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WCRP Grand Challenges

Photo@Norwegian Polar Institute archive photo The WCRP have identified five Grand Challenges (see below) that represent major areas of scientific research, modelling, analysis and observations for the climate system in the ensuing decade.

The WCRP intends to promote these Grand Challenges through community organized workshops, conferences and strategic planning meetings to identify high priority and exciting research areas that require international partnership and coordination, and that yield “actionable information” for decision makers.

The Grand Science Challenges are expected to evolve with time, but they should all:

• be both highly specific and highly focused - identifying a specific barrier preventing progress in a critical area of climate science;
• enable the development of targeted research efforts with the likelihood of significant progress over 5-10 years, even if its ultimate success is uncertain;
• enable the implementation of effective and measurable performance metrics;
• be transformative - bringing the best minds to the table (voluntarily), building and strengthening communities of innovators that are collaborative;
capture the public’s imagination with teams of world-leading scientists working to solve pressing challenges;
• offer compelling storylines to capture the interest of media and the public.

These are the five Grand Challenges:

Melting Ice and Global Consequences Grand Challenge

The WCRP Project Climate and Cryopshere (CliC) is responsible for the implementation of the Grand Science Challenge: Melting Ice and Global Consequences.

The white paper “Cryosphere in a Changing Climate: A Grand Challenge of Climate Science” (Kattsov et al. 2012) provides the motivation for range of targeted efforts aimed at improving our understanding of the role of the cryosphere in the climate system and our ability to make quantitative predictions and projections of future change.  A workshop, held in Tromsøo, Norway (16-18 October, 2013 – meeting report by A. Pope and J. Baeseman in EOS, 95(15), 2014) further discussed this Grand Challenge and helped sharpen the focus on specific activities to be pursued. Subsequently, the WCRP leadership requested a targeted implementation plan (this document) and after some discussion, a change in name to more clearly communicate the central theme of the Grand Challenge and distinguish it from the Climate and Cryosphere core project. The result was: Melting Ice – Global Consequences. This title reflects the primary response of the cryosphere to a warming climate, and the focus on better understanding and quantifying the implications.

Initial Implementation
Three themes have been chosen for initial implementation. These themes were chosen largely because of the global consequences these aspects of the changing cryosphere will have. Urgent progress is needed in these areas to enable more confident projections of future change, and the implications of these changes for ecosystems and society. Because of its existing infrastructure, and ability to mobilize the international climate science community, the WCRP can lead targeted effort in these areas with modest financial investment.
1. Permafrost and the Global Carbon Cycle
2. Ice Sheets, Glaciers and Rising Sea Level
3. Sea Ice and Snow Interacting with a Changing Climate

More information on this GC is available in the Melting Ice and Global Consequences Initial Implementation Plan.
To learn more about the Grand Challenges, visit the WCRP website.