Oregon State University Libraries and Press

Philip Mote Oral History Interview, March 23, 2018

Oregon State University
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00:00:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Today is March 23rd, 2018.

Segment Synopsis: Date and location of interview. Introduction of Dr. Philip Mote, Director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and Associate Dean in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. Introduction to focus of interview: research and global warming.

Keywords: College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; Global Warming; Oregon Climate Change Research Institute

Subjects: Global warming--Research; Oregon State University. College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences

00:00:17 - Growing up in the West

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Partial Transcript: Where were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Mote describes aspects of his childhood, including moving from Colorado to Utah to California. His father was a Presbyterian minister and his mother was a writer. He recalls spending time outdoors on family camping trips and as a cross country runner and cyclist.

Keywords: Growing up in the West; Outdoor Recreation

Subjects: California; Colorado; Outdoor recreation; Utah--Provo

00:01:33 - Undergraduate Studies at Harvard College

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Partial Transcript: Did you plan on going to college directly after high school?

Segment Synopsis: Mote describes his decision to attend Harvard College following high school. He recalls being impressed by the history of the campus when visiting. Mote discusses his academic studies in physics, and how an oceanography research fellowship inspired him to want to pursue graduate studies in atmospheric sciences.

Keywords: Degree in Physics; Harvard College; Undergraduate Research

Subjects: Bachelor of arts degree; College students--Research; Harvard College (1780- ); Physics

00:05:18 - Teaching after College

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Partial Transcript: And you mentioned you went back west after your degree. Did you wait to go to graduate school?

Segment Synopsis: Mote discusses taking two years off after graduating from Harvard and moving back to the west coast to teach high school. He reflects on the personal development associated with shifting from student to teacher.

Keywords: Teaching High School

Subjects: High school teachers

00:06:54 - Graduate Studies at University of Washington

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Partial Transcript: And you went to University of Washington for your PhD?

Segment Synopsis: Mote discusses his research interests as a PhD student at the University of Washington. He recalls the media coverage of ozone depletion and global warming as an undergraduate applying to graduate school.

Keywords: Graduate Studies at University of Washington; PhD in Atmospheric Sciences; Stratospheric Water Vapor

Subjects: Doctor of philosophy degree; Stratosphere--Research; University of Washington. Department of Atmospheric Sciences

00:10:04 - Post-doc Research at the University of Edinburgh

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Partial Transcript: And then you went to University of Edinburgh, as you mentioned, for a post-doc?

Segment Synopsis: Mote recalls his positive experience of working as a post-doc at the University of Edinburgh and living with his young family in Scotland after graduate school. He discusses his research on the atmospheric tape recorder and its importance to understanding air movement in the stratosphere.

Keywords: Atmospheric Tape Recorder; Post-doc at University of Edinburgh

Subjects: Stratosphere--Research; University of Edinburgh

00:12:49 - Northwest Research Associates / Climate Impacts Research Group at University of Washington

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Partial Transcript: And then you returned to Seattle as a research scientist with the Northwest Research Associates?

Segment Synopsis: Mote discusses returning to the U.S. as a research scientist with Northwest Research Associates, and subsequent move to the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington. He describes the outreach component of his position, as he traveled throughout the Pacific Northwest and gave presentations on climate science to a variety of audiences. Mote discusses how his research interests shifted from global circulation models to regional trends in the Pacific Northwest, and expanded to other fields such as hydrology and fire ecology.

Keywords: Climate Impacts Group; Climate Research Scientist; Northwest Research Associates; University of Washington

Subjects: Climatic changes--Research; University of Washington

00:17:35 - Arriving at Oregon State University

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Partial Transcript: How did you end up coming to Oregon State University?

Segment Synopsis: Mote describes getting his position as the director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute. He recalls his positive impressions of the collaborative environment of OSU and of the small community of Corvallis. He discusses early collaboration with people outside the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, such as Denise Lach, Susan Capalbo, and Lisa Gaines.

Keywords: Initial Impressions of Oregon State University; Oregon Climate Change Research Institute

Subjects: Oregon State University. College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences

00:20:47 - Oregon Climate Change Research Institute

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk about the formation of OCCRI and its relationship to Oregon's Global Warming Commission?

Segment Synopsis: Mote discusses the Oregon state legislature's formation of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI) and the Oregon Global Warming Commission. He explains that while based at OSU, OCCRI is a multi-university collaborative organization, serving policy makers by providing scientific research. Mote describes his role as more managing and leading research, rather than performing it directly. He discusses the Climate Impacts Research Consortium, a NOAA-funded collaborative group under OCCRI.

