UA Scientist to Help Write International Climate Report
Jonathan Overpeck will be a lead author of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chapter on terrestrial and inland water systems.

By Stephanie Doster, Institute of the Environment
July 1, 2010

A University of Arizona geosciences and atmospheric sciences professor has been selected to help write a new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, assessment report designed to further advance knowledge on all aspects of climate change.

Jonathan Overpeck, who also co-directs the Institute of the Environment, will be a lead author of a chapter on terrestrial and inland water systems in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report and a member of the report's Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability working group.

That group will assess "the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it. It also takes into consideration the inter-relationship between vulnerability, adaptation and sustainable development," according to the IPCC.

"The new IPCC assessment, and especially our chapter, will be of particular importance to Arizona and the Southwest because our home state and region is already seeing climate change impacts that are serious," Overpeck said. "We have to understand these impacts, and provide policy makers and the public with options for dealing with them."

The IPCC received about 3,000 nominations from experts around the globe to contribute to the report; only 831 were chosen. The assessment is scheduled to be released between 2013 and 2014.

"It's exciting to have been asked to join what looks like a highly qualified scientific team," Overpeck said. "The goal of our effort is not to do new research, but rather to assess the current state-of-the-art as represented primarily in the peer-reviewed scientific literature."

Overpeck is a veteran of the IPCC assessment reports. In the panel's 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, he was one of only 33 coordinating lead authors for the Working Group I report on the Physical Science Basis of climate change. He co-led the first-ever chapter on paleoclimate and co-authored the Summary for Policymakers and the Technical Summary for the entire report.

"After being so heavily involved in assessing how the Earth's climate was changing, and why, it will be quite interesting to focus instead on the impacts of climate change, as well as options for dealing with these impacts," Overpeck said.

The Fourth Assessment Report, which centered on the science of climate change, presented expert consensus on greenhouse gas levels, global land and ocean temperatures, sea level rising, changes in sea ice and projections of future change.

As a result, the IPCC was one of the winners of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, along with former Vice President Al Gore, "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change," according to the Nobel Prize Website.

A faculty member at the UA since 1999, Overpeck received his undergraduate degree in geology from Hamilton College and his advanced degrees from Brown University. After graduation, he spent five years as a research scientist at Columbia University before moving on to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to build its paleoclimatology program.

His research focuses on climate science, paleoenvironmental science, and understanding the connections between key parts of the Earth's climate system.

The IPCC, a group representing over 180 governments, operates under the auspices of the U.N. Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization. It commissions assessments of global climate change by hundreds of scientists who are experts in the field.


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Jonathan Overpeck

Institute of the Environment