After the Paris climate deal: What's next for climate change research?

After the Paris climate deal: What's next for climate change research?
Photograph of icebergs in Ilulisat, Greenland. Credit: Credit: Beata Csatho

The climate accord reached in Paris this month aims to cut planet-warming emissions worldwide with the goal of averting the most disastrous effects of climate change.

But even if the deal's ambitious targets are met, there will still be a lot of uncertainty about how could affect some of the world's most vulnerable populations: island nations and other coastal communities.

That's because scientists still have a lot of questions about how much—and how quickly—sea levels will rise in coming years, says University at Buffalo geologist Beata Csatho, PhD, an expert on the Greenland Ice Sheet. More research needs to be done, she says, before we can understand how global warming could affect people who live in areas impacted by rising oceans.

New insights this week in Nature

Csatho is an expert on the Greenland Ice Sheet, the second largest block of ice on Earth. If this northern giant melted completely, oceans could rise an estimated 20 feet, inundating seaside cities around the globe.

Smaller amounts of ice loss could still have serious consequences, but major gaps remain in our understanding of how the ice sheet will respond to a warming world.

This week in the journal Nature, Csatho writes a 'News and Views' analysis that comments on the latest research in this area: A new study in Nature by Kristian K. Kjeldsen, Niels J. Korsgaard, Kurt H. Kjær and colleagues, who used aerial photographs, remote-sensing observations and geological evidence to estimate the Greenland Ice Sheet's mass loss during three time periods since the start of the 20th century: 1900-83, 1983 to 2003 and 2003-10.

After the Paris climate deal: What's next for climate change research?
Surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Credit: Beata Csatho

The study, Csatho's News and Views analysis, and all information in this press release are embargoed until 1 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Kjær, Kjeldsen and Korsgaard's team shows that the ice sheet "contributed substantially to sea level rise throughout the 20th century, providing at least 25 ± 9.4 millimeters of the total global mean rise," writes Csatho, an associate professor of geology in UB's College of Arts and Sciences, in her News and Views analysis. "Furthermore, rates of mass loss during 2003-10 were twice those during the 20th century, mostly because of increasing water run-off from the surface."

Studies of this kind, which explore the ice sheet's past behavior, are critical to developing better predictions of how it will evolve in the future, Csatho says.

The research gap

Though scientists are making progress on understanding the Greenland Ice Sheet, large gaps in knowledge remain.

In December 2014, for example, Csatho and colleagues published a study revealing that glaciers undergo patterns of thinning and thickening that current models of and fail to address. The project used satellite and aerial data from NASA to reconstruct how the height of the Greenland Ice Sheet changed at nearly 100,000 locations from 1993 to 2012.

Kangerlussuaq glacier. Credit: Kristian K. Kjeldsen, Natural History Museum of Denmark

Changes prior to the 1990s are more difficult to determine due to a lack of remote sensing observations via satellite and high-altitude aircraft before that time.

But research is possible, Csatho says. Kjær, Kjeldsen and Korsgaard's team relied, in part, on decades-old aerial photography of Greenland. As Csatho explains in her News and Views piece, the scientists reprocessed the old snapshots using modern photogrammetric methods, enabling the team to tease out details that provided insight on the ice sheet's historical boundaries.

Similarly, in a study published in 2008, Csatho and colleagues combined historical photos with other data to analyze the 20th-century history of Jakobshavn Isbrae, a fast-shrinking Greenland glacier.

She concludes her News and Views piece with a call for more research.

A wealth of historical imagery exists for Greenland, and scientists could use this data to develop even more detailed histories of the ice sheet, and to determine whether the Greenland Ice Sheet was at equilibrium—not losing or gaining mass—in recent times. If it was, what were the conditions, including temperature, under which this state was achieved?

"Once the timing of equilibrium conditions for the Greenland Ice Sheet is verified, a detailed reconstruction for that period could serve as a steady-state ice sheet surface for initializing ice sheet models," Csatho writes in the News and Views article. "Establishing such a steady-state surface is a prerequisite for deriving projections of future evolution that are more credible than currently available projections."

Explore further

Massive study provides first detailed look at how Greenland's ice is vanishing

More information: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature16183
Journal information: Nature

Citation: After the Paris climate deal: What's next for climate change research? (2015, December 16) retrieved 23 September 2019 from
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Dec 16, 2015
"The research gap"

Keep that sweet, sweet grant money coming in.

Dec 16, 2015
There's no next. Just keep sustaining the lie and cashing those cheques.

Dec 16, 2015
IPCC models are 95% wrong, there still experts and they still have a job?
GO Gore science..

Dec 16, 2015
sweet, sweet grant money

cashing those cheques

nd they still have a job

I think these tics are involuntary.

Dec 16, 2015
Hi antigoracle. :)

FYI: Unprecedented Tornadoes with 213kph winds along Sydney coast; unseasonal/widespread/persistent supercells-superstroms cut swathe from country to metropolitan NSW; unseasonal heat cells extending across Oz from WA to SA/VIC states and into Western NSW; unseasonal/extreme drought spreading across many states from Queensland to Perth to SA/Vic/Tasmania.

