Friday, August 22, 2008

taxpayers and climate change

People are so hung up on conspiracy. Global warming is real. For how long and why are still being evaluated. Two reasons for the uncertainty exist:

1. coupled atmosphere ocean models yield a wide range of scenario's and the models are not well understood due to the inherit non-linearity of the problem. One aspect is the resolution of the model. Finer resolution means a better answer. Not the best, but better. One aspect that has received little attention: model physics. There is no money for physics development. only science. Model development is good. dynamics and numerics, distributed memory computing.

2. Physical process understanding across scales and across disciplines. atmosphere vs ocean: oceanic processes impact the atmosphere and the atmosphere impacts the ocean. clouds and aerosols: clouds can be hindered or enhanced by aerosols (type, concentration, etc), greenhouse gases and their effects on radiative heat transfer, clouds, etc.

The recent joint statement on needs of the weather and climate community is nothing new. However, there is big chance here to increase scientific funding that CAN and WILL have a positive impact on taxpayers. Lets count the ways:

1. Fuel. Do you know who plows the streets, sprays for mosquitoes, patrols the streets? The government spends a lot of money to not only predict the weather to save on fuel but also to manage those resources in an emergency. That is if you anticipate a storm, you have a much better chance of saving on fuel and supplies. Now couple that with knowing in advance that you or the neighboring county will actually use a large amount of supplies, well then you get the bulk discount.

2. disaster preparedness and response. Money is usually not the answer. Supplies, equipment, and manpower are more valuable. All cost money. But rushing in supplies and poorly distributing them requires extra effort, extra manpower and more money.

3. rebuilding. Look at NO, or greensburg KS. years later and progress, but not fully rebuilt. More money needed.

4. Tornado's cause sudden and intense damage. Mitigation is not a viable option. However, you can save lives. Politicians care about lives. Hurricanes can be mitigated. Oil rigs and pipelines shutdown, facilities secured, planes, cars, boats, ships, freighters moved, people relocated temporarily, infrastructure secured, etc. short to medium term prediction is a valuable asset.
Knowing when you will need to increase item 2 budget's priceless.

This touches on a few items. I am sure there are more. The joint statement asked for 9 billion over 5 years, essentially doubling the budget over the previous 5 years. Just like oil drilling will take a decade to impact prices at the pump, so will this investment. No promises offered though.

I will say this. People are already promoting using weather data to their advantage on wind power, industry is generating forecasts to be sold for use in everyday businesses. the profits are huge for the industry that gets it right. The savings potential to customers is high. We are taking tailored forecasts here. Not NWS watches, warnings, forecasts for public safety use or recreation.

We are talking, saving on fuel by telling a truck 300 miles away to divert around a storm that will strike 4 hours hours from now along his protected path. This will save everyone money and time. best of all, a taxpayer investment will actually benefit the taxpayers for the foreseeable future. It really is that simple for the taxpayer.

the science will mature without these funds. It will take twice as long. Only twice as long because computer hardware is doubling according to Moore's law. Petascale computing is here. We need it to be here. The benefits to society will take just as long, in my opinion.

Lets say tens years with funding forthe science, another 5 for the societal benefit to be realized tangibly. had funding commenced in 02, we would be a decade away. Without funding, 12-15 years for the science, 5-7 for the tangible benefit. so by 2025, we will make progress on using weather data. thats 20 years. A 3 day forecast today is as good as a 1 day forecast was ten years ago. In ten years we should expect that to double: 7 day forecast as good as a 3 day forecast now.

But if we cant get the climate right, we have no hope of mitigation. because by 2025 people will be more skeptical of diverting funds to climate prediction when increased sea level takes out your summer vacation plans, or a hurricane ravaged your tropical vacation. maybe it was the freak snowstorm that took out power to your county for ten days. maybe it was the heat wave that knocked out power for 3 weeks, and when it was restored, you are paying a higher rate because that electricity needed to be bought from another state.

The climate changes. The funding climate must change too. It starts by asking your politicians to invest early in the science.