A Trump presidency in the US could have serious impacts on Australia's climate science and other research, with fears the cuts could be "CSIRO times 50".
Donald Trump's pledge to end US participation in the Paris climate agreement and expectations he will appoint climate change denier Myron Ebell to a key environment role has scientists bracing for fallout.
Australia's climate research relies on many US programs, some of which have been targeted by the Republican-controlled Congress. President Barack Obama resisted cuts to agencies such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration but he will leave office on January 20.
At the extreme end, a Trump administration could jeopardise global climate research efforts by withholding access to observational data that underpins climate models, with the output used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said David Karoly, an atmospheric scientist at Melbourne University.
"All the [Coupled Model Intercomparison Project] data is stored on US data servers," Professor Karoly said, adding the US is the only place storing all that information.
Any interruption could mean the next IPCC assessment potentially doesn't proceed, which "would be an enormous setback for climate science", he said.
Others, though, noted that while earlier model data were singularly housed on servers belonging to the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Lab, the international Earth System Grid Federation now shares the load. The network is led by the US but has nodes elsewhere, including in Australia.
Christian Jakob, a Monash University professor who attended a recent CMIP gathering in the US, is less pessimistic about an interruption to data access. Still, future phases of the modellin could be affected if other nations didn't step up to fill any US void.
Of more pressing concern is whether expensive satellite, atmospheric and oceanic observing programs run by NOAA and NASA get axed, a move that would damage not only climate modelling but "close cousins" the short-term weather forecasts, he said.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and universities rely on NOAA to supply their key ocean model. Cuts "would have implications for us very directly", Professor Jakob said. "Everyone is vulnerable."
Several scientists noted US counterparts had rallied to the defence of CSIRO research when management earlier this year proposed slashing as many as two-thirds of its climate scientists. Protests helped prompt a reversal of almost all the cuts.
"Everything's connected - if you remove a piece in one corner, you'd better do a careful analysis of what the consequences are," Professor Jakob said, adding the CSIRO cuts were "an actual intent, but with the US we're speculating".
Andy Pitman, director of ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at UNSW, said the US accounts for about 40 per cent of global climate research, on a par with Europe. For programs such as the Argo network of floats, the US provides closer to half the funds and much of the infrastructure.
"Any risk to [the overall US share] is just hugely worrying," Professor Pitman said, adding China is one nation rapidly expanding research although not fast enough to fill a major US retreat.
Ironically, it was China that Mr Trump earlier singled out to blame for the "hoax" of climate change.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
Axel Timmermann, from the University of Hawaii, said US researchers feared "a brute force against climate science" that would have consequences ranging from the ability to predict El Ninos and bushfires to heatwave.
"It's like driving in a tunnel and switching off your headlights - not a wise thing to do," Professor Timmermann said. "It has some elements of going back to a very anti-science, medieval mindset that is not only detrimental to the scientists but also the general public."
And as Professor Pitman noted, "the laws of physics don't change just because Trump has become president."