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Explaining and Predicting Earth System Change, at the United Nations COP27 Climate Conference

February 7th, 2023

Kirsten Findell
Kirsten Findell

Last November, leaders and delegates from across the globe traveled to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt with the important goal of discussing and agreeing upon policies to mitigate climate change.

Virtually joining the approximately 92 heads of state and 35,000 representatives of 190 countries in attendance at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) was NOAA GFDL physical scientist Kirsten Findell. Findell, whose research focuses on the impacts of land use change on climate, the interactions between the land and the atmosphere, floods and droughts in a changing climate, and more, participated in a panel session focused on improvements in near-term (ie. in the next ten or so years) climate predictions and predictability. Findell was one of six speakers on the panel, and participated via video.

“My talk highlighted a relatively recent initiative of the World Climate Research Programme that we hope will help us – the climate science community – make substantive progress toward improving climate predictions on annual-to-decadal time scales,” Findell said. “Though this initiative indicates that we still have a long way to go, the full session provided wonderful evidence of how far we have come.”

The initiative Kirsten referenced is the WCRP Lighthouse Activity on Explaining and Predicting Earth System Change, whose goal is to design “an integrated capability for quantitative observation, explanation, early warning, and prediction” of planetary change on both global and regional scales. The effort seeks to analyze and improve the accuracy of climate models, assess current and future climate-related hazards, improve scientists’ ability to attribute and predict climatic changes, and more.

This was Findell’s second time participating in a UN COP – she also spoke virtually at COP26 in 2021, in a session focusing on the future of climate modeling. Since her participation in both events was virtual, she hasn’t yet been able to take in the full, in-person experience of a UNCOP.

“That said, I very much appreciated the scientifically diverse perspectives and opinions brought to both of the sessions I participated in,” she said. “In both cases, I found that this diversity of scientific expertise made the sessions quite meaningful.”

Findell hopes to participate in UN COPs – either online or in person –  in the future.

“I was thrilled, humbled, and honored to be able to represent NOAA and GFDL at the UN COP meeting,” she said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the profile of NOAA and GFDL in international activities of both WCRP and the UN.”

Learn more about Findell’s research and her COP27 panel.