The Mathematics of Climate and the Environment

IHP, Paris, September 9 - December 21 2019

Deadline for financial support: March 15th, 2019

Registration is free however mandatory:

The Institut Henri Poincaré trimester “The Mathematics of Climate and the Environement” aims to explore the Climate System and the developments in mathematics that seem most promising in advancing the climate and environmental sciences.

Climate and the environment are playing an increasing role in the attempts of contemporary societies to maintain and increase their well-being. But the complexity of the climate system — and even more so of the entire Earth system, encompassing the biosphere and humans as well — requires the application of multiple scientific disciplines to describe and understand the full system’s complexity. This inherent multidisciplinarity, combined with the system’s intrinsic complexity, constitutes a serious obstacle to optimizing adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. A large range of numerical tools using different facets of mathematics are already operational and providing a great variety of services in meteorology, oceanography and hydrology. 

Climate modelling presents additional difficulties because it requires including highly heterogeneous sub- components, and appeals to an entire hierarchy of models, from the simplest conceptual ones and on to the computer-intensive giants with high numerical resolution and physical detail. Climate models are based on sound physical principles, have demonstrated their capacity to mimic many aspects of the observed climate system, and can be trusted for a number of simple predictions. Still, determining the limits of what the models can potentially predict and the confidence one can have in what they do predict remains an open problem. 

More generally, by its universality, mathematics can play a decisive role in bridging the gaps between the disciplines involved in the modern climate and environmental sciences. While this role was fairly well understood immediately after World War II, it has tended to be somewhat neglected during the 1980s and 1990s, as the role of large-scale computation and sophisticated instrumentation increased spectacularly. The accompanying increase of the data sets produced by massive simulation and observation of the atmosphere, oceans, land surface and other components of the climate system has led recently to a realization of the opportunities that the mathematical and statistical sciences offer in distilling these data sets into an increase of the system’s actionable understanding. 

The aim of the IHP trimester is to follows up on this realization, as represented by the hugely successful Year of Mathematics for Planet Earth and the subsequent activities in many countries. The developments in mathematics that seem most promising in advancing the climate and environmental sciences will be presented to the participants, and lead to significant further advances in the methodology and in the applications.