Category: Shepherd

Shepherd: shell game with climate science


As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Science rolls out its fifth assessment report this week, Athletic Association Professor and president of the American Meteorological Society J. Marshall Shepherd weighs in on the need for common sense on climate change:

For me, the hat with the ball from the IPCC report is that it continues to affirm that our planet is warming, and humans are a significant contributor to the warming.

Andrew Dessler, professor and author of "Introduction to Modern Climate Change," noted in a recent phone conversation the remarkable consistency in the main conclusions of every previous IPCC report. The analysis also provides measured thoughts on implications for the frequency and intensity of certain extreme weather events.

Extreme weather and climate directly affect many aspects of society, including public health, agriculture and national security. Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, has noted that climate change is the biggest new threat to Pacific security.
Greenland adapts to climate change Greenland adapts to climate change

Recently, an elderly man from my church said, "Doc, what's going on? The weather is different." For a public increasingly inquisitive about what they see around them, it is important to be aware of the distracting hats whizzing around and to keep your eye on the hat with the ball.

Many recent discussions have focused on "uncertainty." Yes, topics of uncertainty exist in climate science as in any science, but this does not render the science unusable. Most readers would take an umbrella or expect rain if the weather forecast called for a 95% or greater chance of rain. How silly would it sound to say, "Don't bother getting an umbrella because there is 5% uncertainty in that forecast"?

Our thanks to Dr. Shepherd and others for their willingness to weigh in on this important issue - easily the most important issue of our day. UGA is committed to the work of its research scientists, whose work is critical to the mission of the university.

A note to media: reporters who wish to contact Shepherd or other UGA research scientists on the subject of the new IPCC report should contact the Franklin College communications office at or 706.542.3331.

Shepherd at Senate Climate Hearing today


Professor and director of the UGA Atmospheric Sciences Program in the department of geography Marshall Shepherd will testify before a U.S. Senate Committee this morning. Per the AMS blog:

The Senate Committee on Environment and Infrastructure, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer, has already lined up a session on the “Latest Climate Science” for this morning, at 10 a.m. EST. The blue-ribbon panel of invited experts providing testimony includes AMS President J. Marshall Shepherd and you can follow the live webcast of the hearing at the committee’s website.

The hearing originally looked like a relatively routine overview of science following the release of the newly drafted National Climate Assessment, but now it is charged by the President’s new resolve to begin dealing with climate change, with or without Congressional input.

Shepherd is President of the American Meteorological Society. 

Update: and here's an image from the briefing:

senate panel briefing on the latest climate science

Shepherd and Yager challenge 'Zombie theories' on climate change


Global CO2 map, July03American Meteorological Society president Marshall Shepherd, Patricia Yager of marine sciences, and other UGA colleagues courageously wade into the public debate on climate change:

As author Upton Sinclair noted, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on him not understanding it.” While economists and policymakers focus on policy solutions, our goal here is to clarify several erroneous statements in McClanahan’s commentary.
Scientists have used the phrase “climate change” for decades. While “global warming” is an example of climate change, so are changes in drought frequencies, Arctic sea ice, hurricane intensities, etc. If a child is sick with multiple symptoms of flu, is it accurate to say she just has a fever? Warming from greenhouse gas emissions has implications for the climate far beyond temperature.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides public-access data confirming “average temperature in the United States for 2012 was ... 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, and 1.0 degree above 1998, the previous warmest year” in the United States. It is also well-documented that over the last several decades, we have experienced far more record-high temperatures than record-low temperatures. Up to the early 1970s, numbers of record high- and record-low temperatures were about even.

This editorial contribution is not only courageous but also an important part of their duties as public-spirited scientists and scholars. Fighting misinformation in the public sphere on complex matters of great importance is a difficult task - and vested interests rely on apathy on the part of those who know, as well as ambivalence on the part of those who don't want to know. It's quite easy, after all, to sow doubt among those whom the status quo favors. That Sheperd, Yager, Mohan and Porter feel a sense of responsibility to speak up says much about our faculty. Their calm reliance on facts and evidence is reassuring, even if what we are doing to the planet is not.

