Michael Schlesinger

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Michael Schlesinger Image

Professor Schlesinger received his Ph.D. in 1976 from the University of California, Los Angeles. He directs the Climate Research Group (CRG) within the department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois. He is an expert in the modeling, simulation and analysis of climate and climate change, with interests in simulating and understanding the climates of the geologic past and possible future climates resulting from increased concentrations of greenhouse gases and anthropogenic aerosols. He carried out the first detailed comparison of climate and climate changes simulated by different atmospheric general circulation models (GCMs). His CRG has two tropospheric GCMs - one with interactive photochemistry, two stratospheric/tropospheric GCMs - one with interactive photochemistry, a mesospheric/stratospheric/tropospheric GCM, two oceanic GCMs, and a variety of simpler climate models, including the energy-balance climate/upwelling-diffusion ocean model with which he made projections of global temperature change to the year 2100 for the 1990 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. Results from doubled and quadrupled carbon-dioxide simulations from one of the tropospheric GCMs have been used in many climate-impact assessments, including that for the United States published by the EPA in 1989, wherein the results are called the OSU (Oregon State University) simulation, as well as in contemporary integrated-assessment models. In 1991 Professor Schlesinger investigated the urgency of climate-change mitigation and found that "the penalty for a 10-year delay in initiating the transition to a reduced-greenhouse-gas scenario is small." Recently, he discovered a 65-70 year temperature oscillation in observed surface temperatures for the North Atlantic Ocean and its bordering continental regions, a finding that was reported in Discover magazine as one of "The Top 75 Science Stories" of 1994. His research currently focuses on: (1) estimating the temperature sensitivity of the earth's climate system; (2) determining the effects on past and future climate of the sun, aerosols - both of volcanic and anthropogenic origin - and natural variability; (3) simulating and understanding the onset of the last ice age; (4) performing integrative assessment of climate change, including the impacts of climate change and adaptation and mitigation responses; and (5) understanding the roles of clouds in climate and climate change. He is an active participant in international efforts to simulate and understand past and future climate changes; has directed NATO and other conferences in England, Italy and the United States; has edited three books; has contributed to many assessments of climate change, including the IPCC and the Energy Modeling Forum (EMF). In this regard, equilibrium climate-change results simulated by the CRG 11-layer atmospheric general circulation/mixed-layer ocean model are being used to create geographical climate-change scenarios for the impact analyses of the EMF-14 Integrated Assessment of Climate Change. Professor Schlesinger is a leading participant in activities arising from the U.S./Russian Cooperative Agreement on the Protection of the Environment.