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April 2009

Mathematics and Climate

The American Mathematical Society, the American Statistical Association, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics announce that the theme for Mathematics Awareness Month, April 2009, is Mathematics and Climate.

One of the most important challenges of our time is modeling global climate. Some of the fundamental questions researchers are currently addressing are:

  • How long will the summer Arctic sea ice pack survive?
  • Are hurricanes and other severe weather events getting stronger?
  • How much will sea level rise as ice sheets melt?
  • How do human activities affect climate change?
  • How is global climate monitored?

Calculus, differential equations, numerical analysis, probability, and statistics are just some of the areas of mathematics used to understand the oceans, atmosphere, and polar ice caps, and the complex interactions among these vast systems. Indeed, analyzing feedback effects is a crucial component of global climate modeling and often a significant factor in long-term predictions. For example, warmer temperatures cause ice to melt, exposing more land and water, so that more sunlight is absorbed-instead of being reflected, in turn leading to more warming.

Mathematics, computer science, and other sciences are inextricably linked, and each is required to begin to solve the fundamental questions about earth's climate, particularly those concerning global warming. Moreover, math and science are central to the development of both traditional and alternative energy sources, and to the evolution of other strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change.

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