Bypass Chapter Navigation
Contents  
Foreword by Walter Cronkite  
Introduction - The National Science Foundation at 50: Where Discoveries Begin, by Rita Colwell  
Internet: Changing the Way we Communicate  
Advanced Materials: The Stuff Dreams are Made of  
Education: Lessons about Learning  
Manufacturing: The Forms of Things Unknown  
Arabidopsis: Map-makers of the Plant Kingdom  
Decision Sciences: How the Game is Played  
Visualization: A Way to See the Unseen  
Environment: Taking the Long View  
Astronomy: Exploring the Expanding Universe  
Science on the Edge: Arctic and Antarctic Discoveries  
Disaster and Hazard Mitigation
About the Photographs  
Acknowledgments  
About the NSF  
Chapter Index  
Disasters and Hazard Mitigation: Living More Safely On a Restless Planet
 

Climate Change—Disaster
in Slow Motion

Sand Dune on Hog Island - click for details With the advent of NSF-sponsored supercomputers, climatologists began building models of atmospheric change that now embrace millions of years of oceanic, atmospheric, biological, geological, and solar processes. For example, by the late 1980s NSF-supported researchers at the University of Washington were able to reconstruct the wide extremes of temperatures that existed 250 million years ago within the giant supercontinent of Pangaea.

In 1999, climate modelers at the NSF-funded National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, managed to accurately simulate a century of known climate history. The scientists then carried these simulations a century into the future. Their model suggests that if carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise at their current pace, there will likely be a boost in global temperatures as well as a 40 percent jump in winter rain and snow within the southwest region and Great Plains of the United States. The model also shows that the warming effect would be more severe in the United States than in Europe or Asia.

While global warming might not rival earthquakes and hurricanes for dramatic immediacy, such gradual but significant climate changes can indeed have disastrous consequences for human society. As ice caps melt, sea levels will rise, threatening coastal habitation and commerce. Warmer temperatures will also radically alter when, where, and whether farmers can grow certain crops. Climate models that can predict such events with a fair degree of certainty—and perhaps suggest what can be done to minimize their impact—will make an invaluable contribution to the field of natural hazards research.

 
     
PDF Version
Intro
The Forces Underlying the Fury
Reducing the Risk
Hot Heads
Stormy Weather
Trustworthy Tools
El Nino Bears Unwanted Gifts
A Safer Future
Climate Change--Disaster in Slow Motion
How's the Weather Up There?
The Human Factor
To Learn More...
 

NSF Home   |   NSF History   
|    Office of Legislative & Public Affairs Home |