THE GEOPHYSICAL FLUID Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) is a laboratory in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). The GFDL aims to produce reliable knowledge and assessments of natural climate variability and anthropogenic changes. It also seeks to develop the required Earth System Models. The Laboratory is housed at the Forrestall Campus of Princeton University. The GFDL has pioneered the study of global warming as it developed the first climate models to study the phenomenon. It has also contributed the first comprehen sive ocean prediction codes, and the first dynamical models with significant skill in hurricane track and intensity predictions. Most of the research within the laboratory centers around the development of Earth System Models for assessment of natural and human-induced climate change
The GFDL is involved in research to expand the scientific understanding of the physical processes that govern the atmosphere and the oceans as complex fluid systems. These systems can then be modeled mathematically and can be studied by computer simulation methods. The GDLF includes 300 researchers from all over the world. It is divided into branches. The Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry unit focuses on processes that impact the vertical structure of the atmosphere, such as convection and radiation. The group is particularly interested in the role of aerosols in climate change. The Biospheric Processes unit studies interactions between the physical climate and bio-geochemical systems, and is the center for the development of GFDL's Earth System Model. The Climate Diagnostics unit compares observational datasets with models, and uses models to isolate key processes that regulate inter-annual variability in the ocean and atmosphere. The Climate Dynamics and Prediction unit is the largest group in the lab and is in charge of developing numerical models for climate predictions and projections. These predictions can range from seasonal-to-centennial timescales. Major projects include the development of El Niño predictions for seasonal forecasting, and the production of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change- (IPCC) class climate models. The Oceans and Climate section deals with the role of oceans in the large-scale climate system and with the development of numerical codes to simulate the ocean. Finally, the Weather and Atmospheric Dynamics unit works on the dynamics of the atmosphere, with particular attention to the interactions between waves and turbulence and the large-scale flow. The group is in charge to devise the GFDL's hurricane model.
The GFDL was first established in 1955, as the General Circulation Research Sector of the U.S. Weather Bureau and American meteorologist Joseph Smago-rinsky was its first director. The General Circulation Research Sector was initially based in Washington, D.C., and began to study ways to represent the circulation of the atmosphere with computer models. Due to postwar tensions, the American Government was eager to fund projects in geophysics and computers, so Smagorinsky was able to develop his Research Sector and attract important meteorologists to work there, including climate modeler Syukuro Manabe and ocean modeler Kirk Bryan. In 1959, the group slightly modified its name becoming the General Circulation Research Laboratory. It took its current name in 1963 and, five years later, moved to Princeton University. The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory was one of the first institutions to devote its attention to the phenomenon of global warming in the late 1960s. It produced one of the first estimates of the impact of CO2 emissions on climate.
The GFDL has continued to research the phenomenon of global warming. It has warned that the strongest hurricanes in the present climate will be replaced by even more intense ones over the next century as the Earth's climate is warmed by increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The computer simulations conducted at the GFDL have shown that the warming due to increasing greenhouse gases concentration will not be uniform throughout the globe. It will be faster over land masses than over oceans. In addition, computer simulations point out that the most intense warming will take place in winter months in the areas of North America and north-central Asia. Summer warming will be accompanied by drier land in many regions. Computer models designed by the Laboratory also agree that air temperatures of the Artic surface are extremely sensitive to climate change, doubling twice as fast as the global average. Over its 50-year history, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory has played a leading role in the development of computer models to predict the behavior of the atmosphere and the oceans, as well as their roles in climate change.
SEE ALSO: Climate Cycles; Hurricanes and Typhoons; Weather.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. David R. Brillinger, et. al., Time Series Analysis and Applications to Geophysical Systems (Springer, 2004); Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, www.gfdl.noaa. gov (cited November 2007); Spencer Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming (Harvard University Press, 2004).
Luca Prono University of Nottingham
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