Strategies for Teaching Regional Climate Modeling: Online Professional Development for Scientists and Decision Makers

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Peter Walton1, Morgan Brown Yarker2, Michel dos Santos Mesquita3 and Friederike Elly Luise Otto1, (1)University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, (2)Self Employed, Cedar Rapids, IA, United States, (3)Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway
There is a clear role for climate science in supporting decision making at a range of scales and in a range of contexts: from Global to local, from Policy to Industry. However, clear a role climate science can play, there is also a clear discrepancy in the understanding of how to use the science and associated tools (such as climate models). Despite there being a large body of literature on the science there is clearly a need to provide greater support in how to apply appropriately. However, access to high quality professional development courses can be problematic, due to geographic, financial and time constraints. In attempt to address this gap we independently developed two online professional courses that focused on helping participants use and apply two regional climate models, WRF and PRECIS.

Both courses were designed to support participants’ learning through tutor led programs that covered the basic climate scientific principles of regional climate modeling and how to apply model outputs. The fundamental differences between the two courses are: 1) the WRF modeling course expected participants to design their own research question that was then run on a version of the model, whereas 2) the PRECIS course concentrated on the principles of regional modeling and how the climate science informed the modeling process.

The two courses were developed to utilise the cost and time management benefits associated with eLearning, with the recognition that this mode of teaching can also be accessed internationally, providing professional development courses in countries that may not be able to provide their own. The development teams saw it as critical that the courses reflected sound educational theory, to ensure that participants had the maximum opportunity to learn successfully. In particular, the role of reflection is central to both course structures to help participants make sense of the science in relation to their own situation.

This paper details the different structures of both courses, evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of each, along with the educational approaches used. We conclude by proposing a framework for the develop of educationally robust online professional development programs that actively supports decision makers in understanding, developing and applying regional climate models.