The Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) has obtained 5 million euros this year from European funds in competition with other international institutions to finance five new research projects aimed at studying processes related to climate change and its effects on health, society and the environment. The projects will be managed by the BSC's Earth Sciences Department, an international reference in the study of climate prediction and evolution, atmospheric composition and the development of climate and air quality services.
Currently, the BSC is working on 56 projects related to climate change and its impact on society, generating essential information for key socioeconomic sectors especially affected by climate variability, such as agriculture, energy, water management or health. Likewise, the Earth Sciences Department makes important contributions to understanding and reducing the effect of extreme weather events such as droughts, hurricanes, floods and heatwaves.
An important part of these initiatives, including the five recently granted projects, is aimed at developing what are known as climate services, solutions based on scientific evidence designed so that society can better mitigate or adapt to the effects of climate change. Thanks to mathematical models able to represent the Earth system and the BSC's supercomputing capabilities, scientists can predict future climate conditions over different time horizons, from a few weeks to several decades, facilitating decision-making in climate-vulnerable sectors.
"Climate services provide climate information relevant to different sectors taking into account their needs and the context in which they use it. This information is co-designed and co-produced with users, using the most appropriate climate data sources, as well as a combination of the most relevant technology and social science developments. The climate information generated, when developed in close collaboration with those who will use it and taking into account their values and power relations, is the most useful way to support climate adaptation and climate change mitigation strategies," says ICREA Professor Francisco Doblas, head of the BSC's Earth Sciences Department.
Research to capture CO2 from the atmosphere or to address the health threats posed by climate change
Among the five new projects awarded by the European Commission, all of them linked to the development of climate services, two are led by the BSC. RESCUE (acronym for Response of the Earth System to overshoot, Climate neUtrality and negative Emissions), funded with eight million euros, of which the BSC receives 1.3 million, aims to investigate new strategies to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, those that contribute to global warming. The reaction of the climate and the Earth system to a possible stabilization of temperatures as a result of reduced emissions will also be studied in this project.
The second new project led by the BSC is Climateurope2, funded with 8.7 million euros, of which the BSC receives 1.7 million. The main objective of the project is to connect and support the community working on the development of climate services in Europe, as well as to promote the standardization of processes to establish good practices that ensure user confidence in the services being developed. Under the leadership of the BSC, Climateurope2 counts with the participation of 31 European institutions, among them some as outstanding as the British Met Office or the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).
The BSC also participates as a partner in three other European projects that provide in total two million euros more. Two of these, CATALYSE (Climate Action To Advance HeaLthY Societies in Europe) and IDAlert (Infectious Disease decision-support tools and Alert systems to build climate Resilience to emerging health Threats), are aimed at strengthening Europe's capacity to cope with emerging threats to human health posed by climate change.
"One of the goals we have set for the coming years is to study the relationship between climate and health. We have just gone through a significant heatwave and we know that high temperatures have a direct effect on people's health, especially in urban areas because of what is known as the heat island effect," explains Albert Soret, leader of the Earth System Services group at BSC, an interdisciplinary team that develops tools and methodologies in collaboration with end users to improve decision making in terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
"In addition, indirectly, climate change implies other threats, such as the spread to new territories of infectious diseases transmitted to humans by vectors such as mosquitoes or ticks," says Rachel Lowe, ICREA professor and leader of the Global Health Resilience team, which investigates the impact of global environmental changes on the risk of infectious diseases. Lowe is also Executive Director of Lancet Countdown in Europe, a transdisciplinary collaboration that monitors progress on health and climate change on the continent, to which CATALYSE and IDAlert will contribute.
The third project in which BSC is a partner, called FOCI (Non-CO2 Forcers and their Climate, Weather, Air Quality and Health Impacts), will investigate the impact on climate and health of pollutants other than carbon dioxide, such as particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), ozone or methane.
"The BSC has been conducting research in climate services for years. Over time and with the interdisciplinary approach it has adopted, which mixes technology, climate science and social sciences in the same environment, it has become a key player at the European level. The alignment of these projects represents a unique opportunity for the BSC, and for Spain, to investigate the development of services that respond to the climate challenge we face. They will allow us to continue research at the highest level on, among other things, how to develop global climate models that meet the needs of a wide range of users with whom the BSC has been interacting with an approach that puts their needs at the centre of our interest," concludes Francisco Doblas.