In honour of World Meteorology Day (23 March), we present a new collection in our SDG 13 hub dedicated on Meteorology and Climatology research. For this new collection, we had an interview with Dr Fred Kucharski, a Research Scientist in the Earth System Physics Section at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Italy, about how he addresses issues directly related to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 through his work as well as their experience in making societal impact beyond their academic circles. Dr Kucharski is also the co-Editor-in-Chief of the open-access journal, npj Climate and Atmospheric Science.
The focus of my research is climate variability and dynamics. My special interest are atmospheric and oceanic teleconnections, and how they impact regional predictability of climate. Some of my research is also directly or indirectly related to climate change, namely to estimate the role of internal variability in estimated climate change signals, the role of inter-basin connections in modifying climate change signals, and their representation in state-of-the-art climate models.
Climate Action must be based on solid assessment of Climate Change signals. In this respect the research I mentioned above is clearly relevant as scientific basis for Climate Action. Even though my main research is not directly related to Climate Action, I am part of a research team that analysed a very important aspect of Climate Action, namely how a massive implementation of Wind and Solar farms in the Sahara Desert would impact Climate. In the resulting study, published in Science , we showed that if the Sahara Desert were densely populated with Wind and Solar farms, the current world demand on energy could be covered multiple times (given transportation and storage issues of energy can be solved). Furthermore, the climatic impacts of such a massive implementation would be mostly limited regionally, and also beneficial because Sahara and Sahel rainfall and vegetation are projected to increase.
The reason for my involvement in this research is that I am also the developer of a fast and easy to use, medium complexity earth system model, that allowed the fast and robust assessment, with high confidence, of the potential impacts of Wind and Solar farms in an interactively coupled Atmosphere-Ocean-Vegetation model setting. This model is particularly also useful in the research of postgraduate students, and is able to run also on PCs and Laptops.
The main way and inevitably first step in communicating research remains scientific publications in solid journals. For most of my own publications this is and remains also the main audience: experts in the field. A few studies may attract the attention of a broader audience, like the study on wind and solar farms discussed above. These studies may also be picked-up by some major newspapers and brought to the attention of policy makers and the general public.
Personally, as an employee of the International Center for Theoretical Physics which is a UNESCO, Category 1, I am more engaged in disseminating scientific knowledge to researchers from developing countries. We are organizing scientific meetings, schools, workshops, etc., involving also scientists from developing countries, and act thus as 'melting pot' of science and scientists from all over the world. Furthermore, we also provide climate science dissemination in a one-year Diploma course, exclusively dedicated to scientists from developing countries, in order to bring these early career scientists to a level that will allow them to apply to top universities all over the world. I do engage also in the dissemination of knowledge of Climate at school education level.
As I said, my research is mostly of interest for an expert community. In this respect what counts most are citations by other experts in the field. This is typically a very slow process, and in some cases one may assess the success of a scientific publication only after years. In case a work attracts interest outside the expert community, which happens occasionally, the impact may be measured first by the Altmetric scores. In the end, it will be relevant if any political actions follow. I think the IPCC work is a good example for the whole chain of this process. Basic climate science is needed, but then there has to be political action that follows based on the findings of scientists. The scientists involved in writing this report indeed make the effort to bring the scientific findings that are relevant for climate action policy to the attention of the responsible policy makers. They negotiate with government representatives about statements in the report that are likely to initiate political actions.
npj Climate and Atmospheric Science has published many publications that are using World Climate Research Project Climate Model Intercomparison Project, Phase 6 (CMIP6) data for assessing climate change. Since CMIP6 is the base for assessments within the IPCC framework, these works contribute to the scientific basis for the latest report, and are therefore certainly relevant to SDG13.
As an academic and the Editor-in-Chief of npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, what do you see as the role of publishers when it comes to addressing the SDGs? How can they best support researchers?
Special collections that are published across the nature portfolio are a good way to focus attention on a specific subject area. Now, thinking very generally, almost every research in climate is relevant to SDG13 to some extent. However, there could be a special collection of the more direct policy relevant studies that aids in putting more focus on SDG13, curated with the help of the associate and guest editors that often work on such themed issues.
Climate model shows large-scale wind and solar farms in the Sahara increase rain and vegetation https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aar5629
Dr Fred Kucharski is currently a Research Scientist in the Earth System Physics Section at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Italy and also the co-Editor-in-Chief of the open-access journal, npj Climate and Atmospheric Science. He has been with ICTP since 2001, where his main research areas are climate variability and its predictability. Special research topics include atmospheric and oceanic teleconnections, particularly El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Atlantic Nino teleconnections with monsoons and extratropical regions for all time scales; the separation of forced and internal climate variability; Sahel and Arabian Peninsula rainfall variability and its relation to sea surface temperatures; and decadal modes of variability and air-sea interactions.