IMAGe Theme of the Year
Summer Graduate School on Mathematics of Climate Change

Boulder, CO   12 - 23 July 2010
Location: National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado

Goals: It is generally accepted in the scientific community that the world is undergoing a significant change in its climate. Mathematical models play a central role in climate change research. The goal of this summer graduate workshop is to introduce students to some of the central ideas and techniques of mathematical climate science and engage them in the process of uncovering the key mathematical problems of the area. It is also an opportunity for students to meet peers from diverse backgrounds in the mathematical sciences and gain experience working as a team on projects.


Summer School Content

The first week of the workshop will be an organized program of lectures, attendant discussions and computer labs. Themes will be drawn from:
  • Introduction to climate issues and historical climate data
  • Basic climate modeling: balance and box models
  • Modeling climate process and their interactions
  • Large climate models
  • Dynamics and stochastics of conceptual models
  • Mathematical techniques
  • Prediction and uncertainty
  • Statistical analysis of data
  • Data assimilation

During the second week, the school will switch to independent student research projects, interwoven with organized lectures on supporting topics. The projects will be computationally based and students will collaborate in teams and be guided by both early career and senior researchers. The emphasis of these activities will be on developing ideas for solving problems that offer insight into the key issues of climate science. Students will also be mentored in preparing written reports and presentations of their work.

In addition to the research projects, students, faculty and NCAR scientists will form working groups to brainstorm on mathematical challenges in climate science. These working groups will provide an exciting opportunity for the students to be a part of a high-level effort to grapple with difficult questions and forge research directions that promise impact on both mathematical and climate change research.


Students should be enrolled in a graduate level mathematics or geoscience program. Students should also have some familiarity with one of the following mathematical topics: dynamical systems, statistics for spatial and temporal data, process modeling using differential equations, applied probability, turbulence or the geoscience topics: data assimilation, numerical modeling, parameterizations and process studies. Although one goal of the school is to expose a broad cross section of students in the mathematical sciences to this interdisciplinary area, some basic knowledge in one or more of these areas will make it easier for a student to participate.

It is strongly recommended that students arrange to bring a laptop that is suitable for some computation along with a high level programming environment, such as Matlab or R, for data analysis and computing. Some familiarity with these languages is recommended but not necessary. There will be limited number of Matlab licenses available for this school and help downloading and installing R (Link), which is free.

Students from the previous summer school at MSRI on math and climate are not eligible to apply as students but can apply as teaching assistants. Please write the organizers to indicate this interest.

Application procedure

Funding is available to support attendance with special emphasis given to graduate students and other young researchers. Typically support will include travel to Boulder, lodging and a modest per diem. Students who are not working directly on the workshop topics yet have an interest in the program, are encouraged to apply, as are members of under-represented groups.
There are two ways to apply for the workshop:
  • If you are a student at an MSRI sponsoring institution please consult your institution's representative to be nominated . See instructions at MSRI's Summer Graduate Workshop page.
  • If you are unable to secure a nomination through an MSRI sponsor, please submit the following materials: A letter of application stating your research interests and indicate whether you wish to be considered for financial support.
    If you are a graduate student, please include a brief description of relevant coursework (or CV) and training and a short letter of recommendation from a faculty advisor. These can be in the form of a Word or pdf document and should be emailed to . Also register your application with NCAR Summer School Application Form .

We expect to support a total of 40 students: 30 through MSRI nominations and 10 through direct NCAR applications. Prospective students are encouraged to write the organizers with questions concerning background knowledge for the school or with the application procedure.

Notifications will be sent out the first week in April


Sponsoring Centers

NCAR: The National Center for Atmospheric Research supports scientific research on nearly every aspect of the atmosphere and related components of the Earth's physical and biological systems. This includes developing state-of-the- art climate models, high performance computing and also innovative ways of observing the atmosphere and oceans. The Center has approximately 1000 staff and is supported primarily by the National Science Foundation. Part of the NCAR mission is to engage students in the problems of understanding climate and weather and so provides an ideal context for this summer graduate workshop.
The workshop is also part a larger program at NCAR through the Institute for Mathematics Applied to Geosciences: Mathematicians and Climate.

Theme-of-the-Year The IMAGe Theme-of-the-Year (TOY) is a year-long focus on some aspect of applied mathematics and the geosciences, designed to advance research and education between the mathematical and the geoscience communities. Typically TOY sponsors a series of workshops or schools along with a visitor program, coordinates with NCAR science groups and partners with other mathematics institutes.

MSRI: The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) exists to further mathematical research through broadly based programs in the mathematical sciences and closely related activities. From its beginning in 1982 the Institute has been primarily funded by the NSF with additional support from other government agencies, private foundations, and academic and corporate sponsors. Now more than 1500 mathematical scientists visit MSRI each year, many for substantial periods.