University of Minnesota team to lead $10 million NSF project on the study of global climate change

August 19, 2010

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers led by University of Minnesota computer science professor Vipin Kumar in the university's College of Science and Engineering has been awarded a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study climate change.

The team includes faculty and researchers from the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, College of Liberal Arts, and the Institute on the Environment, as well as researchers from North Carolina A&T University, North Carolina State University, Northwestern University and University of Tennessee/Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The University of Minnesota is one of only three lead institutions nationwide receiving the latest round of awards under the NSF's Expeditions in Computing program. The program, established in 2008 by NSF's Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), is aimed at pushing the boundaries of computer science research. The awards represent the single largest investments by the NSF in basic computer science research.

Climate change is one of the defining environmental challenges facing our planet. Yet, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the social and environmental impact due to the limited capabilities of existing physics-based models of the Earth systems. Consequently, important questions relating to food security, water resources, biodiversity, and other socio-economic issues over relevant temporal and spatial scales remain unresolved. The costs of mitigating climate change or adapting to it can be enormous.

The University of Minnesota-led research team aims to significantly advance the science of climate change by using data-driven methods that will make use of the wealth of climate and ecosystem data available from satellite and ground-based sensors, the observational record for atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial processes, and physics-based climate model simulations.

"These methods have the potential of circumventing the limitations of the physics-based models and provide new understanding of the complex nature of the Earth systems and the mechanisms contributing to the adverse consequences of climate change," Kumar said. Methodologies developed as part of this project will be used to gain actionable insights and to inform policymakers.

"This prestigious NSF award is a wonderful affirmation of the breakthrough research being undertaken by University of Minnesota faculty, " said Tim Mulcahy, U of M vice president for research. "I congratulate Vipin Kumar and his team on this terrific accomplishment."

This project is related to the University of Minnesota's work (also led by Kumar) on the monitoring of the global forest cover under partnership of the Planetary Skin Institute, named as one of TIME magazine's Best Inventions of 2009.

"The overall objective in both of these projects is to use information technology to help deal with the challenges of climate change," Kumar said.
The NSF Expeditions-funded project at the University of Minnesota will receive $2 million per year for the next five years.

University of Minnesota

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