Contributing to
the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report
Frontier Research System for Global Change
Activities of Global Warming Research Program

Frontier Research System for Global Change (FRSGC) has been conducting process research to meet our goal "Toward the prediction of global change" since its establishment in 1997.

In this edition, we would like to introduce the research activities of the Global Warming Research Program in relation to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, and strategies for future model development, including an interview with Dr. Tatsushi Tokioka, who joined us as a Program Director in April 2003.

Dr. Tatsushi Tokioka
Program Director, Global Warming Research Program,
Frontier Research System for Global Change

Dr. Tokioka joined us in this April as a full-time program director, after Dr. Shukuro Manabe's return to the United Sates in November 2001, to lead a team of 19 researchers. What is the current work of your team?

Tokioka : We see our current challenge to reduce uncertainties in global warming projection, which means narrowing the range of the predicted values that project global temperatures to rise between 1.4ºC to 5.8ºC by the year 2100*. To meet this challenge, we must identify first the advantages of the current climate models and next the factors that cause uncertainty. We objectively evaluate and analyze the models as a Global Warming Research Program team. As a part of our efforts, we use current models to simulate characteristic climate conditions in the past, such as during the Ice Age, to test the models. Moreover, we have developed a biogeochemical oceanic general circulation model to serve as the ocean that affects atmospheric CO2 concentration significantly. This model includes not only physical and chemical processes but also marine ecosystems. Meanwhile, by utilizing the Earth Simulator, which started operation in March 2002 on the campus of the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center, Yokohama Institute for Earth Sciences, we are going to increase the model's resolution to achieve more accurate simulations.

We continue to follow Dr. Manabe's research organization focused on the three themes of global warming, paleoclimate, and carbon cycle. We strive to establish a research environment where each researcher can fully utilize his or her talents and specialties to produce good results.

What encouraged you to join the field of meteorology?

Tokioka : While I was in junior high school, I became interested in the study of weather in science class. I used to listen to weather reports on the radio every day starting from 4 p.m. and I drew weather maps. By drawing pressure contours, I identified such features as the location of low-pressure areas and the position of fronts. When I compared the maps of consecutive days, I could see the movement of low-pressure areas. Then I wondered why low pressures moved from west to east. Having just learned about the rotation of the Earth in science class, I was thinking that low pressures should move from east to west, opposite to the movement of the Earth's surface. Later, when I entered university, I realized that this question was a key to understanding atmospheric general circulation. I guess that my strong interest and curiosity in science during my junior high school years led me to study Earth systems.

In 1990, while you were engaged in research at the Japan Meteorological Agency, how did you get involved in the IPCC First Assessment Report?

Tokioka : The condition of the Earth's atmosphere is determined by the interaction of land, oceans, cryosphere and biosphere. However, until the 1970s, mainstream research dealt only with the atmospheric part. In the latter half of the 1980s, the Meteorological Research Institute of the Japan Meteorological Agency began developing models that incorporated the major parts of the climate system. Meanwhile, there was increasing momentum among scientists participating in the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) to send messages to policy makers in each country regarding the issue of the rising CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and global warming. IPCC was then founded in 1988. So we started an experiment with a model that combined the atmospheric general circulation model and the mixed-layer ocean model to study equilibrium climate change due to the doubling of atmospheric CO2. Dr. Manabe, the previous full-time program director, had already done a similar experiment 20 years before. Therefore, we placed our emphasis of study on changes in precipitation characteristics at the level of doubled CO2. I felt that changes in the hydrological cycle due to global warming were important from the viewpoint of the Earth's ecosystems and disaster prevention in our society. Our study on changes in precipitation characteristics under global warming was well received by the IPCC. So I was appointed as one of the lead authors for the IPCC First Assessment Report published in 1990. At the Meteorological Research Institute, we began new research on climate changes due to the gradual increase of atmospheric CO2 concentration, using a model where a mixed-layer ocean model is replaced by an oceanic general circulation model. We presented our results to the IPCC Second Assessment Report published in 1996.

