Past Events

Urban Floods: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Urban Floods: Interdisciplinary Perspectives took place on April 12-13, 2018 at 2911 Broadway (formerly Bernheim & Schwartz), right near Columbia University’s Morningside Campus.

This conference addressed major urban floods, past, present and future,  focusing on the relationship between physical development choices and environmental risk, with specific focus on large-scale urban floods.

New York after Hurricane Sandy and the Future of Urban Floods

December 12, 2017 at the Columbia Global Center, Mumbai

As a coastal megacity subject to flooding, what can Mumbai learn from the experience of New York City? In October 2012, New York experienced the most severe natural disaster in its modern history when ‘Superstorm’ Sandy flooded large portions of the city, destroying low-lying neighborhoods and incapacitating much of the city’s infrastructure. How predictable was this event and how prepared was the city? In the five years since, New York has undertaken an ambitious program to increase its resilience to future storms; is the city better prepared for such events and for longer term effects of climate change and sea level rise?

Climate Risk and Mitigation: Opportunities at the Nexus of Capital, Science and Law

November 9, 2017 on Columbia’s Morningside Campus

Samantha A. Medlock, Senior Vice President and North America Lead for Capital, Science and Policy with Willis Towers Watson, will present Climate Risk and Mitigation: Opportunities at the Nexus of Capital, Science and Law. Bringing insights from her work in the insurance industry and government under the Obama administration, Ms. Medlock’s talk examined the role of climate risk data and analytics in the design of policies, practices and innovative finance to reduce physical, economic, and social impacts and legal liabilities associated with extreme weather and climate change.

2017 Conference on Fire Prediction Across Scales

October 23-25 2017 on Columbia’s Morningside Campus

The Workshop on Atlantic Climate Variability – Dynamics, Prediction and Hurricane Risk

September 8, 2017

This one-day workshop addressed the causes and predictability of Atlantic climate variations and associated hurricane risk. The conference featured invited talks by leading experts and panel discussions to engage attendees. It was attended by a mix of academic and industry scientists and sponsored by SwissRe.

This forum—a joint effort by the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory—brought together climate scientists and business leaders to understand how new advances in climate science can inform investments in specific sectors of the global economy. The conference will explore topics that address the value and opportunity of using a science-based approach to inform and guide business decisions.

The report that came from it is linked here: SELF White Paper_2017

“The Cure for Catastrophe – how we can stop manufacturing natural disasters”                                                                                                                                             March 2, 2017

After a first degree in Natural Sciences and a PhD in Earth Sciences from the University of Cambridge, where he was also a Research Fellow, since 1992 Robert has worked on the development of methodologies for catastrophe loss modelling of earthquake, tropical cyclone, windstorm and flood perils in Europe, Japan, North America, Caribbean and Australia. He has been head of research at RMS since 2003 with a mission to explore enhanced methodologies for natural catastrophe modelling and develop models for new areas of risk. He was Lead Author for the 2007 4th IPCC Assessment Report and the 2011 IPCC ‘Special Report on Managing the Risk of Extremes..’. and is Vice-Chair of the OECD High Level Advisory Board on the Financial Management of Large Catastrophes. His latest book ‘The Cure for Catastrophe – How we can stop manufacturing natural disasters’ was published in the US and UK in 2016, receiving positive reviews in the New York Times, Science and Nature. He is a Visiting Professor at the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction at University College London.


Workshop on Sub-Seasonal to Seasonal Predictability of Extreme Weather and Climate
December 6-7, 2016

There is increasing interest in extreme weather and climate events, both in terms of gaining a better understanding of the impacts of climate change, as well as toward developing early warning systems for better preparedness. Recent developments in sub-seasonal to seasonal prediction (S2S; from 2 weeks to a season ahead), together with the establishment of the WWRP/WCRP S2S prediction project archive of operational model forecasts, provide a new opportunity to better understand the mechanisms behind extreme events with large societal impacts (floods, droughts, storms, heat and cold waves), as well as to improve their prediction and early warning. Two weeks to a season is a key time range, both from the physical perspective of the climatic drivers of extremes (MJO, blocking events, sudden stratospheric warmings, land/sea/ice surface interactions), and for decision makers to have sufficient time to take preemptive actions.

