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Climate Data: Mysteries, Wonders, and Reality

16th Annual Kendall Lecture with Thomas R. Karl, Independent Scholar and Past Director of the National Climatic Data Center – NOAA (1998-2015)

When: Tuesday, April 18, 5:00pm to 6:30pm

Where: MIT, Kirsch Auditorium, Stata Center (Room 32-123)

Who: Open and free to the public, although pre-registration is encouraged

Event Details: https://eapsweb.mit.edu/16th-annual-kendall-lecture-thomas-r-karl
Can’t make it physically? The event will also be live-streamed.

Sponsors: MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) and the Center for Global Change Science.

Climate data comes in a rich variety of quality with varying time and space resolutions.  The mystery behind climate observations stem from the fact they require careful understanding of their limitations and usefulness. The wonder of all this data is being able to deduce changes and variations in the Earth’s climate from a surprisingly robust set of independent methods to reconstruct past and present climate from an exponentially growing set of data (approaching exabyte size — 1018 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes). This includes thousands of climate variables and diverse methods of processing these data.

The mystery and wonder often come together as a not so glamorous nitty-gritty reality of trying to make sense of all the observations.  Considerable scientific discourse is often necessary to develop and interpret data sets and models that help us understand the state and changing state of the climate system.  A few examples of how this has evolved will be presented.  This will include the data and methods used to deduce changes and variations in the Earth’s temperature and precipitation during the Anthropocene.

About the Speaker

Thomas Karl received his B.S. from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and his M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters from North Carolina State University.  After a brief TV/Radio weather forecasting position, Tom joined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1975.  He held a variety of assignments in NOAA including Senior Scientist (1992-1998), Director of the National Climatic Data Center (1998-2015) and Director of the National Centers for Environmental Information (2015-2016).

In 2010, he was asked by the President’s Science Advisor to Chair the $2.5b US Global Change Research Program’s Subcommittee on Global Change Research.  There he was responsible for ensuring the delivery to Congress of an interagency Global Change Research Plan, Assessments, and annual Progress Reports for all agencies engaged in global change research.  He continued in that position until 2016 when he retired from federal service after a 41-year career.  He is now an Independent Scholar.

Map of the Location