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Coast to Coast Seminar - Fall 2010

The Marine Environment and Climate Change: Problems and Possible Solutions

Coordinated by Dr. Keith R. Thompson, Tier I Canada Research Chair in Marine Prediction and Environmental Statistics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S.

Organized and distributed by: AARMS, ACEnet, the IRMACS Centre, SciNet, SHARCNET, and WestGrid 

To download the poster click here

September 21, 2010

Live from Simon Fraser University
Speaker: Dr. William Hsieh, Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia

"Applying machine learning methods to climate variability"

Machine learning methods, having originated from computational intelligence (i.e. artificial intelligence) are now ubiquitous in the environmental sciences. Applications of machine learning methods, such as neural networks and support vector machines, to the analysis of climate variability and to short term climate prediction will be presented. Examples include the El Nino phenomenon in the tropical Pacific, and interannual variability in the Canadian winter climate and extreme weather.

About The Speaker:
William Hsieh obtained from the University of British Columbia his B.S. degree in combined honours mathematics and physics (1976), an M.S. in physics (1978), and a Ph.D. degree in oceanography and physics (1981). He did postdoctoral work at Cambridge University and at the University of New South Wales, before returning to the University of British Columbia, where he eventually became Professor in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences and in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, as well as the Chair of the Atmospheric Science Programme. He is currently professor emeritus, with an active research group. Best known for his pioneering work in developing and applying machine learning methods in the environmental sciences, he has over 90 peer-reviewed publications covering areas of climate variability and prediction, machine learning, oceanography, atmospheric science and hydrology. His graduate-level book "Machine Learning Methods in the Environmental Sciences -- Neural Networks and Kernels" (2009) was published by Cambridge University Press.

October 5, 2010

Live from Dalhousie University
Speaker: Dr. Randall Martin, Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science, Dalhousie University

Insight into Lower Atmospheric Composition from Remote Sensing and Modeling

Satellite remote sensing of atmospheric composition (such as aerosols, ozone, and their precursors) has progressed markedly over the past decade. Global numerical modeling plays a critical role in interpreting these observations. This talk will highlight recent advances in both remote sensing and global modeling of the troposphere, and their application for insight into processes affecting climate and global air quality.

About the Speaker:

Randall Martin is a Killam Professor in the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University, and a Research Associate at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He received a B.S. from Cornell University in Engineering in 1996, a M.Sc. in Environmental Science from Oxford University in  1998, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2002 with a focus on Atmospheric Chemistry. He is a recipient of the Langstroth Memorial Teaching Award, an NSERC Discovery Accelerator Supplement, and a Killam Prize. He has published 70peer-reviewed journal articles on the processes that affect atmospheric composition, and their implications for climate and air quality


October 19, 2010

Live from Simon Fraser University
Speaker: Dr. Francis Zwiers, Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, University of Victoria

Anthropogenic Influence on Long Return Period Daily Temperature Extremes at Regional Scales

There is now a well established approach to detecting and attributing the causes of observed changes in mean climatic conditions that has been applied progressively from global scales to regional scales to temperature and other climate variables.  While this research has provided a great deal of useful information about the causes of climate change observed during the past century or more, policy makers and others have also been demanding answers about whether there are attributable changes in frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather and climate events. The statistical techniques required to respond to these questions are only now begin developed. This talk will describe a standard technique that is used in climate change detection and attribution research, propose a parallel approach that might be used to assess whether there is a detectable human influence in the far tails of the distribution of a climate variable such as daily maximum air temperature, demonstrate an initial application of the approach, and discuss limitations and further areas of improvements. Using the approach that is proposed, we show that an anthropogenic influence is detectable globally, and in many regions, in the extremes of daily maximum and minimum temperatures. Globally, waiting times for extreme annual minimum daily minimum and daily maximum temperatures events that were expected to recur once every 20 years in the 1960s are now estimated to exceed 35 and 30 years respectively. . In contrast, waiting times for circa 1960s 20-year extremes of annual maximum daily minimum and daily maximum temperatures are estimated to have decreased to less than 10 and 15 years respectively.

About the Speaker
Before becoming Director of the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, Dr. Zwiers served as a Research Scientist (1984-2006), Chief of the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis (1997-2006) and Director of the Climate Research Division (2006-2010), all at Environment Canada. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Physics of the University of Toronto. His expertise is in the application of statistical methods to the analysis of observed and simulated climate variability and change. Dr. Zwiers is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the American Meteorological Society, a recipient of the Pattern Medal, has served as an IPCC Coordinating Lead Author of the Fourth Assessment Report, and is an elected member of the IPCC Bureau.

