The Center for
Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies

Research at COLA

The Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies (COLA) at George Mason University (GMU) is a nationally and internationally recognized center of excellence with a vigorous program of original basic and applied research on climate variability, predictability and change.

Vision and Goal

The vision for COLA, based on a long-standing hypothesis, is that the scientific basis for answering critical questions about the Earth’s climate system lies in establishing, characterizing and measuring its predictability.

The goal of COLA research is to characterize and quantify the predictability and realizable skill in predicting Earth’s climate variability from time scales of days to decades. The Center seeks to advance knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms responsible for climate predictability and provide a predictive understanding of the processes that govern the Earth system. COLA scientists have helped establish a scientific basis for intraseasonal to interannual (ISI) and contributed to understanding decadal predictability, all in the context of a changing climate. COLA research is intended to both advance fundamental understanding of climate and to foster the transition of climate predictability research results to operational use in practical climate prediction. The research on predictability also has implications for the attribution of particular climate events to external forcing vs. internal processes.

Basic and Applied Research

Research activities are focused on rigorous multi-scale evaluation of the physical processes and mechanisms of climate variability at days-to-decades time scales, in the context of a changing global climate and embedded within a unified probabilistic framework for predictability. COLA scientists and students use state-of-the-art national models, supported by NSF, NOAA, and NASA. The prospect of using much higher spatial resolution in global models and collaborations to contribute directly to the development of the next generation seamless prediction system for U.S. operational climate forecasting are essential aspects of COLA research.

Broader Impacts

Climate variability and change are critically important to society, more so today than ever. There is a need to anticipate where and how much climate will change, to attribute climate changes, and to make useful, quantitative climate predictions. COLA makes a difference in the climate community via leadership, integration, education, seminars, workshops, and software and information services. Efforts are underway to collaborate with other Mason research and education units to more effectively deliver scientific information about climate variability and change and their implications for short-term adaptation, building resilience and advising long-term policy. COLA remains deeply committed to educating and training the next generation of climate modelers through Mason’s Climate Dynamics Ph.D. program and a vigorous post-doctoral associate program. COLA develops, maintains and supports the Grid Analysis and Display System (GrADS), which is an interactive tool that integrates data access, analysis, and visualization that is used worldwide for the quantitative analysis of Earth system observations and model simulations.