Emergence of Climate Hazards

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: National Centre for Atmospheric Science

Abstract

Climate hazards are weather and climate 'extreme events' that can cause loss of life, injury, or other health impacts, as well as damage and loss to property, infrastructure, livelihoods, service provision, and environmental resources. Examples include:
- The summer heat wave of 2003 in Western Europe, thought to be unprecedented in 500 years, which caused more that 20,000 early deaths, mainly among vulnerable groups in society such as the elderly
- South Asian Monsoon monsoon failures and subsequent agricultural losses - agriculture accounts for 18% of GDP, but employs 60% of people in S. Asia (~1 billion people)
- The extreme El Niño event of 2015/16 that caused floods, droughts and wildfires globally and drove the fastest annual increase in CO2 on record
- A succession of storms reaching southern England in the winter of 2013/2014, causing severe floods and £451 million of insured losses

Such events are, most likely, influenced by global climate change in ways that we do not currently understand. Future climate change may further exacerbate their impacts.

This project will assess the impact of climate change on climate hazards in the past and present and project forward their changes into the future. There is a focus on the next 30 years because of the relevance of this time scale for adaptation strategies produced by governments, businesses and individuals.

EMERGENCE will use information from state-of-the-art climate models, including from models with unprecedented fine detail. It will use cutting edge observations in order to constrain climate model predictions using changes already observed, drawing on new and improved analysis techniques (including event attribution, machine learning and feature tracking) that were not available or not widely applied during previous assessments of climate hazards from older models. The hazards addressed are: extreme heat stress events, tropical deluges and droughts, and storms with their associated extreme winds and rainll. Information will be integrated into global indicators that will form a snapshot summary of climate hazard risks that, in turn, will be an essential resource for policy makers.

The project's assessments of the emergence of climate hazards will be produced in a timely fashion to feed into the next assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), being relevant to both physical climate science and impacts. The team assembled, including a number of leading climate science project partners from the Met Office, has a strong track record in IPCC and is thus ideally placed to provide this input and to further strengthen the profile of UK climate science in the international arena.

Planned Impact

The research directly addresses a growing need for scientific evidence to inform climate adaptation and resilience-building strategies of national, international and local governments, international development organisations, regulators, business and others.

The impact of this research will be achieved through informing national and international assessments of climate change such as those performed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UK Climate Projections programme led by the Met Office (principal project partners). It will also provide a set of key indicators and more general briefing material that can be used directly by a broad range of stakeholders in their decision-making.

In the UK, the research directly addresses the agendas of the climate change department of the Department of Business Environment, Innovation and Skills (BEIS), the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department of International Development (DFID). Internationally, the research addresses the agenda of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and those of many governments world wide, who produce national climate assessments.

The multivariate hazards and compound events vulnerability indicators (WP4), spanning three themes of societal importance: (i) Food security, (ii) Health, (iii) Urban resilience, will feed into IPCC AR6 Working Groups I and II, adaptation aspects of the Global Stocktake and be of relevance for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 11 (and hence the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction) and 13 (Climate Change).

To ensure maximum impact and relevance to policy, the final work package will be developed with direct engagement of end-users (project partners the Met Office, Public Health England, the Committee on Climate Change the Lancet Countdown, the World Food Programme, and other interested stakeholders) through a co-production method involving a discussion workshop to shape the work programme.

Publications

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