Princeton climate scientist Balaji selected for French climate initiative

PEI associated faculty Venkatramani Balaji is one of 18 scientists worldwide selected to receive funding from the prestigious “Make Our Planet Great Again” climate initiative launched by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Princeton University climate scientist and PEI associated faculty Venkatramani Balaji, head of the Modeling Systems Group at Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, is one of 18 researchers worldwide selected to participate in the “Make Our Planet Great Again” climate initiative launched by French President Emmanuel Macron in June 2016. More than 1,800 scientists applied for the effort, which is working towards a carbon-neutral France by 2050 and finding global solutions to climate change.

Balaji is among 11 men and seven women from six countries selected by France’s National Centre for Scientific Research to investigate a range of climate-related issues, including agriculture and food security, ocean-atmosphere interactions and renewable energy. The researchers have received grants of up to $1.7 million to set up labs for three to five years at scientific institutions across France.

“I’m very gratified by the award because of France’s recognition that the problem is one of global scope, and that the solutions will indeed require global cooperation,” Balaji said. “Science has always been international in outlook, and in the issue of climate in particular, national approaches make little sense, as the phenomena we study transcend countries and borders. Climate change affects science-deniers as much as it affects rational folk, and you can’t build walls to keep it out.

Balaji’s project, known as Project Hermès (High-Resolution Modeling of the Earth System), includes creating very high-resolution simulations — at the limit of today’s computing technology — of key processes in the atmosphere and oceans. These simulations are used to build and train fast approximations of the Earth system to explore questions that are currently impossible with the full model.

“The unique feature of Project Hermès is the combination of computationally challenging simulations and fast models for uncertainty exploration,” said Balaji, whose Modeling Systems Group is a collaboration between Princeton and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) located on Princeton’s Forrestal Campus. “Hermès will build upon work I’ve done with colleagues at Princeton and GFDL for more than 20 years, and we of course will continue to collaborate for the duration of this project as well!”