Newsletter No.1 January-1998

Hopes and Expectations for the Coming Year, 1998

On October 1,1997, the Frontier Research System for Global Change was started. At the same time, EL Nino struck with the greatest force ever in this century, and many abnormal meteorological events have been reported from various parts of the world, including dry weather in Indonesia and Australia and much rain in South America. At the beginning of December, 1997, the Kyoto Protocol which was the memorable first step taken toward the problem of Global Warming, was agreed upon despite a rough going. However, the Protocol adopted the "net" method of counting the absorption of the amount of carbon dioxide by forests. That is to say, the most ambiguous part in scientific calculations became the key to the settlement of environmental problems discussed at the Kyoto conference. So we, the scientists concerned, are not satisfied with this result.

The Frontier Research System for Global Change was established aiming at predicting natural variations and anthropogenic change of the global environment. The report " Toward the Realization of Global Change Prediction (July 1996)", by the Subcommittee on Earth Science and Technology, Council for Aeronauties, Electronics and Other Advanced Technologies, Science and Technology Agency, was a basis for our activities. In this report, with the rapid expanding of recent Japanese earth observations and the most advanced high speed computers of the world, providing the background, the following researches were proposed:
1) Observations of the global scale, 2) Computer modeling of the whole earth environment, 3) Basic researches of individual process, consisting of these researches as three main targets, and each result being feed-backed to one another, and finally aiming at realizing the prediction of earth variation. Among them, the Frontier planned to bear the burden of the individual process research, which has become a joint project of NASDA and JAMSTEC.

The Global Variations Research needs, as a matter of fact, cooperation of researchers from all over the world. The World Climate Research Program (WCRP) and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) have already been carried out, and Japanese researchers took part in these projects. From the start of the Program, we have incorporated US cooperation in global variations research into the Program, based on the US-Japan partnership. We also plan to reach our target, by incorporation of the results of researches at the centers abroad, i.e. the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) and the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) with that of the Institute for Global Change Research (IGCR) in Tokyo. Both of the Centers abroad were inaugurated in October, 1997. Almost at the same time, we were connected with the International Research Institute on Climate Prediction (IRI), which have been promoted by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) and was established recently.

At present, four research programs, i.e. on Climate Variations, Hydrological Cycle, Global Warming and their Integrated Modeling (Next-generation Climate Model Research,) have been made, each being supervised by a program director. In addition, at the IPRC and the IARC, their own research programs have been planned respectively, and placed under the control of each Center Director. The Program Director of the Global Warming Research Program is Dr. Shukuro Manabe, a visiting professor of Princeton Univ., who came back to Japan from the U.S after about 40 year's absence, and is famous for the global warming prediction research. He is also a pioneer and a top runner in climate research by computer modeling. At the time of the acceptance of applications for researchers last year, many excellent domestic and overseas applicants were gathered, and we had the opportunity to employ more talented individuals (including many from abroad) than we had previously supposed.
The Frontier has just started, and now we shall proceed with our full-scale researches. At present, 44 full-time researchers and 39 with additional posts have already been determined, and they have started their own activities respectively.

A feature of this Program is the working researchers system. That is to say, each contract term is limited, and the contract would be revised according to the progress of the research.
In addition, better salaries and benefits are offered to talented and hard working researchers corresponding to the necessity of the project; regardless of their ages and backgrounds.
They say that the whole of corporate Japan should transfer from the life-long employment system and the seniority system into a flexible employment system based on merit, making much of each personality, especially for the community of the researchers. Still we think it would take much time to realize this idea. As we try this new system with a step or two beforehand, we would like to harmonize our system with the communities of surrounding universities and research institutes, and taking advantage of the new system, we will find a way in which the researchers could satisfy and exhibit fully their abilities.

In 1998, the Frontier Research System started with a great deal of activity. The campaign of intensified observation of GAME (GEWEX-related Asian Monsoon Experiment) will be made the in the summer monsoon season. The indispensable satellite for that purpose, TRMM ( Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission), which was successfully launched in November, 1997, has been sending the world's first three-dimensional images obtained by the precipitation radar. JAMSTEC will start to deploy TRITON buoys, which can always watch oceanic and atmospheric variations in the tropical Pacific region. I hope in this new year the Frontier Research System will take off with "its engine" on full steam ahead toward its projected targets.


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