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Proposal | CMMAP Website


Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes  (CMMAP)

NSF Office of Integrative Activities

7/1/2006 – 6/30/2016


CMMAP’s research vision is to dramatically improve our ability to understand and predict the role of cloud processes in the climate system. Such predictions are made using climate models, which include physically based representations of the atmosphere, the ocean, the land-surface, and the cryosphere. The models run on the most powerful computers available. They are being used to forecast the climatic effects of anthropogenic changes in the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. These forecasts serve as input to policy decisions that have enormous economic implications for the U.S. and the world. Cloud feedbacks are the largest sources of uncertainty in climate-change predictions. A broad international community of reseachers is working to improve the representation of clouds in climate models. CMMAP’s unique role, within this larger community, is to take advantage of its academic setting, sustained funding, and talented research team to attack important research problems that are too risky to undertake in a mission-oriented center or laboratory. CMMAP’s research goals are to create a flexible new family of global atmospheric models based in part on explicit simulation of individual large clouds, with state-of-the art parameterizations of cloud particle formation, turbulence, and radiation. CMMAP models are used in “academic applications” focused on multiscale interactions of the atmosphere with the ocean (including sea ice) and the land-surface. We perform and analyze extended simulations of present and future climates, and critically evaluate the results using a wide range of observations. CMMAP’s research is important because our models, especially the Multiscale Modeling Framework, uniquely avoid the questionable closure approximations used to represent deep cumulus clouds in conventional models, while still running fast enough to be used in simulations of climate change.

Knowledge Transfer

CMMAP’s work benefits both climate modeling centers and numerical weather prediction centers. Our main Knowledge-Transfer partnership in the climate modeling arena is with the Community Climate System Model (CCSM) project, which is led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. CMMAP will collaborate with CCSM in connection with the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which will be completed in 2013. CMMAP and CCSM scientists will perform simulations of direct relevance to AR5, using CMMAP computing resources, and a unique model created by CMMAP using some components from the CCSM. Analysis of the simulation results will provide a basis for evaluation of the cloud-related feedbacks on climate change, in comparison with results from a conventional version of the CCSM. Our results will be provided as input to the IPCC’s Assessment. On the weather prediction side, CMMAP will continue its partnership with the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), and will also begin a new partnership with the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL). CMMAP will organize an international intercomparison of very high-resolution global dynamical cores.

In addition, CMMAP will organize both graduate university classes and summer schools aimed at training future global modelers. The content will deal with both the conceptual basis and the practical implementation of global models. Our goal is to create a national training resource for global modelers.

CMMAP will create a non-technical online publication, tentatively called ClimateSense, whose mission is to provide a venue for a multidisciplinary conversation surrounding the Earth’s climate and climate change, and to promote Earth-Science literacy.


According to Ralph Cicerone, the President of the National Academy of Sciences, “scientists are necessary but not sufficient to solve the climate problem.” CMMAP’s educational initiatives will both train necessary scientists and contribute to a sufficiently-educated larger culture. We will continue to support 25 graduate students at seven universities who are up to their eyeballs in the details of inventing the new multiscale models of the climate system.These students will be among the leadership of an emerging generation of climate scientists, and besides their outstanding scientific education they are being trained as professionals in teaching, writing, and research skills. They participate in summer workshops on proposal writing, supercomputing, classroom teaching, and in undergraduate teaching fellowships. They learn about the role of science in hte larger culture through intensive workshops in climate policy and in focus groups with school teachers and other community leaders. At the undergraduate level, we will offer three new courses in global change at CSU and Colorado College. CMMAP will support ChangingClimates @ CSU, a curriculum infusion program designed to enhance undergraduate climate content across all academic disciplines. We sponsor climate lectures attended by thousands of undergraduates each year, and have engaged over 80 faculty members from 37 departments, and are working to disseminate this approach to colleges and universities nationwide. CMMAP supports K-12 science and Earth Science education through the Little Shop of Physics (LSOP), which develops curricular materials and visits engages more than 20,000 students in public schools each year with its unique brand of hands-on inquiry-based investigations. Each year, we conduct classes for middle school science teachers, a summer camp for middle school students from underrepresented groups, and a statewide conference on climate change for high school students. Our educational materials are disseminated world-wide to teachers and students in both Spanish and English through the Windows to the Universe website, reaching over 20 million unique users each year.We will study, document, and disseminate experimental research on all these activities through structured partnerships with sociologists and educational psychologists.


Understanding the climate system and addressing the concerns of our society requires engagement with the full suite of cultural perspectives and the human capital of the larger US population. During Years 6 – 10, we will enhance connections between LSOP, SOARS and other diversity and education efforts. Our annual summer course on Teaching Climate will focus on schools with populations of students that are underrepresented in science fields. We will continue to work with Native American populations, building on the relationships we have already established with schools on Pine Ridge, Navajo, and Mountain Ute lands. We will continue to offer a one-week summer workshop on weather and climate as part of CSU’s participation in the NSF-supported Math-Science Partnership. CMMAP is participating in an NSF-sponsored initiative to develop a unique course on climate and global change to be taught at Tribal Colleges across the USA. Scott Denning and Raj Pandya attended the planning workshop for this activity in 2009, and will continue to participate in years one and two of the renewal.

We will conduct a transdisciplinary and multicultural conversation about climate change with leaders from diverse schools across our region, on native lands and in tribal colleges, in inner-city and rural farm communities, and with stakeholders and policymakers at various levels of government. We have designed and implemented a mostly qualitative study to track the experiences of women and men across ethnicities and nationalities from the undergraduate to the early postdoctoral years in Climate Science and related STEM fields. We will study how the atmospheric/climate science “leaky pipeline” can be made less porous using existing institutional data sets. .


The legacy of CMMAP will include important new modeling tools that are used to provide substantially more reliable predictions of climate change, as well as more accurate weather forecasts. Our most important legacy will be the cadre of diverse young scientists we have trained, who will share a sense of the context of their work in the larger culture, and the many thousands of K-12 students who we have influenced through the Little Shop of Physics and our Teacher Training course.