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Andrea Frank
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C. Adam Schlosser
Research Scientist for the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

What are you working on?

My general area of research is global hydrological and ecological systems and how they relate to global climate change. Specifi cally, my role here in the laboratory is to work with physical scientists, ecologists, energy research scientists, global policy researchers, and economists to put together what we call a global integrated systems model. As you would probably expect, it’s hard to do an experiment on nature. We basically use computer models to do these sorts of investigations. My role has been to use computerized
representations of hydrological and ecological systems and fi nd ways to link those systems with the physical climate system, the atmosphere, and the global economy in an idealized, computerized environment.

I’ve been working with a senior faculty member in the economics department, and with a post-doctorate researcher, trying to see if we can actually fi nd relationships between how climate changes and how people respond to those climate changes in terms of industrial and domestic energy consumption. We run scenarios of climate futures and examine how those integrated systems respond to what we think may happen to the global environment.

Recently, a Gallup poll surveyed people––Americans, I believe––about their greatest concerns. The top two were what you’d expect: the war in Iraq and the economy. The environment was way down the list. Global warming was not in the top five. The top concerns were all related to water availability, water quality, and the security of our water systems. Where is our water is going? How do we use it? Is it contaminated? Is it toxic?
What can we do about these things? These topics are close to my heart.

Primarily, my background has been global hydrology. We use models and data to understand not only what nature does, but also how these global hydrological systems respond when we impose change on the global system. What can we do to potentially mitigate any adversities or scarcities in water supplies for the future? Of course there is concern regarding the water supply, but I’m also very concerned about how the global water cycle changes with climate change. Do the frequencies of droughts and floods change as climate changes?

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Andrea Frank