“We still have these huge cones of uncertainty,” added deputy director Galen McKinley, a professor of earth and environmental sciences who is based at Lamont-Doherty, part of the Columbia Climate School. “Our goal is to harness data from observations and simulations to better represent the underlying physics, chemistry, and biology of Earth’s climate system. More accurate models will help give us a clearer vision of the future.”
Dealing with massive data requires a modern infrastructure. In collaboration with Google Cloud and Microsoft, Ryan Abernathey, an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences based at Lamont-Doherty, will create a platform to allow researchers to share and analyze data.
To achieve its mission, the center will create a new discipline merging climate science with data science and AI. Carl Vondrick, an assistant professor of computer science, will lead the team developing new algorithms to advance the science of climate change and improve current models. Tian Zheng, a statistics professor and chair of the department, will lead a team developing undergraduate and graduate educational programs that blend climate science and data science, and classroom learning with research experience.
Climate change will affect all of humanity, yet most climate science research to date has failed to draw from the full diversity of people and ideas available. To address the imbalance, the center will make diversity, equity, and inclusion central to its research and education mission. Courtney D. Cogburn, an associate professor of social work and a member of the Data Science Institute, will oversee diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and the transfer of knowledge to communities most vulnerable to climate change.
“Confronting the threat of climate change will require our brightest minds and best technologies,” said Columbia Provost Mary Boyce. “The LEAP center, with its entwined research and education mission, will play a pivotal role in getting us there.”
Columbia will contribute to two other NSF Science and Technology Centers chosen for funding this year, joining Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in studying how ocean microbes impact carbon cycling and climate, and the University of Washington in developing optoelectronic materials, devices, and systems to generate, sense, and control light.
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