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), the Extreme Weather & Climate Initiative (Extreme Weather), and the WWRP/WCRP Sub-Seasonal to Seasonal Prediction Project (S2S) held a 2-day workshop on December 6-7 2016 at the Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory campus in Palisades, New York. This workshop was intended for all in academia, government, and the private sector with an interest in understanding the latest science behind S2S predictability of extreme weather and climate, and in developing early warning products. Through a small set of invited talks, contributed posters, and discussion sessions the workshop will showcase the latest research on extremes using S2S models, and provide opportunities for networking and unstructured discussion.

Livestream recordings of S2S Workshop presentations:

Day 1:

Day 2:


What Would it Mean to Understand Climate Change?
Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Click here for the Youtube link to the recording of the event.

Efforts abound to “understand” climate change. But what kind of understanding is needed? Does “understanding” mean the same thing to concerned citizens as it does to scientists, humanities scholars, or policy makers? At this public event, climate scientist Isaac Held, philosopher of science Philip Kitcher, and science journalist Jonathan Weiner will compare the work of understanding undertaken by different communities engaged with climate change, and address the question of what remains to be understood.

Book Talk – Storm Surge: Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future by Adam Sobel
Thursday, October 27, 2016
6pm – 7pm

Professor Adam Sobel, author of Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future will take us through the devastating and unprecedented events of Hurricane Sandy, using it to explain our planet’s changing climate, and what we need to do to protect ourselves and our cities for the future.

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Lessons of Climate Resilience in New York City
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
6pm – 7:15pm

New York City was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. This was a wake-up call for all New Yorkers, showing how vulnerable the City was to extreme weather events despite the City’s renowned long-term sustainability planning. NYC’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency is charged with leading the City’s efforts to build a stronger, more resilient New York and implementing recommendations laid out in ‘One New York: The Plan for a Strong and just City.’

Where does the city stand now in the implementation of its plan? What else can the city do to be more resilient and protect New Yorkers from the harmful impacts of extreme events?

Moderated by the Earth Institute’s Steven Cohen, and featuring Curtis Cravens, George Deodatis, Kate Orff, and Adam Sobel, this panel discussion will focus on how New York City – and other cities like it – can take steps to become stronger and more resilient in the face of climate change.

Seminar: Climate Change and National Security:  People not Polar Bears
Thursday, September 22, 2016
12pm – 2pm

Speaker: David Titley, Professor of Practice in Meteorology at the Pennsylvania State University; Director of Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk

This talk will discuss why climate change is a national security issue.  Climate change is about people, about water, and about change itself.  Titley will cover some of the basic science and why mainstream climate scientists are very confident of their findings, how this challenge is being addressed, and what are the greatest challenges to national security that arise from climate change.  He will conclude with an assessment of future challenges and opportunities regarding climate change, from science, policy, and political perspectives.  In addition, this talk will address how to effectively talk about climate change through the use of analogies, plain, non-jargon English, and even a little humor.

140602_Titley_2About the speaker: David Titley is a Professor of Practice in Meteorology at the Pennsylvania State University and the founding director of Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk. He served as a naval officer for 32 years and rose to the rank of rear admiral.  Dr. Titley’s career included duties as commander of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command; oceanographer and navigator of the Navy; and deputy assistant chief of naval operations for information dominance.  He also served as senior military assistant for the director, Office of Net Assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  While serving in the Pentagon, Dr. Titley initiated and led the U.S. Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change.  After retiring from the Navy, Dr. Titley served as the deputy undersecretary of commerce for operations, the chief operating officer position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Dr. Titley serves on numerous advisory boards and National Academies of Science committees, including the CNA Military Advisory Board and the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.  Dr. Titley is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.