Keywords: Climate Impacts Research Consortium; Collaborative Climate Science Research; Oregon Climate Change Research Institute; Oregon Global Warming Commission

Subjects: Climatic changes--Research; Climatic changes--Research--Law and legislation

00:24:47 - Communicating Science to Non-scientists

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Partial Transcript: Given your public engagement component, what have you found to be effective tools in communicating science to non-scientists?

Segment Synopsis: Mote relates his approach to speaking to non-scientists about climate change. He discusses how engaging with policy makers differs from other types of audiences. He describes how using Twitter has impacted his communication with the public on climate change research.

Keywords: Climate Change and Communication; Using Twitter to Communicate Science

Subjects: Communication in science; Twitter

00:29:37 - Changes in Technology

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk about how technology has changed over your career, especially with your experience with modeling climate change?

Segment Synopsis: Mote reflects on early modeling languages he used as a student, such as BASIC and FORTRAN, and how modeling languages have changed over his career. He discusses the difficulties of using a programming language intermittently. Mote describes how the ubiquity of computing technology has enabled citizen scientists to be more involved in research, including in climate modeling.

Keywords: Citizen Science; Computer Modeling Language; Technology and Climate Science

Subjects: BASIC (Computer program language); FORTRAN (Computer program language); Interactive Data Language (Electronic resource); Science and state--Citizen participation

00:35:15 - Envision Projects

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Partial Transcript: I was wondering if you could talk about your work with the Envision projects in the Tillamook and Gray's Harbor communities.

Segment Synopsis: Mote discusses applying Envision modeling software to a variety of climate science projects related to human population growth and development. He describes how it was used to model water availability in Willamette Valley and Big Wood Basin in Idaho, and to model shoreline change on the Pacific Northwest coast.

Keywords: Envision Integrated Modeling Platform

Subjects: Coast changes--Mathematical models; Water-supply

00:37:49 - Snowpack and Water Availability

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Partial Transcript: You referenced your recent publication on snowpack in the western U.S. Can you talk about the importance of snowpack to water availability?

Segment Synopsis: Mote explains how snowpack is an important source of water for the western U.S. He discusses the use of damns and reservoirs to store snowmelt, and how a warming climate can impact access to this source of water. Mote suggests that the biggest impacts of changing water availability are likely unknown at this point in time, citing unanticipated bark beetle outbreaks as an example. He discusses the nuances of water use within urban areas, as well as how flood management in the Willamette Valley will be impacted by a warming climate.

Keywords: Climate Change and Water Availability; Snowmelt Runoff; Snowpack

Subjects: Climatic changes--Research; Runoff

00:46:17 - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change / National Climate Assessment Committee

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk about how you got involved with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and what that experience was like?

Segment Synopsis: Mote discusses his use of the IPCC reports and how his mentor, Susan Solomon, advised him to apply to be an author on the fourth assessment. He worked on the cryosphere chapters for the fourth and fifth reports, and shares the Nobel Peace Prize with other IPCC authors. Mote describes how working on the IPCC reports influenced his perspective on the report writing process for a complicated subject. He also describes his role as a lead author on the National Climate Assessment Committee reports.

Keywords: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; National Climate Assessment Committee; Nobel Peace Prize

Subjects: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Nobel Prizes

00:50:39 - Broader Climate Change Discussion / Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Now I'm gonna move on to some broader questions around climate change. What were your earliest conversations on climate change like and how have they shifted over time?

Segment Synopsis: Mote discusses broader aspects of climate change with respect to communication, collaboration, policy, and education. He recalls the first time he learned of climate change in a college course, and how popular discourse around it grew during the summer of 1988. He describes how climate change has become a polarizing issue in the U.S. and the ramifications to funding scientific research. Mote explains how OCCRI aims to facilitate collaboration among scientists from a variety of disciplines and universities. He relates diminished funding to climate science research as a long term problem and symptomatic of larger government spending policies. Mote reflects on policy changes that he would like to see within the U.S., such as formally acknowledging anthropogenic climate change, and regulations and/or incentives to reduce carbon emissions. He discusses the effect of technology on tribalism in the current political climate, as well as an erosion of critical thinking, and expresses dismay with how climate change continues to be a polarizing political issue.

Keywords: Climate Change; Global Warming

Subjects: Global warming; limatic changes--Social aspects