Climate Science Institute to Provide New Research, Learning Opportunities

Posted: May 10, 2013 at 1:36 pm, Last Updated: May 14, 2013 at 8:51 am

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By Tara Laskowski

The Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES) and the Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies (COLA), independent nonprofit research entities established in Maryland with long-standing partnerships with George Mason University, are joining Mason’s College of Science. An event celebrating these new groups will take place at 2 p.m. Monday, May 13, in Mason Hall, Rooms D3A and B.

IGES was established in Maryland in 1993 as a nonprofit to improve understanding and prediction of the variations of the Earth’s climate through scientific research on climate variability and climate predictability, and to share both the results of this research and the tools necessary to carry out this research with society as a whole.

As part of IGES, the world-renowned Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere-Studies (COLA) will also be at Mason. COLA is dedicated to understanding climate fluctuations on short- and long-term scales, with special emphasis on the interactions between Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces.

The institute and center will be initially located within the College of Science. All IGES and COLA staff supported by research grants will move from Maryland to Mason, and the staff will teach and conduct their ongoing research projects at Mason.

For the past 20 years, the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Aeronautics and Space Administration have supported IGES and COLA research with an annual funding of about $4 million.

“We are extremely honored and excited to gain these outstanding research initiatives in the College of Science,” says Dean Vikas Chandhoke. “The reputation and work of IGES and COLA extends worldwide for looking at the vital issues of climate change and model predictability.”

Jagadish Shukla, award-winning climate scientist and director of IGES, has had a long partnership with the university and is excited about the opportunities the relocation will offer. Shukla, who has been honored with the highest meteorological awards in the world for his stellar research and contributions, was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Shukla and his researchers at IGES were also instrumental in developing the College of Science’s doctoral program in climate dynamics, where students use cutting-edge climate models, superb computing facilities, sophisticated statistical techniques, and comprehensive data sets to become the next generation of scientists.

“The grand challenges of global environmental change and sustainability are highly complex and cannot be met in isolation by scattered efforts,” Shukla says. “A cohesive and well-coordinated institution is required to conduct transformative research, and to help address serious environmental challenges.”

Mason already has several research and education efforts addressing matters of environment and sustainability, and this new institute will facilitate interaction among these research groups and other Virginia institutions. Shukla hopes the institute will serve as an intellectual hub for the Washington, D.C., region—with its federal, state and local governments; aerospace, information technology and biotechnology industries; and highly educated populace—to develop new methods of characterizing and communicating the changes Earth will experience and their implications for short-term adaptation and long-term policy.

Write to Robin Herron at rherron@gmu.edu

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