Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


UCAR President lecture will be online

Posted: October 10, 2013

UCAR President lecture will be online

Dr. Thomas J. Bogdan, the president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), will give the annual Nelson W. Spencer Lecture hosted by AOSS on Friday, November 1 at 3:30 PM in Boeing Auditorium.

To watch it live online, please register here.

Please review the details below.

Title: Clearing the Air: A Physicist Takes a Long, Hard Look at Climate Change


Our planet is entering an unprecedented era, sometimes called the Anthropocene, in which the increasing concentrations of various chemical species and aerosols, produced by human activity, are influencing the atmosphere today and will do so for centuries to come.  Politics, competing agendas, and confusion among policy makers and the public too often shroud this simple fact.  The role of natural variability has recently emerged as one of the most important, and at the same time one of the most poorly understood, aspects of our changing climate.  It is especially prone to misinterpretation.  For example, the slowdown in the observed global temperature increase over the last 15 years does not mean the factors that contribute to long-term greenhouse warming have abated.  Likewise, although the rapid warming across most of the planet during the 1980s and 1990s is believed to be mainly related to greenhouse gas increases, parts of the eastern Pacific simultaneously showed measurable cooling.

This makes it all the more important that we redouble our efforts to understand the complex workings of our coupled global ocean-atmosphere-biosphere system.  As part of that task, we must observe our atmosphere, and the Sun that drives its behavior, as completely and carefully as possible.  The latest assessment of the relevant physical science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in September, outlines the areas where scientists are fairly confident in their findings and where there still remain unacceptably large uncertainties.  We cannot yet say if parts of the world may enter climate regimes unseen in human history, especially given that no previous climate serves as a perfect analogy to the situation we now face.  Global and regional computer models are becoming ever more sophisticated, but they remain limited in their accuracy due to insufficient spatial resolution and inadequate knowledge of critical processes such as atmosphere-ocean coupling and cloud formation and dispersal.

Yet, like the second law of thermodynamics, the equivalence of gravitational and inertial mass, or renormalization in quantum electrodynamics, the concept of human-produced climate change is not something that one may choose to unquestionably believe in, or simply refuse to accept.  Rather, it is something that must be carefully examined, painstakingly compared with observations, and when found wanting in some aspects, subsequently reconciled with our growing knowledge of the planet upon which we live.


A world authority on solar-terrestrial physics, Bogdan began his scientific training at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, from which he graduated summa cum laude in 1979 with a degree in physics and mathematics. He earned a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago in 1984, specializing in plasma astrophysics, and came to UCAR as a postdoctoral researcher in NCAR's High Altitude Observatory, where he investigated solar magnetic activity and magnetohydrodynamics. He has completed advanced training programs in leadership and business management from the Federal Executive Institute and E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company.

As an administrator, Bogdan has extensive experience in the formulation and execution of complex plans, budgets, and priorities. An inspiring public speaker, he is a passionate advocate for the role of science in driving our global economic prosperity, safeguarding our national security, and bettering our society’s ability to cope with the changing world of the 21st century.

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