One important objective is to develop a pathway that can lead to modeling efforts in the United States that have sufficient human resources to meet their challenges in all critical areas, including both persistent and longstanding problems such as those mentioned above. Efforts are needed to address the emerging scientific frontiers discussed in Chapter 4, such as the effects of aerosols on clouds (the indirect aerosol effect) or the terrestrial and oceanic carbon cycles, which are major sources of uncertainty in climate change projections. In addition, continuing model development will be required to provide the high-quality climate simulations that can provide information to decision makers at the regional and local levels, as discussed in Chapter 10.

Finding 7.1: The level of human resources available for climate modeling has not kept pace with the demands for increasing realism and comprehensiveness of the models, leading to subcritical efforts in multiple areas of core modeling efforts. This is a serious impediment to progress.


Current Pipeline

Workers in climate model development have primarily received postgraduate degrees. In order to maintain a pipeline of human capital to sustain the climate modeling efforts, the United States will need to ensure the current and future availability of fellowship funding for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, including expansion of programs at national laboratories and research facilities.

Data on the numbers of students involved in climate model development do not exist.2 As a proxy for understanding trends in the training of climate model developers, the committee examines data on related fields of computer science, geosciences, mathematics, and physics. Current trends in the education pipeline in fields related to climate modeling (Figure 7.1) show that the overall number of Ph.D. degrees being awarded in some fields related to climate modeling is growing, but numbers of master’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees are not growing. The percentages of females and minorities are low and have not been growing substantially over the past decade. As stated, although none of this information is specific to the pipeline of climate model developers, the committee infers that it is indicative of a pipeline that is not growing in a robust fashion.


2 Jill Karsten, National Science Foundation (NSF), personal communication, 2011.

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