In March 2014, a technical support unit (TSU) of ten, headquartered at Global Ecology, had successfully completed a herculean management effort for the 2000-page assessment Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, including two summaries. They were issued by the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Working Group II co-chaired by Chris Field, Global Ecology director, with science co-directors Katie Mach and Mike Mastrandrea managing the input of over 190 governments and nearly 2,000 experts from around the world.

The IPCC, established in 1988, assesses information about climate change and its impacts. In September 2008, Field was appointed co-chair of Working Group II. The process, managed by the TSU, was prescribed by the IPCC to ensure that the report is comprehensive; to incorporate government and scientists’ reviews; to be policy relevant and neutral; and to conduct a line-by-line approval of the 32-page policymaker summary. Image courtesy IPCC


Government representatives began by itemizing the topics to address, which were used to produce the outline in July 2009. The report expanded from the fourth assessment with 10 new chapters, including a broader ocean assessment and material on poverty, human security, livelihood, and urban and rural areas.

From January to June 2010, governments and organizations nominated 1,200 experts. Some 242 lead authors and 66 review editors were elected five months later. In all 1,774 experts were enlisted and the outline was refined.

Experts reviewed thousands of sources; over 12, 000 references were cited.  The report went through two extensive rounds of review, one in the summer of 2012, and the other in the spring of 2013.  Over 50,000 comments were addressed.

Mach and Mastrandrea worked with the co-chairs to produce the summaries—a 100-page technical summary and the high-profile 32-page policymaker summary. Their perspective allowed them to see the patterns, similarities, and overlap among the different topics to highlight the most important findings. The policymaker summary was sent for government review in October 2013, with Mach and Mastrandrea coordinating the comment response process.

As a last step, the policymaker summary went through a line-by-line approval process at a March 2014 meeting in Japan. Government representatives, scientists, and others gathered in an auditorium for a 5-day, virtually non-stop review co-chaired by Field and Vicente Barros. Every line was scrutinized aloud. In the end, all IPCC governments and scientists were in full consensus of the content.



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November 27, 2018

Washington, DC—Carnegie’s Anna Michalak was a major contributor to the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report released last Friday, which provides a current state-of-the-science assessment of the carbon cycle in North America—including the United States, Canada, and Mexico—and  its connection to climate and society.

Over the past decade, fossil fuel emissions continued to be by far the largest North American carbon source. Urban areas in North America are the primary source of anthropogenic carbon emissions.

But land ecosystems and the ocean play a major role in removing and sequestering carbon

October 29, 2018

Washington, DC—Today, Paul G. Allen Philanthropies and a consortium of partners, including Carnegie, unveiled the Allen Coral Atlas, a pioneering effort that uses high-resolution satellite imagery and advanced analytics to map and monitor the world’s coral reefs in unprecedented detail. At launch, the Allen Coral Atlas offers the highest-resolution, up-to-date global image of the world’s coral reefs ever captured, and the first detailed maps showing the composition and structure of five important reefs located throughout the world.

“Paul challenged us with a bold and audacious goal—save coral reefs around the world,” said Bill Hilf, CEO of

Smokestacks photo from the public domain
August 16, 2018

Washington, DC— When it comes to aerosol pollution, as the old real estate adage says, location is everything.

Aerosols are tiny particles that are spewed into the atmosphere by human activities, including burning coal and wood. They have negative effects on air quality—damaging human health and agricultural productivity.

While greenhouse gases cause warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere, some aerosols can have a cooling effect on the climate—similar to how emissions from a major volcanic eruption can cause global temperatures to drop.  This occurs because the aerosol particles cause more of the Sun’s light to be reflected away from the

August 7, 2018

New research, led by former Carnegie postdoctoral fellow Summer Praetorius, shows that changes in the heat flow of the northern Pacific Ocean may have a larger effect on the Arctic climate than previously thought. The findings are published in the August 7, 2018, issue of Nature Communications.

The Arctic is experiencing larger and more rapid increases in temperature from global warming more than any other region, with sea-ice declining faster than predicted. This effect, known as Arctic amplification, is a well-established response that involves many positive feedback mechanisms in polar regions.

