The current arrangement has produced somewhat stable funding that is concentrated along existing agency lines. Long-lead-time research activities need such stability, although within this arrangement there can be short-term swings in funding that have negative long-term consequences. For example, short-term budget reductions can lead to reductions in the hiring of postdocs or young scientists; these missed opportunities have negative consequences for many years to come.

Finding 13.3: Some positive aspects of the current U.S. institutional arrangement for climate modeling are the general stability of the funding that sustains the various efforts, as well as the diversity of approaches to solve problems and healthy competition that follow from having multiple modeling activities.

Weaknesses

One of the primary weaknesses in U.S. climate modeling is that modeling efforts are subcritical in key areas. Increased model complexity and greater societal expectation and demand for climate information create pressure for expanded climate modeling capacity, while human resources within individual modeling groups have not expanded commensurately (Chapter 7). There are at least two reasons for this:

•  funding that, while substantial overall, is inadequate to support the number of major modeling efforts; and

•  inadequate career development rewards, especially for young scientists.

Scientific and applications-driven demands for increasing realism and comprehensiveness of climate models also require major modeling groups to seek access to constantly increasing computational capacity, which requires increasingly sophisticated software development to efficiently exploit (Chapter 10). This software development requires additional human resources that core modeling groups struggle to support. These are serious impediments to progress. At the national level, maintaining the current structure of several quasi-independent Earth system modeling efforts cuts into the resources available for each group, pacing progress and creating stress by requiring modeling groups to spread expertise thinly across a broad spectrum of topics.

In the current structure, computational resources for U.S. climate modeling are largely aligned along agency structures. This arrangement has some advantages in terms of stability, with multiple computing platforms providing some level of overall reliability to the availability of U.S. climate computing. Even if one agency’s computing platforms were cut, there would remain other platforms available for U.S. climate computing.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement