EaSM 2: Linking Human and Earth System Models

EaSM 2: Linking Human and Earth System Models to Assess Regional Impacts and Adaptation in Urban Systems and their Hinterlands

Principle Investigator Brian O'Neill


Substantial demographic, economic, and technological changes are needed over the next several decades in order to effectively respond to global and local impacts of climate change on society. The ability to forecast relevant social impacts and uncertainties of near-term climate change at multiple levels is critical for developing the strategies needed to mitigate its most severe consequences on vulnerable populations. Currently the best information on the likely changes in future climate is generated by Earth System Models (ESM), but the application of these global models to forecasting and assessing social impacts has been very limited so far. Potential future socio-economic conditions are included in the input to models of climate change, but the outputs of these climate simulations are rarely coupled with models used to assess social impacts.

The central objective of this proposal is to improve understanding of potential regional and local climate impacts and adaptation options in urban areas and their hinterlands, with a particular focus on the sensitivity of these outcomes to future socio-economic conditions and to uncertainties in the earth system response. To achieve this goal, we propose to develop dynamic links between the Community Earth System Model (CESM) and an integrated model to quantitatively assess social impacts, the integrated Population-Economy-Technology-Science model (iPETS). In this project, we focus on three socio-climate phenomena that are critical to health and well-being in the coming decades: urban heat waves (including urban heat island effects), urban energy demand, and the consequences of interactions between rapid urban growth and climate change on land-use and productivity of urban hinterlands (particularly for agriculture and forestry). We will initially apply this forecasting and impact assessment in East Africa, China, and India, regions with high potential social vulnerabilities to climate change due to rapid urbanization and high risks to extreme climate events.

The proposed work will leverage recent and ongoing development of assessment capability in the CESM, in particular the Community Land Model (CLM) and an alternative land surface model, the Integrated Science Assessment Model (ISAM). These include new representations of urban morphology and building types, and spatially-explicit models of specific crop types and agricultural management options such as irrigation and fertilization. The project will enhance the capabilities of iPETS to represent urban-rural heterogeneity and its implications for energy and land use, as well as a recently developed module for spatially-explicit simulations of global urbanization and population. The integrated iPETS-CESM analysis will be carried out within the context of a set of Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSPs) under development by the climate change research community that is likely to inform impact and mitigation analysis over the next decade or more.

Outcomes of integrated modeling of coupled climate and social dynamics that we propose to develop will be transformed into interactive decision-support tools through partnerships with immersive visualization facilities at NCAR, the U. of Kansas, and Arizona State U. The co-PI, Atul Jain at the University of Illinois, will contribute to the assessment of forestry and agriculture impacts, and to uncertainty assessment, by carrying out scenario analyses with his ISAM land surface model as an alternative to CLM. The co-PI, Johan Feddema from the University of Kansas, will contribute primarily to modeling and impact assessment in urban areas, and also to agricultural assessment and visualization tasks. The co-PI, Michael Barton at Arizona State University, will contribute primarily to visualization of results and to spatial land use tool development.