The Initiative builds upon the groundbreaking contributions to the field of Earth and environmental science that Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory researchers have been making, such as, predicting extreme weather patterns associated with El Niño events, explaining the role of large-scale ocean circulation systems in abrupt climate change, and demonstrating that changes in Earth’s past climate were linked to variations in the planet’s rotation and orbit as well as to the Sun’s output. The Initiative’s activities will focus on:
- Producing improved projections of changes in extreme climate and weather to benefit public and private entities that heavily use climate and weather modeling (e.g., governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations and relief agencies, ministries, and industry).
- Integrated and comparative study of the five major types of extreme climate and weather events that can stimulate production of dramatically better tools for public and private entities that use them for calculating the risks and uncertainties associated with extreme weather events (e.g., public utilities).
- Providing estimates of the catastrophic effects of extreme climate and weather events on our infrastructure and proposing mitigation strategies to minimize these effects.
These two activities entail producing improved assessments of a wide range of extreme events in all regions of the globe that are subject to them, including:
- Tropical cyclones: Includes probabilistic estimates of the risk of landfall by tropical cyclones with different intensities and specific assessments of risks associated with wind, storm surge, and precipitation.
- Tornadoes: Including assessment of other forms of severe convective storms, such as hail, derechos and microbursts.
- Drought: Including explicit assessment of the threats to water supplies in urban areas, considering the specific water infrastructure and usage patterns of each location.
- Flood: Including flood risk from all types of weather disturbances which are relevant in each area: tropical cyclones, winter storms, summer convection over land, and their short and long term impacts.
- Heat waves: Including specific risks of health hazards and mortality as well as stress on power grids.
The Initiative also has the capacity to perform comparative assessment of the changing risks, impacts, and costs across all types of weather-related extreme events, both in the current climate and under a range of warming scenarios. Comparative assessments include explicit quantification of the risk and its uncertainty, and the likelihood of multiple occurrences of different events in a specified region and/or time period. With these improved projections and comparative studies, Initiative faculty and researchers can develop solutions that mitigate the impacts of extreme events and increase resilience to them. Future stages of work will therefore include two additional activities:
- Designing innovative engineering solutions to benefit international, national, regional, local, and nongovernmental organizations responsible for disaster planning, management, and recovery operations.
- Producing financial risk assessments to benefit public and private entities alike (e.g., national, regional, and local government agencies, insurance companies). Financial engineering solutions will include insurance, reinsurance, derivatives, and cat bonds.