November 2, 2010

Live from Dalhousie University
Speaker: Dr. Marlon Lewis, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University

A Sea of Change

The world’s oceans are undergoing alterations not seen in hundreds of thousands of years. The surface ocean is warmer, more acidic and deeper reaches are increasingly deoxygenated. New evidence now indicates that the oceans have lost a significant portion of their phytoplankton over the last 50 years - the base of the marine food chain - and as well appear to support only 10% of the large predators active prior to the industrial age. These are not isolated changes, and appear to have some - albeit complex - common causes. This talk will focus on the scientific evidence to date, with a view towards what the future might bring.

About the Speaker
Marlon Lewis is a Killam professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University. His research interests include phytoplankton ecology, bio-optical oceanography, and upper ocean physics.

November 16, 2010

Live from the University of Victoria
Speaker: Dr. Ken Denman, Institute of Ocean Sciences, DFO, Canada

"How will marine ecosystems adapt to a future ocean that will be warmer, more stratified, more acidic and less oxygenated?"

Primarily from burning fossil fuels, humans are adding increasing amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. More than a third of this new carbon dioxide ends up in the ocean, and more than 90% of the additional heat from the greenhouse effect is entering the oceans. As a result the oceans are becoming warmer and more stratified, which reduces the mixing of nutrients from below up into the surface ocean and of oxygen from the surface layer down into the subsurface ocean. In addition the extra carbon dioxide is causing the oceans to become more acidic. Can we predict how whole marine ecosystems will adapt, when we do not yet know how much capacity individual species have to adapt to these expected changes to their environment. I will outline a modelling framework to explore the capacity of species to adapt to a changing environment based on existing 'phenotypic' diversity and potential 'plasticity'.

About The Speaker:

Ken Denman is a Senior Scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), since 2000 working at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis of Environment Canada, located at the University of Victoria where he is an Adjunct Professor. His research involves the interactions between marine ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles and climate change. His current research interests centre on forecasting the responses of marine ecosystems to the acidification of the oceans and to other aspects of climate change including possible geoengineering measures. He was Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 7 of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) WG1 AR4 titled "Couplings between changes in the climate system and biogeochemistry"; and Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 10 in the Second Assessment Report (1995) of IPCC WG1, titled "Marine biotic responses to environmental change and feedbacks to climate". The IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for its work on climate change. Ken Denman is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and has received the President's Prize of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, the T.R. Parsons Medal for excellence in ocean science, and the Wooster Award of the North Pacific Marine Sciences Organization (PICES) for research excellence in the North Pacific. He has served on the Steering Committees of the Joint Global Ocean Fluxes Study (JGOFS), the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), and the Surface Ocean Lower Atmosphere Study (SOLAS). He recently completed 6 years as a member of the Joint Scientific Committee of the World Climate Research Programme. He received a PhD in ocean physics from the University of British Columbia.


November 30, 2010

Live from the University of Toronto
Speaker: Dr. Richard Peltier, Centre For Global Change Science, University of Toronto

"Climate Impacts of Freshwater Forcing of the Ocean General Circulation"

During the past million years of Earth history, climate variability has been dominated by a 100 kyr cycle of continental scale glaciation and deglaciation. Each of these quasi-periodic events owed its existence to the minute variations in the distribution of solar radiation caused by gravitational n-body effects in the solar system. In each cycle of this process continental glaciation was accompanied by a fall of mean sea level of approximately 120 m. The glaciation phase of each cycle persisted for approximately 90,000 years whereas the deglaciation phase was much more rapid, lasting approximately 10,000 years. During deglaciation, the return of freshwater to the ocean basins was responsible for highly significant disruptions of climate, foremost among which was the so-called ``Younger-Dryas" climate reversal during which northern hemisphere surface temperatures were forced to return to near full-glacial cold conditions even as the system was in the process of returning to a state of modern warmth. This phenomenon provides a target for testing the transient response of the global climate models that are employed to make predictions of the influence of global warming due to increasing concentrations of the atmospheric greenhouse gases. This test will be described in detail.

About The Speaker:
Richard Peltier is a professor of physics at the University of Toronto. He is also the Director of the Centre for Global Change Science, the PI of the Polar Climate Stability Network, and the Scientific Director of SciNet.