Image: Global map of carbon dioxide concentrations from July 2003, courtesy of Goddard Space Flight Center - Aqua Project Science, via Wikimedia Commons.

Shepherd and Knox opine on Sandy and forecasting in the AJC


How do we understand the potential of a megastorm like Sandy, currently battering the East coast of the U.S.? Geography professors Marshall Shepherd and John Knox explain in an Op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Advances in numerical weather forecasting during the past several decades have extended our ability to see into the future. In September 1938, before all of these advances, a hurricane devastated Long Island and much of New England. No hurricane warnings were ever issued prior to its arrival. Today, thanks to satellites, weather balloons, supercomputers and skilled forecasters, we are often able to anticipate hazardous weather up to a week in advance.

The computer forecast models are in consensus on the megastorm diagnosis at the time of this writing. The chance that the storm will treat us to a deviation out to sea is increasingly unlikely. But while we wait, the various scenarios provide a backdrop for addressing some critical issues facing the field of weather-climate analysis, as well as the safety and economic interests of U.S. citizens.

Thanks to these knowledgeable faculty members for getting their expertise out into the public to advocate on crucial policy issues in a timely manner.

warming climate uneven, state by state


The NY Times Green blog has an interesting post on global warming trends, as illustrated by a nice interactive map produced by Climate Central.

Alongside overall warming trends, the maps show how some states are lagging in warming trends compared to others. Tthe reporter quotes UGA professor and director of the Atmospheric Sciences program, Marshall Shepherd, president-elect of the American Metoerological Society, on the phenomena of 'warming holes' to explain these variations:

The particulate pollution in the air reflects sunlight back into space before it has a chance to warm the atmosphere.

Another theory is that Southeastern tree-planting efforts (afforestation) in the mid-1900s may have slowed warming there by absorbing carbon dioxide, Dr. Shepherd said. Whatever once kept those states cooler, though, has apparently quit working, and “the Southeast is now warming with the rest of the world,” he said.

Climate change: the new normal


And speaking of Dr. Shepherd, he was quoted on the New York Times Green blog this weekend, per how he answers questions related to the changing global climate:

Climate scientists, like the rest of us, have friends and relatives who wonder what is happening. So I asked the scientists: When you see your extended family over Thanksgiving or Christmas and they ask about the weather, what do you tell them?

“My answer on that has evolved,” replied one, J. Marshall Shepherd. He’s the head of atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia and the president-elect of the American Meteorological Society, the leading group for scientists seeking to understand and predict weather and climate.

“I used to say things like, ‘It’s really difficult to attribute any one single event to climate change, but some of these are certainly consistent with what our broad body of science says is occurring,’” Dr. Shepherd said. “More recently, I’ve been saying: ‘We may already be seeing examples of a new normal.’”

Focus on Faculty: Marshall Shepherd



Very nice Q & A with the director of UGA's Atmosphereic Sciences program, Marshall Shepherd, on the University of Georgia homepage. 

A professor in the department of geography, Shepherd discusses several personal and professional topics,  including his favorite courses and why?

I developed two new courses when I came to UGA. One course, Applied Climatology in the Urban Environment, is one of my favorite courses because I get to teach theory, application, and hands-on field work on how cities impact weather, climate and other environmental factors. I also created a Mesoscale and Radar Meteorology course, which is an important course for any atmospheric sciences curriculum. We even had a Mobile Doppler Radar from FSU at UGA recently in support of that class. I also really enjoyed teaching one of the new First-Year Odyssey Seminars. It was such joy teaching freshmen about "Observing the Earth From Space." I had several NASA colleagues Skype into the class live. The kids were so thrilled.

The rest at the link, as well as links to a many other similar profiles of faculty from all over campus.

Image: University of Georgia


Shepherd elected president of AMS


Marshall_Shepherd.jpgCongratulations to professor of geography Marshall Shepherd, who was recently voted president-elect of the American Meteorological Society:

Shepherd, who directs the university’s Atmospheric Sciences Program, will begin a one-year term as president-elect on Jan. 22 at the annual meeting of the society in New Orleans. In 2013, he will assume the presidency of the society, which was founded in 1919 and has a membership of more than 14,000 professionals, students and weather enthusiasts.