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WCRP Cryosphere in a Changing Climate Grand Challenge Workshop report


Executive Summary

A workshop was convened to further develop the strategy to address the WCRP Cryosphere in a Changing Climate Grand Challenge. Keynote presentations were given on “WCRP Grand Challenges and the Cryosphere in a Changing Climate” (Greg Flato), “Polar Climate Predictability Initiative” (Marilyn Raphael), “Ice Sheets and Glaciers in a Changing Climate” (Andy Shepherd), “Sea Ice in a Changing Climate” (Dirk Notz), “Permafrost and Carbon in a Changing Climate” (Ted Schuur), and “Cryosphere Biases / Shortcomings in Earth System Models” (Gerhard Krinner). Interdisciplinary breakout groups were then tasked with brainstorming high priority issues for research on main cryospheric elements.

In the second half of the workshop, discipline-focused breakout groups (glaciology, snow, sea ice, and permafrost) further developed actionable items including motivation, specific questions, a timeframe, and suggested leaders and participants for the Grand Challenge to move forwards with. These topics include:
•    Current state of the permafrost carbon reservoir and greenhouse gas balance of the circumpolar region
•    Magnitude, timing and form of greenhouse gas release from permafrost carbon reservoir to the atmosphere in a warming world
•    Current and future mass loss of global glaciers and ice caps
•    Freshwater volume and availability from the cryosphere
•    Ice sheet snowpack melt, storage, and runoff
•    Impact of changing sea ice on high-latitude climate systems
•    Internal variability of sea ice up to multi-decadal time scale
•    Impact of snow changes on water resources
•    The role of snow as an active component of the global climate system

These targeted activities will continue to be developed in a strategic plan.

This report serves as a summary of the different sessions from the workshop and to frame the outcomes and future action points. A separate and evolving Strategy Document is also being produced as a follow up to the original white paper. Sessions are presented in the order in which they occurred.

Meeting report compiled by Allen Pope, Jenny Baeseman, and Vladimir Ryabinin.

Setting the course for addressing the WCRP Cryosphere in a Changing Climate Grand Challenge

The workshop goal was to further develop the strategy to address the WCRP Cryosphere in a Changing Climate Grand Challenge ( Several keynote presentations on various science foci from the grand challenge white paper were given, followed by breakout groups to develop an action plan for each imperative. The workshop was held at the Fram Centre in Tromsø, Norway from the 16 - 18 October 2013. Funding was provided by the Research Council of Norway, the WCRP, and the CliC Project Office.

Cryosphere in a Changing Climate Grand Challenge Imperatives

Following the WCRP Open Science Conference in 2011, the WCRP Joint Science Committee decided to set forth a series of grand challenges to address highly specific and highly focused topics that are critical to improving our progress in understanding the climate system.  One of these five challenges was the “Cryosphere in a Changing Climate”. An initial draft white paper for the Cryosphere Grand Challenge was prepared in 2012, lead by V. Kattsov and contained the following imperatives:
•    Increased confidence in climate models and their predictions/projections of cryosphere changes including those on regional scale;
•    Improved information regarding future changes in the cryosphere, with a specific focus on information relevant for impact assessment and adaptation decision-making, such as changes in regional temperature, snow cover and frozen ground, the timing of the Arctic multiyear sea ice disappearance, the fate of mountain glaciers, etc.;
•    More comprehensive, quality-controlled observational and proxy datasets of cryospheric variables suitable for a range of research and model evaluation activities;
•    Better quantitative understanding of processes involved in cryosphere/climate interactions and better representation of these processes in global and regional climate models. In addition, further challenges are arising with respect to the effect of the carbon sequestered in the terrestrial and sub-sea permafrost, the role of ice sheet dynamics in sea level rise, etc.

Science Foci Addressed at this Workshop

The Cryosphere Grand Challenge White Paper also outlined a number of scientific foci to be addressed over the next 5-10 years as part of the grand challenge initiative. The foci addressed at this workshop are as follows:
•    Predictions and Projections of Polar Climate
•    Cryosphere Model Biases and Shortcoming
•    Ice Sheet Models, dynamics and sea level rise
•    Permafrost and Carbon for Earth System Models

Organizing committee
•    Greg Flato

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