Brainstorming at Ramat Hanadiv
Most of us have the feeling that something strange is going on in our climate: drier and sometimes shorter winters; powerful rainstorms and even rare floods; more and more reports not just from Israel but from around the world, telling of extreme climatic events: major heat waves, unexpected snowstorms, melting glaciers, and more. Climate changes like these affect us all. The price of food constantly rises, and in many places the landscape changes.
In our own area, recent years have brought us some particularly dry winters. Visitors to Ramat Hanadiv no doubt have noticed that some of the trees in our groves look parched and suffering; the Nature Park staff must treat these trees and occasionally remove those that died of dehydration. On the other hand, in the single month of January, 2013, the rains were so intense that Nahal Taninim was flooded for the first time in many years.
So ‒ is the climate really changing? Is it possible that this is just a slight climatic shift, and not really such a major issue? Are the activities of human beings causing the change?
A few days ago, the UN issued a report determining that global warming is indeed a result of humankind's activities. Another report stated that the earth's temperature has clearly changed during the past 15 years. Climate change, however, is an extremely complex field to monitor, and even more so to forecast. The information and research methods currently available to us are not capable of providing answers to many crucial questions; one expert has compared the level of our knowledge in this field to the level of medicine two centuries ago, or to the level of astronomy before Galileo! For that very reason, further research is imperative. Issues of climate change are critical for the future of humankind, and only by continuing our investigations can we prepare for extreme situations/conditions.
Every few years, Ramat Hanadiv convenes a seminar of outstanding scientists to consider major questions in different disciplines. Initiated by the Batsheva de Rothschild Fund for the Advancement of Science in Israel, the seminar commemorates the Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild (1914-1999), a biology researcher educated at the Sorbonne in Paris and at Columbia University in New York. During the Second World War, she was recruited for the Free French Army and served in London; in the 1950's, following the Suez crisis (Mivtza Kadesh), she chose to make the young state of Israel her primary home. Here she devoted most of her talents and energy to the fields she loved most: art and science. In her earliest trips to Israel she made a point of contacting leading scientists in Israel and abroad in order to encourage scientific research in the new nation. Among her most significant projects were the founding of the Batsheva de Rothschild Fund to further science in Israel, and the establishment of the Batsheva and Bat Dor Dance Companies. In 1993, the management of the foundation was transferred to the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
Under the auspices of the Batsheva de Rothschild Fund, senior climatologists and environmentalists from Israel came together at Ramat Hanadiv with colleagues from Germany, Switzerland and Italy to brainstorm on the subject of climate change, and how scientists can forge ahead with research in the field. During the meeting, discussions centred on such questions as: What is the 'correct' way to conduct long-term climate research? How can a simulation of drought be formulated? How does one build a computerized model that will simulate climate changes? One of the European researchers, an expert on models, recounted that, although he tried to correlate all existing models, he was not able to find one reliable, representative response to these issues.
Even in Biblical times, people recognized climatological phenomenon characterized by cyclical patterns, such as the seven years of famine and seven years of plenty that Joseph prophesied for the land of Egypt. Nevertheless, basic questions about them have yet to elicit scientific consensus, and a number of them were raised at the seminar. What is the definition of drought? Is it a rare event? Catastrophic or merely part of climate shifts? What is the conclusive difference between climate shifts and climate change?
Two of the seminr's important goals were to help create unified, international language regarding research issues and methodologies, and to link climate studies being conducted in Israel, including Ramat Hanadiv's, with those elsewhere around the globe.
The scientists from Europe stayed in Israel for a week, almost all of it at Ramat Hanadiv. Our staff showed them the spots where research is being carried out, and the guests fully enjoyed the beauty and tranquility of the park and its surroundings. Upon their return to their homelands, to their labs and their own research posts, they will continue pursuing the fascinating work they have chosen: To better understand and improve our world. We wish all the seminar participants every success. Their achievements are certain to help all of us.
Here is a unique web interface that displays in detail the story of the oaks at Ramat Hanadiv, in plain language accompanied by photographs from the field. The interface provides a unique opportunity to make close acquaintance with the stages of the research process.
You are welcome to enter the link and follow this fascinating process.Activate the speakers.