Mid-latitude extreme weather events are responsible for a large part of climate-related damage. Yet large uncertainties remain in climate model projections of heat waves, droughts, and heavy rain/snow events on regional scales, limiting our ability to effectively use these projections for climate adaptation and mitigation. These uncertainties can be attributed to both the lack of spatial resolution in the models, and to the lack of a dynamical understanding of these extremes.
The objectives of this proposal are to first develop empirical and theoretical understanding of how fine-scale features of the atmospheric circulation that are responsible for extreme events (such as blocking, atmospheric rivers, Rossby wave breaking) are related to more easily quantifiable larger scale circulation patterns, and on the basis of this develop specific metrics that can be applied to a range of atmospheric and coupled atmosphere-ocean models to diagnose their prediction of extremes. These metrics will be used to understand what model resolution is necessary to describe the probability of extreme events realistically, and will be applied to a variety of climate models being used for projections of future climate to better understand the potential for the shifts and intensification of extremes over North America in a changing climate.
The expected outcomes of this research are: (i) a unified methodology and set of metrics that will enable modelers to assess the probability of extreme events in various current and future climate simulations, (ii) an estimate of the model resolution needed to capture extreme events in a realistic way, and (iii) a better understanding of the extreme events over North America in a changing climate.