Emergence of Climate Hazards

Lead Research Organisation: British Antarctic Survey
Department Name: Science Programmes


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 rainfall. 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.
Description The 880 million agricultural workers of the world are especially vulnerable to increasing heat stress due to climate change, affecting the health and income of individuals, while also decreasing global economic productivity. In this study, we focus on rice harvests across Asia and estimate the future impact on labour productivity by considering changes in climate at the time of the annual harvest. During these specific times of the year, heat stress is often high compared to the rest of the year. Examining climate simulations of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 6 (CMIP6), we identified that labour productivity metrics for the rice harvest, based on local wet-bulb globe temperature, are strongly correlated with global mean near-surface air temperature in the long term (p<<0.01, R2>0.98 in all models). Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C rather than 2.0 °C prevents a clear reduction in labour capacity of 1% across all Asia and 2% across Southeast Asia, affecting the livelihoods of around 100 million people. Due to differences in mechanization between and within countries, we find that rice labour is especially vulnerable in Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and the Indian states of West Bengal and Kerala. Our results highlight the regional disparities and importance in considering seasonal differences in the estimation of the effect of climate change on labour productivity and occupational heat-stress.
Exploitation Route The data science/analysis methods could be used for a range of other impact studies
Sectors Agriculture

Food and Drink




Democracy and Justice


Title Pangeo reproducible notebooks and Pangeo on Azure 
Description In order to support our article (not yet published), we have made available jupyter notebooks that detail the code used in the analysis. A reduced version of the analysis can be run by the user entirely within their browser, making use of mybinder.org. The Turing Institute are working with Microsoft in order to foster a community of Pangeo users on Azure, and we have been working with research software engineers at the Turing Institute to turn our notebooks into examples of how to run Pangeo-based analyses on Azure. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The ability to run Pangeo-based analyses on Azure will massively simplify workflows for processing environmental big-data products such as global climate model outputs. Scaleable, parallel processing in the cloud can be managed interactively from within a jupyter notebook. Making real examples publicly available will encourage and enable adoption of Pangeo-in-the-cloud by researchers, make research more transparent, and encourage engagement with more technically able members of the public. 
URL https://github.com/C-H-Simpson/HarvestOccupationalHeat
Title C-H-Simpson/HarvestOccupationalHeat: 
Description The plots included are now more like the plots in the preprint. (The preprint was also recently updated.) The explanations are more detailed, and the plots are more consistent. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2021 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This work led to new collaborations between BAS, Turing and the UK Met Office 
URL https://zenodo.org/record/4746385