North American Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation

August 16-18, 2016
New York, NY

The North American Symposium On Climate Change Adaptation (Symposium) is being organized by the International Climate Change Information Programme (ICCIP), Columbia University (USA), and the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany). Taking place in New York City from August 16-18th 2016, the Symposium will be a truly interdisciplinary event, mobilizing scholars, practitioners and members of governmental agencies, undertaking research and/or executing climate change projects in North America and the Caribbean region.

The North American Symposium On Climate Change Adaptation will focus on “fostering resilience and the regional capacity to adapt,” meaning that it will serve the purpose of showcasing experiences from research, field projects and best practices in climate change adaptation and resilience among countries in the region, which may being to translate the integration of climate science with socio-economic policies in the public and private sectors.

Learn more here.

Communication, Interpretation, and Use of Information about Extreme Weather Risks: Hurricane Sandy and Beyond

March 31, 2016
Columbia University, New York, NY

Speaker: Rebecca E. Morss, National Center for Atmospheric Research

This is the third seminar in the Initiative on Extreme Weather & Climate’s seminar series.

Over the last few decades, advances in science and technology have enabled scientists to provide improved information about extreme weather risks on a variety of time scales. However, as Hurricane Sandy and other recent events have demonstrated, atmospheric scientists still face major challenges in effectively conveying extreme weather risk information to both professional and public audiences. At the same time, advances in information and communication technology are transforming how people access, combine, and share information. This presentation will discuss recent research to understand and improve extreme weather risk communication and decision making, with an emphasis on forecasts and warnings for approaching hurricanes and other hazardous weather events. Methods used include interviews and surveys with members of the public, analysis of social media data, and computational physical and social modeling. First, the speaker will present research examining how members of the at-risk public respond to different types of weather risk messages, including messages conveying potential weather impacts and predictive uncertainty. Next, she will discuss work investigating how and why different people respond to weather risks in different ways, including work with members of more vulnerable populations. Then, Morss will discuss ongoing research to understand how weather risk information and decisions evolve dynamically as a hazardous weather event approaches and arrives, in the context of the modern information environment. Together, this work aims to utilize a mix of approaches to build understanding of how information about potentially hazardous weather is communicated and used in its dynamic real-world context, in order to help meteorologists, public officials, and others improve communication of and responses to extreme weather risks.

2nd Workshop on Severe Convection and Climate

March 9-10, 2016
Columbia University, New York, NY

This workshop is intended for those in academia, government, and the private sector with an interest in understanding the latest science behind the risk from severe convective storms. The workshop will include the latest research on severe convective storms (tornadoes, hail and damaging wind) and their connection with the climate system on all time scales. We encourage abstract submissions to a diverse program with topics that include long-term observations records, event observations, radar and remote sensing, statistical and dynamical downscaling, subseasonal and longer climate controls, extended prediction, as well as the reinsurance and risk management.


Precipitation Extremes, Snowfall, and Convective Storms in a Warming Climate

Thursday, January 21, 2015, Columbia University

The Extreme Weather and Climate Initiative presented the second seminar in its series: Precipitation Extremes, Snowfall, and Convective Storms in a Warming Climate, featuring Paul O’Gorman, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Recent global analyses of historical rain gauge records show an overall intensification of precipitation extremes that confirms what climate-model simulations suggested more than two decades ago. However, certain classes of precipitation extremes remain less well understood, including snowfall events and extreme convective precipitation extremes (i.e., thunderstorms producing very heavy rain). This talk first provided an overview of the physical basis for the intensification of precipitation extremes with warming. The speaker then discussed recent research on projected changes in daily snowfall extremes and the role of an optimal temperature for snowfall, that is, a temperature at which global warming or cooling reduces snowfall amounts. Lastly, he discussed whether the energy available to convective storms increases as the atmosphere warms.