This latest 'rolling disaster' began with unprecedented June/July (Winter) cyclones in Queesnsland region (two within as many weeks!) and across NT/WA regions. Now we have unprecedented November-December (early summer) destructive storms/droughts/low-rainfall/heatwaves/bushfire season etc as we speak.

As I explained before, air masses from antarctica now moving faster, not warming up as before over ocean waters; these cold masses collide with warm moisture-laden air, producing unprecedented events like destructive CYCLONES in SOUTHERN! Australia...a new 'tornado alley'.

Stop being 'that guy', mate. :)

Dec 16, 2015
I would love to see how the denier goon squad answers this question about the AGW effect on subsurface microbes with respect to agricultural production.
Scientists are learning more about how important these microbes are. But how do changes in temperature and precipitation levels affect microbes? And will that affect carbon storage?
The dim bulb deniers are clueless about the impact AGW could have on agriculture, livestock, and the ecosystems that support a viable planet.

To the dim bulb deniers, it's not about giving sweet-sweet grant money to some starving scientist. No... this is about knowing if you make the intelligence cut to be sent to FEMA CAMP 192 sec 4 in (Tx) or one of the other subhuman ones.

Dec 17, 2015
I think these tics are involuntary
it's like Coprolalia (or it IS)

literally, "to talk sh*t" without the ability to control oneself (commonly mistaken with/as Tourette syndrome and it's vocal tic)

they literally can't control themselves: see above for evidence
and watch the howlers post on every thread of climate change
or their chosen "specialties", like when any eu poster posts on astrophysics, etc

Dec 17, 2015
@RealityCheck This is a science blog. This is the blog your looking for. Best of luck with it..

Dec 17, 2015
Hi unrealone. :)

Thanks for the recommendation. If I ever suffer from that affliction before I die, I'll be sure to heed the advice. Do deniers/trolls likewise have a link you could go to for advice re your self-labeled ''unreality' affliction?

Anyway, I'm not convinced my fellow Australians in Sydney will take too kindly to you coming here and telling them that unprecedented tornado and unprecedented accompanying winds of 213kph was all in their senile/alzheimers imagination. Many are homeless because they cannot return due to Asbestos debris spread across many Eastern Sydney suburbs.

And if you delude yourself that unprecedented tornadoes, floods and windblown Asbestos is not ontopic on a science site discussing AGW-related extreme weather events, then perhaps you should take the advice given in your own link....because you need it badly, mate, if you believe your denialism/insults are any sort of 'scientific argument' or 'sane defense' against evolving AGW reality. :)

Dec 17, 2015
It's quite reckless and irresponsible to label all weather events as AGW driven. You accept there is a disconnect with astrophysicists and their models but in this instance you seem to ignore your own reason. Climate scientists rely on the theories/models created by these very same astrophysicists to build their climate models. As such, the basis of their climate models are derived from bad science. This video of a presentation should show you how the induction heating by the solar connection is ignored by the mainstream climate scientists.
As stated repeatedly, ALL factors must be considered and quantified before wild claims are to be made.

Dec 17, 2015
Hi cantdrive. :)

Yes, I look behind assumptins/theories re any subject. No, I do NOT "label all weather events as AGW driven". :)

In cosmology, one realizes that ALL phenomena/features/process at observable scales are ultimately 'hybrid resultants' of energy-space, matter, gravity, electro-magnetic type 'compound interactions' producing 'net observables'.

Same goes for solar-earth inputs/effects. A point I made long ago is those 'inputs' always have been, and always will be, a 'background' factor in 'base' dynamics.

CO2 related forcing variable 'input' happening now is 'not base/background' factor.

See? Solar-Earth was already 'a given/inherent' factor before AND after Indust-Rev/CO2 ADDITIONAL factors arose.

But ABSTRACT 'modeling/predicting' re AGW NOW MOOT.

Global AGW effects NOW 'modeling it' FOR REAL; via:

UNPRECEDENTED Cyclones/Tornadoes in SYDNEY!...which NOW is 'all of a piece' with EXTREME happenings globally due to AGW.

Good luck all. Bye now. :)

Dec 17, 2015
I think I had a similar moment one time.
I was meeting friends at a restaurant and something happened on the way out of my car to drop an F-bomb. Right as I said it I looked up and saw a family with young kids looking right at me and my brain recoiled and tried to not say it. Instead, it dropped a half-F-bomb, followed by an S-bomb, followed by "damn." Instead of not speaking, my brain involuntarily tried to cycle down through swear words towards a benign one. I was embarrassed during the process and couldn't believe I didn't just say nothing.

Dec 17, 2015
No, I do NOT "label all weather events as AGW driven". :)

By labeling one event, you are by default labeling all events. There is no legitimate way to isolate individual - "extreme" or otherwise- weather events and label it as AGW driven.
A point I made long ago is those 'inputs' always have been, and always will be, a 'background' factor in 'base' dynamics.

