included

  • Arctic climate: key characteristics and processes
  • Feedbacks in the Arctic system (e.g., surface albedo, clouds, water vapor, circulation)
  • Arctic climate variations: past, ongoing, and projected
  • Energy balance and single-column models applied to the Arctic
  • Global climate models: an overview
  • Modeling of the sea ice and the Arctic Ocean
  • Modeling of frozen soil regimes, especially permafrost
  • Arctic ecosystems and climate change
  • Trace gases, aerosols and chemistry: importance for climate changes