Climate Change and the Scales of Environment

Friday, December 4, 2015, 10:00am
Wood Auditorium

Presented by the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

Amale Andraos, Daniel Barber, Deborah Coen, Heather Davis, Michael Gerrard, Reinier de Graaf, Radley Horton, Jesse Keenan, Laura Kurgan, Adrian Lahoud, Reinhold Martin, Gregg Mitman, Kate Orff, Christian Parenti, Saskia Sassen, Emily Eliza Scott, Neyran Turyan, Richard Seager, Adam Sobel, Mark Wasiuta, and Eyal Weizman

Keynote address by Dipesh Chakrabarty

When 1+1=3; Applying a Joint Hazard Framework to Climate Risk Management

November 10, 2015, Columbia University

We held our first Extreme Weather Seminar featuring Radley Horton, Associate Research Scientist, Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University.

Most of the large municipalities of the Northeastern U.S. have conducted adaptation assessments that include downscaled climate projections. In these assessments, each climate variable has generally been considered independently, and downscaling methodologies have generally not been tailored to the extremes of a variable’s distribution. In the wake of events such as Hurricane Sandy, stakeholder need and scientific advances are increasingly converging towards assessments focused on extreme events from a joint hazards perspective, across multiple climate variables. Such a joint approach requires consideration of possible correlation across climate variables (e.g., changes in relative sea level rise and coastal storms), as well as emphasis on additional variables—and their extremes—not considered quantitatively to date (e.g., humidity). This presentation will focus on two examples: 1) heat stress, based on combined impacts of high temperatures and high humidity, and 2) coastal flood risk associated with combined impacts of sea level rise and changes in coastal storms. This talk will demonstrate how the joint hazards approach can lead to large changes in projected extreme event frequency, relative to downscaling approaches that treat climate variables as independent. Challenges—and opportunities–associated with downscaling across multiple climate variables, with an emphasis on the extremes of the variables, will also be highlighted.


Sustainable Development Seminar Series: Growing Up in an Era of Extreme Events

Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Columbia University Morningside Campus, the Kraft Center, Rennert Hall

The Earth Institute presents the first in the 2015-2016 Sustainable Development Seminar Series, Growing Up in an Era of Extreme Events.

As we look back at the last 10 years of extreme events, the response and recovery to Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy and the Ebola Crisis are a few of the many that have tested our disaster readiness. Now, climate change and the global refugee crisis are increasingly recognized as significant and persistent threats to children and other vulnerable populations. With thought leaders from Columbia University and the Earth Institute’s’ affiliated centers, this seminar will explore what we have learned from these crises and what that means for the future of disaster preparedness, response and recovery.



Workshop: Monsoons & ITCZ: the annual cycle in the Holocene and the Future

September 15-18, 2015, Columbia University. This was an open conference and workshop at Columbia University, Morningside Campus. The focus was on modeling and theoretical understanding of the annual cycle of oceanic ITCZs and land monsoons in the present climate, the past, and the future.


First Science Workshop: Extreme Weather and Climate: Hazards, Impacts, Actions

May 6, 2015, Columbia University. The first workshop provided an in-depth survey of the Initiative’s scientific territory. It featured 15 speakers from across Columbia University’s many schools and centers, providing an interdisciplinary experience for participants interested in extreme weather and climate. Speakers touched on a wide range of topics, such as hurricanes and droughts, disease transmission, and energy resilience, featured in 20 minute sessions, with breaks and discussion sessions throughout the day. Below are some materials from the workshop.


Seminar: On Extreme Value Theory: Robustness, Optimization and Monte Carlo

April 9, 2015, 2:45pm – 3:45pm, Columbia University. The Initiative hosted a seminar through the APAM SCiCS Series, with speaker Jose Blanchet from the Industrial Engineering & Operations Research Department at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.


Launch Event: “Preparing for Extreme Weather: Global Lessons from Sandy”

February 23, 2015, 6:00pm, Low Library, Rotunda. The Columbia Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate was officially launched with a World Leaders Forum event, sponsored by the Earth Institute, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research. With welcome remarks by Michael Purdy, Executive Vice President for Research, the panel discussion, moderated by Adam Sobel, featured:

Watch the video of the event here!