What has not been well understood is how sea-surface temperature patterns and

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Anna Michalak’s team combined sampling and satellite-based observations of Lake Erie with computer simulations and determined that the 2011 record-breaking algal bloom in the lake was triggered by long-term agricultural practices coupled with extreme precipitation, followed by weak lake circulation and warm temperatures. The bloom began in the western region in mid-July and covered an area of 230 square miles (600 km2). At its peak in October, the bloom had expanded to over 1930 square miles (5000 km2). Its peak intensity was over 3 times greater than any other bloom on record. The scientists predicted that, unless agricultural policies change, the lake will continue to experience

Coral reefs are havens for marine biodiversity and underpin the economies of many coastal communities. But they are very sensitive to changes in ocean chemistry resulting from greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to pollution, warming waters, overdevelopment, and overfishing. Reefs use a mineral called aragonite, a naturally occurring form of calcium carbonate, CaCO3, to make their skeletons.  When carbon dioxide, CO2, from the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, it forms carbonic acid—the same stuff that makes soda fizz--making the ocean more acidic and thus more difficult for many marine organisms to grow their shells and skeletons and threatening coral reefs globally.

Chris Field is a co-principal investigator of the Jasper Ridge Global Change Experiment at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve in northern California. The site, designed to exploit grasslands as models for understanding how ecosystems may respond to climate change, hosts a number of studies of the potential effects from elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide, elevated temperature, increased precipitation, and increased nitrogen deposition. The site houses experimental plots that replicate all possible combinations of the four treatments and additional sampling sites that control for the effects of project infrastructure. Studies focus on several integrated ecosystem responses to the

Until now, computer models have been the primary tool for estimating photosynthetic productivity on a global scale. They are based on estimating a measure for plant energy called gross primary production (GPP), which is the rate at which plants capture and store a unit of chemical energy as biomass over a specific time. Joe Berry was part of a team that took an entirely new approach by using satellite technology to measure light that is emitted by plant leaves as a byproduct of photosynthesis as shown by the artwork.

The plant produces fluorescent light when sunlight excites the photosynthetic pigment chlorophyll. Satellite instruments sense this fluorescence yielding a direct

Staff Associate Kamena Kostova joined the Department of Embryology in November 2018. She studies ribosomes, the factory-like structures inside cells that produce proteins. Scientists have known about ribosome structure, function, and biogenesis for some time. But, a major unanswered question is how cells monitor the integrity of the ribosome itself. Problems with ribosomes have been associated with diseases including neurodegeneration and cancer. The Kostova lab investigates the fundamental question of how cells respond when their ribosomes break down using mass spectrometry, functional genomics methods, and CRISPR genome editing.

Kostova received a B.S. in Biology from the

Sally June Tracy applies cutting-edge experimental and analytical techniques to understand the fundamental physical behavior of materials at extreme conditions. She uses dynamic compression techniques with high-flux X-ray sources to probe the structural changes and phase transitions in materials at conditions that mimic impacts and the interiors of terrestrial and exoplanets. She is also an expert in nuclear resonant scattering and synchrotron X-ray diffraction. She uses these techniques to understand novel behavior at the electronic level.  Tracy received her Ph.D. from the California Institute of

The Ludington lab investigates complex ecological dynamics from microbial community interactions using the fruit fly  Drosophila melanogaster. The fruit fly gut carries numerous microbial species, which can be cultured in the lab. The goal is to understand the gut ecology and how it relates to host health, among other questions, by taking advantage of the fast time-scale and ease of studying the fruit fly in controlled experiments. 

Nick Konidaris is a staff scientist at the Carnegie Observatories and Instrument Lead for the SDSS-V Local Volume Mapper (LVM). He works on a broad range of new optical instrumentation projects in astronomy and remote sensing. Nick's projects range from experimental to large workhorse facilities. On the experimental side, he recently began working on a new development platform for the 40-inch Swope telescope at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory that will be used to explore and understand the explosive universe.

 Nick and his colleagues at the Department of Global Ecology are leveraging the work on Swope to develop a new airborne spectrograph that will be