The Columbia Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate has several competitive advantages:
- A unique focus on meteorological and climatological extreme events. Lamont-Doherty’s accomplishments in this area are substantial. Its scientists, for example, were the first to construct a model of the physics of El Niño that could successfully predict its shifts. This work introduced medium-term forecasts now used worldwide in planning for agriculture and emergency relief efforts.
- Deep and broad expertise within and across the five major types of climate extremes. In fact much of the modern understanding of climate change is underpinned by pioneering studies done at Lamont-Doherty.
- A world-renowned track record in basic and applied research in the physical sciences and engineering. Groundbreaking work on how tree rings illuminate regional and global climate histories, for example, has been underway at Lamont-Doherty since 1995, and led, among other things, to publication in 2010 of a monumental drought atlas of Asia. In the Columbia Global Flood Initiative, for example, environmental and industrial engineers are working with the manufacturing and insurance industries, government agencies, and international organizations in a unique effort to design resilient supply chain networks that are not vulnerable to flood risks as was so disastrously illustrated in the Tohoku earthquake, the tsunami in Japan, and the floods in the Mississippi River and in Thailand.
- Unmatched expertise in creating information systems, cyber infrastructure, geo-spatial databases and other tools to inform assessment and coordination of action regarding weather-related extreme events. CIESIN has constructed geo-spatial databases to assist with Haiti’s hurricane recovery, calculated human risk levels for six major natural hazards at subnational scales to inform disaster prevention and preparedness measures through its Global Natural Disaster Hotspots project, and is constructing a prototype Urban Climate Change Information System — focusing on the New York metropolitan region — to improve the communication of climate change data and information to urban policy- and decision-makers, an effort built around their specific information needs and their own information-seeking behavior.
Columbia University, through this new Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate, is extremely well positioned to remain a driving force behind the discoveries that help us understand the interconnected workings of the planet. The community of scientists, engineers, systems and information management experts, public policy practitioners, and public health researchers will together continue to play a vital role in advancing the field of Earth science and contributing significantly to humankind’s ability to support fragile ecosystems and vulnerable populations, particularly as the threats from weather disasters accelerate and multiply across the globe.
Few research institutions in the world share Columbia’s extraordinary mix of observational, analytic, and technical expertise across such a wide range of fields. The Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate draws together the expertise across the University and focus it on both the basic and applied dimensions of the science and engineering problems that need to be solved in order to make the earth’s populations and economies better prepared for and resilient to the risks posed by extreme weather and climate.