Inaugural Summer School – Using Satellite Observations to Advance Climate Models

JPL and the Keck Institute hosted their first summer school this year at Caltec, and I was lucky enough to be one of the 24 participants.

It was the first time and we were the guinea pigs – therefore some things could have run more smoothly of course. The lectures – on diverse topics but centered on the physics of climate models and remote sensing – were good, informative and accessible. But for me the value in attending was the discussions over dinner with Joao, Mike Ek and the other participants (from all around the world). Segueing from atmospheric physics to spatial differences in the education system to climate change in politics is fun!

JPL (the Jet Propulsion Lab, which is part of NASA) is rather better known for it’s off-planet activities which we saw on Wednesday afternoon. The Mars Rover project (pictured below) cost a cool 2.3 billion dollars. It remains to be seen how JPL will be affected by the cuts which saw the Space Shuttle shelved, but JPL seem to think that examining Earth is going to be an important element of their future. Certainly, the new Centre for Climate studies and summer school would seem to suggest that.

JPL’s motivation for hosting the summer school seems to have been two fold: to establish JPL as an important source of climate data by introducing themselves to the new generation of climate scientists; and to launch their new, accessibly formatted satellite data repository which is targeted towards climate modelers and scientists (rather than specialists in remote sensing).

I came away from the summer school with renewed enthusiasm (a nod to Johnathan Jiang’s big-picture-inspirational Universe Tour for that!), a better appreciation of the complexities and difficulties of both climate models and satellite data, and knowing a miscellany of great people across the world. (Oh, and a Keck mug which I bonded with during my stay…)