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Researchers In Focus

KalnayMeteorological pioneer Eugenia Kalnay calls for adding complex human systems to dynamic climate models

Professor Eugenia Kalnay, an Argentine meteorologist, has a knack for being out in front of the pack. The first woman to obtain a PhD in Meteorology from MIT (1971), she then became the first female professor in the MIT Department of Meteorology. She is now a Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Among the scientific methods Kalnay has pioneered is the breeding method, an approach in modeling that helps to identify the growing perturbations in a dynamical system, and was used in the first operational ensemble forecasting system. She co-founded with Jim Yorke the Weather/Chaos Group at the University of Maryland which has made discoveries of the local, low-dimensionality of unstable atmospheric flow, and developed the widely used Local Ensemble Transform Kalman Filter. Kalnay also co-authored papers introducing the ensemble methods of Lagged Average Forecasting (LAF), and Scaled LAF. Prior to the introduction of ensemble methods to coupled ocean-atmosphere models, climatic models could not capture critical coupled chaotic patterns such as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). In 2009, Kalnay received the International Meteorological Organization prize and recognition of her groundbreaking work on numerical weather prediction, data assimilation, and ensemble forecasting.

More recently, Kalnay has made a bold call for two-way coupling of human-earth climate systems. “The idea is that no Earth System Model can be used to study possible scenarios of climate change without including a two-way coupled Human System Model, since humans dominate the biosphere,” explains Kalnay. Unlike ecological-economic models, the standard economic models, as scholars such as Herman Daly describe them, do not account for a number of critical factors including: inputs (resources), outputs (pollution), stocks of natural capital, or dissipation of energy. In such models, there are no effects on the earth system, and no limits to growth (Kalnay 2011).

Today, both population and economic output per capita have very large effects on the earth system. Modelers think of these effects as feedbacks and the best way to capture them, albeit very challenging, is through two-way coupling of human-earth climate systems. For example, regional population models with two-way coupling would take into consideration some essential feedbacks such as vegetation <=>albedo; resource depletion <=> trade and resource conflicts <=> migrations; and population<=> CO2 emissions<=> climate change, vulnerability.

Kalnay and her research collaborators, including Ning Zeng, Matthias Ruth, Victor Yakovenko, Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, Cortney Gustafson, Robert Cahalan, Rachel Franklin, Jorge Rivas, Safa Motesharrei, Fang Zhao and others, have begun to experiment first using an intermediate Earth System model (Speedy-VEGAS) and a prototype Human Economy-Population model. The researchers are particularly interested in exploration of societal transitions as environmental constraints become increasingly binding, and of technological and institutional innovations that may promise long-term prosperity (Ruth 2011). Their efforts are inspired by the successful approach of the late Donnella Meadows' Limits to Growth models and focus on building a dynamic model with regional submodels with three critical components: true coupling, open source, and stakeholder involvement. They expect the models to begin supporting more effective anticipatory management, providing more useful tools to explain and prepare for climate change and related impacts (Kalnay 2011).

They do acknowledge that creating realistic coupled models requires much more careful modeling in order to develop realistic solutions. This is such a massive undertaking that Kalnay and her colleagues have proposed a broad-based science and modeling initiative along the lines of the early space program or climate change modeling collaborations of the 1980s (Ruth et al., 2011).


Kalnay, E., “Population and Climate Change: Coupling Population Models with Earth System Models,” presentation to the World Climate Research Program Open Science Conference: Climate Research in Service to Society, Denver, CO, 28 October 2011.

Ruth, M. E. Kalnay, N. Zeng, R. Franklin, J. Rivas, F. Miralles-Wilhelm, 2011: Sustainable prosperity and societal transitions: Long-term modeling for anticipatory management. Environmental Innovations and Societal Transitions, 1 (2011), 160-165.

Transportation Strategies for Campus Climate Action Plans

Maryland College Climate Action Workgroup,
Maryland Dept of the Environment

December 7, 2011
Baltimore, MD

Sean Williamson will present strategies and tools for reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions from campus transportation in the University of Maryland System.

Book Launch:
"Transatlantic Energy Futures"

Johns Hopkins SAIS Center for Transatlantic Relations
December 8, 2011
Washington, D.C.

"Climate Change and the Future of Clean Energy: Towards Transatlantic Convergence" is the focus and title of a chapter Mark Olsthoorn contributed to a new book published by Johns Hopkins SAIS Center for Transatlantic Relations. The book, Transatlantic Energy Futures: Strategic Perspectives on Energy Security, Climate Change and New Technologies in Europe and the United States, edited by David Koranyi, will be released December 8 at a special discussion event. Olsthoorn will participate in the renewables, innovation and new technologies panel.

The book explores energy challenges on both sides of the Atlantic and sets forth an agenda for fruitful transatlantic collaboration. In chapter 2, Olsthoorn points out areas where the U.S. and the EU, estranged partners on the climate front, should find common ground for promoting clean energy.

Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference

April 16-17, 2012
College Park, MD

UMD will again host the national conference on making campuses more sustainable. Proposals for presentations and workshops are being accepted now through January 5, 2012.

New CIER Affiliates

Anna Alberini
College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, UMD

Kaye Brubaker
A. James Clark School of Engineering, UMD

James (Jae) E. Edmonds
PNNL Joint Global Change Research Institute, UMD

Eisabeth Gilmore
School of Public Policy, UMD

Klaus Hubacek
College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, UMD

Nathan Hultman
School of Public Policy
PNNL Joint Global Research Institute, UMD

Hiroyuki Iseki
National Center for Smart Growth
School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, UMD

Eugenia Kalnay
College of Computer, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, UMD

Michael Paolisso
College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, UMD

Karen Prestegaard
College of Computer, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, UMD

Joanne Throwe
Environmental Finance Center

Eric Wachsman
University of Maryland Energy Research Center

Lisa Wainger
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES)


Meeting Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction GoalsAndy

CIER’s recent climate and energy policy research focused on a pair of studies investigating potential impacts from Maryland’s greenhouse gas mitigation policies on the state’s manufacturing sector, employment and electricity reliability. These studies, called for by the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009, provide citizens, businesses and public officials with new information on the State of Maryland’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020.

In Electricity Reliability Impacts from Maryland’s Climate Action Plan, researchers, Yohan Shim, Research Associate with CIER and Civil & Environmental Engineering at UMD, and Benjamin Hobbs, Professor of Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, found that electricity reliability in the state will improve with implementation of Maryland’s Climate Action Plan. Electricity reliability is defined as having sufficient supply (generation capacity, imports and demand management) capable of meeting demand (total electricity load). (This is unrelated to electricity outages in homes and businesses from severe weather events.) Improvements in electricity reliability is expected to occur as a result of (a) more supply from new renewable capacity (e.g., offshore wind) and (b) less demand due to improvements in end-use efficiencies.

The study on Manufacturing Costs, Employment and Economic Effects from Maryland’s Climate Action Plan found neither a significant increase in manufacturing production costs nor a significant decrease in Maryland manufacturing jobs. "At worst, the CAP will become an indistinguishable part of a larger and longer-term trend of declining manufacturing employment in the state. At best, the CAP will generate new business opportunities and jobs," states the report. The research involved the Regional Economic Studies Institute of Towson University and found potential for green job growth in Maryland as a result of policy-driven demand for skills in energy conservation, alternative energy supply, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction technology.

"These reports provide essential information about the early effects of implementing Maryland's Climate Action Plan," says Sean Williamson, CIER researcher and report co-author. "They should remove potential roadblocks and advance the process."

Urban Dynamics and Climate Change

Working at the interplay of urban dynamics and climate change, CIER researchers have not only identified economic, infrastructure, water and energy impacts, but also public health and other social issues including poverty and hunger. The interrelated nature of these challenges is highlighted in Social and Economic Impacts of Climate Change on the Urban Environment, a Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability Journal article. CIER researchers also contributed Chapter 4, Impacts of Climate Change Upon Urban Areas, to the 2011 UN Global Report of Human Settlements.


Policy Impacts Markets: Marcellus Shale Gas Extraction Regulation

With controversy surrounding the production process for recovering shale gas in the US, a lively and often heated debate concerning regulations of hyraulic fracturing is ocurring among businesses, governments and communities. A recent study by a CIER research team investigated the impact of shale gas regulations on the amount of technically recoverable natural gas and their subsequent impacts on natural gas markets, both domestic and abroad.

“Shale gas is found in great supply within a small geographic area, so the impact of regulations undertaken by local, state, regional and federal legislatures and agencies can have a larger impact on gas markets -- larger than most people would think,” explained CIER researcher Andrew Blohm.

The work, sponsored by the Norwegian Research Council as part of the LinkS project and conducted in conjunction with Steve Gabriel and colleagues from Civil and Environmental Engineering, was recently presented at the INFORMS conference. The Institute for Operational Research and Management Sciences hosted the conference and defines operations research as the discipline of applying advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions.

shale gas image

Supporting Sustainable Decisions for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

CIER has expanded its use of dynamic models as decision support tools for those making investment and policy decision, including water managers in the Chesapeake Bay Region. Many climate information sources are underused and do not well fit the multi-threat context of most decision makers. The result is a lack of adaptation and higher than necessary vulnerability to climatic changes. A better connection between climate science and decision-making is expected to yield more effective adaptation, with potentially significant co-benefits for ecosystem conservation and restoration.

Together with Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab and other partners, CIER has started to expand its dynamic modeling work, such as pilot tools for Watershed Implimentation Planning (WIP) in the Chesapeake Bay, into serious gaming. "This will put decision makers in a climate flight simulator," explains Mark Olsthoorn, a systems engineer and leader in this effort. "It lets them improve their adaptation skills and helps us researchers understand behavior, and best ways to present information."

Chesapeake Bay