Recent and Likely Future Changes in the Hydrological Cycle

Water Lecture Series

James McCarthy, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography, Harvard University

How much rain and snow fall and where? How much of this precipitation evaporates? How much water is covered with ice? How much water is frozen in glaciers and permafrost? These linked questions—all aspects of climate—affect the "global energy balance," or the ratio of energy emitted by Earth and energy received from the sun. In the past half-century, trends have emerged in each area that are consistent with a warming climate due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the lower atmosphere. Using the assumption that greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise, James McCarthy will extrapolate future-climate scenarios from these recent trends.

The Radcliffe Institute is hosting a new cross-disciplinary speaker series by Harvard faculty on topics related to water. These will be relatively informal presentations, followed by discussion with attendees, on topics that approach water from multidisciplinary perspectives. The collegial events are intended to present, and potentially to link, faculty interests, in order to learn more about research currently underway and to foster connections across Harvard schools.

The talks will focus on both national and international topics. They may include issues of water policy, treatment and management, technology, water and migration, water and religion, urban planning, hydrology, water and business, art and water, environmental law, public health and disease, water and conflict, land-use, economic growth, history, etc. The speaker series is designed to be multidisciplinary rather than solely scientific and to complement other offerings throughout the University.