Well I guess if you said so it must be. It is this arrogant POV which truly muddies the waters of the discussion. To decree a largely unknown factor as a "background" dynamic is utterly unscientific, especially when discussing something as significant as induction heating.
Global AGW effects NOW 'modeling it' FOR REAL; via:

So AGWite models are being used for weather forecasts? That's rich!
UNPRECEDENTED Cyclones/Tornadoes in SYDNEY

My heavens! I'm positive if we removed all CO2 from the atmosphere all weather would just stop altogether. Yep, a war on carbon will end tornadoes and snow storms!

Dec 17, 2015
By labeling one event, you are by default labeling all events.

I label the day I was born "my birthday."

The heat death of the universe 100,000,000,000,000 years from now is also now called "my birthday."

I am so glad programming languages don't use moon-howler logic.

if(myBirthday)entropicEndGame = myBirthday;

Dec 17, 2015
Hi cd. :)
By labeling one event, you are by default labeling all events.
Global news reports of actual events show previously settled patterns/severities suddenly (geologically speaking) becoming unsettled/unseasonal, more extreme/severe, increasingly widespread/persistent etc, and correlation to CO2 factor becomes obvious to distinguish between 'previous normal' and evolving 'new normal' due AGW.
To decree a largely unknown factor as a "background" dynamic is utterly unscientific,....
Are you positing Sun-Earth system has NOT existed/functioned as in YOUR link for millions of years to date? See? Whatever inputs ARE from that, it's been 'background' factor for millennia+.
So AGWite models are being used for weather forecasts?
No, the REAL PHYSICAL PLANETARY system 'effectively modeling' AGW consequences FOR REAL in REAL TIME now. You only need observe, correlate new REAL EVENTS dataset with NEW CO2 factor.

Your smart aleck obtuseness not helping you. :)

Dec 18, 2015


concise review of the situation. No "din bulb" insults please, just thoughtful measured response please.

Dec 18, 2015
Hi Armadillo, thanks for the linked video. :)

Haven't too much time, so will make the following observations and leave...

Re Climate Models over the Decades: I also long pointed out that the earlier models were too simplistic; I pointed out some transient 'sinks/reservoirs' which would make the transition from past to future warming state a 'chaotic' proces with many 'steps' and 'swings' over months/years/decades which made the continuing warming 'non-linear' these early-missed sinks/reservoirs were 'saturated'.

Re Video Timeliness: The video appears to be based on data/modeling many years out of date and/or corrected since the video.

Re Feedbacks: A member (Water_Prophet) and I discussed the hydrologic feedback component of the dynamics very exhaustively, so it makes your video narrator's claim (that there's been no discussion in media/forums etc discussions of feedback) also 'out of date'.


Dec 18, 2015

Re Warming since 1680s: This was due to (expected) 'recovery' warming towards previous 'normal' equilibrium/dynamics (obtaining before "Little Ice Age" due to Supervolcano activity blasting particulate/chemicals high into stratosphere around globe); this 'recovery/equilibrium' would have been attained by now, but has been 'overtaken' by CO2 factor/effects since...hence warming continues beyond mere 'recovery' after LIA event. Re Video claims of "Less Warming than Predicted": The warming trend continues, via the extremes (chaotic steps) along the way which I long pointed out would occur; evidence the last couple years of rolling disasters around globe are "unprecedented' in geographical/temporal extent and persistence/confluence/frequency (I recently posted re same affecting Australia most severely); hence making moot/obsolete the video's claims of "Less Warming", "No Amplification Effects", "No global hot spots" etc.


Dec 18, 2015
[...cont]Re Satellite SURFACE 'heat signature/levels': These measurements do not reflect actual heat levels overall, since the heat sinks/reservoirs of deeper oceanic/mountainous/icesheet/hydrates/permafrosts etc will 'transiently' hide' the added heat via chemical/phase-change processes until 'saturation/re-emission' occurs.

Overall: Both video's modeling/claims, and mainstream's, are too simplistic/misleading. PERIODS too short to reflect HIDDEN transient/chaotic sinsk/swings. HOWEVER, REAL WORLD WARMING TREND now clear (check out the persistent/unusual/unseasonal REAL TIME extremes RIGHT NOW around globe). The EARTH SYSTEM itself now showing signs of 'amplification' from many chaotic complications also arising from SATURATED heat-energy sinks/reservoirs etc etc; and unusual feedback from moisture/clouds (which will change drastically as more EXTREME/UNUSUAL rain/snow events change night/day cycles/effects).[cont...]

Dec 18, 2015

Anyhow, Armadillo, you get the drift. This latest CO2-factor-related warming/transition towards future normal' state is DIFFERENT DYNAMICS from other 'warming/cooling' periods; and is too COMPLEX for ANY ABSTRACT/IMPERFECT 'modelingpredicting' to date, whether from 'skeptics' or 'mainstream'. Hence we should start payig attention to what is happening NOW: the Earth is demonstrating unsettled dynamics/patterns which are already well beyond any 'normal' we have known since before Industrial Revolution/CO2 factor arose.

[End Observations]

PS: Gotta go. I suggest we all stop arguing over abstractions/minutiea imperfectly treated in models/predictions. The time has come to look around and 'smell the AGW reality' that has overtaken all prior modeling/prediction 'exercises' and made them all MOOT. Good luck, Armadillo, and everyone. :)

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