What are some key points when conducting research related to global warming prediction and climate change mechanisms?

Tokioka : First, we would like to contribute to policy decisions by providing reliable information about global warming projection. Beyond that, we are also engaged in research and experiments to provide useful information for decision making, such as characteristic changes of typhoons, summer and winter monsoons, and extreme events over 100 years, which would significantly influence our lives. Considerable uncertainties exist in these changes. Therefore, we believe it is very important for us to understand these global change mechanisms to protect both our society and the natural ecosystem. We especially emphasize the importance of analysis of various output data to accurately understand them.

As the Director of the Global Warming Research Program, what are your efforts in relation to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report?

Tokioka : First, within this year, we plan to determine a climate model to be used to produce results, so that we can submit them to the next IPCC Assessment Report. Specifically, we are planning to conduct experiments with a high-resolution climate model, following several scenarios of atmospheric composition change in a time frame of 100 to 200 years. The Fourth Assessment Report is scheduled to be adopted in 2007. Although time is limited, we will try to do our best to present our results by enhancing research activities in the Global Warming Research Program. We will continue our studies on processes relevant to global warming, carbon cycle modeling, and paleo-climate. We will work not only with other FRSGC Programs, but also with other research groups, such as the Center for Climate System Research, University of Tokyo, the National Institute for Environmental Studies, and the Meteorological Research Institute.

Thank you very much.

*Prediction value presented by the IPCC in the Third Assessment Report in 2001.

By developing more accurate climate models and analyzing model outputs of global warming experiments, I would like to contribute to policy making that will lead to protection of the global environment.
Tatsushi Tokioka

After joining the Japan Meteorological Agency in 1971, Dr. Tokioka worked as a researcher on atmospheric general circulation and climate. For two years from 1974, he worked at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) for Dr. Akio Arakawa, one of the pioneers in the development of atmospheric general circulation models. After serving as a Head of the Office of Climate Programs in 1994, and as the director-general of the Sendai District Meteorological Observatory in 2001, Dr. Tokioka served as the president of the Meteorological College until April 1, 2003. He specializes in climate modelings and atmospheric general circulations, and he has dealt with a variety of climate prediction research.


Characteristics of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report and the Involvement of the FRSGC.
  • The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is scheduled to be adopted in 2007, and along with the Third Assessment Report published in 2001, it will serve as an important basis for international framework negotiations for the second commitment period (goal for reducing greenhouse gases by 2013-2017).

  • The IPCC evaluates the content of research papers presented by research organizations in other countries regarding the prediction of climate changes related to greenhouse gases, and countermeasures for the impact on nature and the economy, and compiles these papers as the IPCC Assessment Report.

  • Main points of the Fourth Assessment Report
    Concepts such as climate models (simulation of climate values and seasonal changes), paleoclimate, causes for climate variations and changes, and predictions utilizing climate models, have been listed by the sub-committee. Following the examination of these main points, they are to be approved along with a publication plan at the 21st IPCC Conference to be held in November 2003.

  • Schedule of the main events for developing the Fourth Assessment Report

    November 3-7, 2003: 21st IPCC Conference (discussion and approval of main points and plan for publication)
    November 2003: IPCC secretariat accepts applications for authors and proofreaders from research organizations and other countries.
    April 2004: IPCC and sub-committee bureau select authors and proofreaders.
    June 2004 and thereafter: First meeting for lead authors (CLA/LA)

To actively contribute to this process, the FRSGC has been conducting research on climate change prediction to be presented as research papers in all programs. Moreover, last year, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology began its Project for the Sustainable Coexistence of Humans, Nature, and the Earth, which was designed to develop models for global warming and hydrologic cycles. The FRSGC participates in this project, and is developing integrated models that can simulate global changes that result from the interaction of climate, atmospheric conditions, marine composition, and land and marine ecosystems, as well as in highly precise global warming predictions, including feedback for the carbon cycle using integrated models.

Frontier Newsletter/No.23
<< BACK / TOP / NEXT >>