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EAPS establishes new program in atmospheres, oceans and cliate

The Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences has created a new program, the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate (PAOC), Professor Thomas Jordan, head of EAPS, has announced.

The program represents the latest development of a major aspect of the earth sciences at MIT. "The study of the Earth's climate -- past, present, and future -- is one of the most active research areas in the geosciences and also one of the most challenging, because the understanding of climate, and related issues like human-induced climate change, requires an integration across the full spectrum of disciplines that concern the Earth system," said Professor Jordan.

"The EAPS department has been deeply involved in climate research for some time through its activities in atmospheric science, oceanography, paleoclimatology and other fields. These activities continue to broaden, and our faculty and students are now interacting with a number of other MIT units, ranging from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to the economics department and Sloan School," he said.

"The PAOC initiative will set up a much-needed framework for integrating the department's program in climate education across all of these disciplines, providing both graduate and undergraduate students from EAPS and other departments with enhanced opportunities for studying the fascinating problems of climate and climate change."

PAOC is the successor organization to the Center for Meteorology and Physical Oceanography (CMPO) within EAPS.

Professor Jordan has appointed Professor Carl Wunsch, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography, as director of the new program.

PAOC includes all of the faculty and students constituting CMPO, but with the addition of faculty and students in hydrology, chemical oceanography, paleoclimatology and geophysics. These additions have been made in recognition of the importance of these fields in understanding Earth's climate. The disciplines involved in understanding climate also include fluid dynamics, statistical inference, computer science and applied mathematics.

PAOC faculty will continue to supervise existing degree programs in atmospheric sciences (including atmospheric chemistry and dynamics), and MIT's end of the physical oceanography part of the Joint Program in Oceanography with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

MIT has a long and distinguished history in the earth sciences. The Institute's founder, William Barton Rogers, was a well-known geologist, and the first meteorology department in the United States was established at MIT by the eminent Swedish meteorologist Carl-Gustav Rossby in the 1930s. The field has continued to evolve at the Institute, with the merger of the Department of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in 1983.

A Center for Global Change Science was established within the department in 1990, and the research carried on there will help support the educational programs within PAOC.

Professor Jordan thanked Professor Kerry Emanuel, outgoing director of CMPO, for his distinguished service as the director.

"For the last nine years, he has provided excellent leadership, both administratively and scientifically, to a superb organization. I am sure that, in the years ahead, PAOC will maintain CMPO's excellence and traditions," Professor Jordan said.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 19, 1997.

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