The Earth climate system is undergoing rapid and remarkable changes driven by increasing greenhouse gases (i.e., anthropogenic climate change). These changes are manifested in a number of ways including: (1) Rapidly increasing global-mean surface air temperature relative to pre-industrial times (i.e., before the 19th century); (2) Increased frequency of extreme weather events; (3) Rapid ocean acidification; (4) Loss of land ice sheets and seasonal sea ice; and (5) Rising sea levels. While policymakers debate policies and methods to adapt and/or mitigate climate change, climate scientists seek ways to understand how a warmer future world may alter major modes of climate variability in the future. This exploration also challenges climate scientists to learn more about the dynamics of these modes and how well the coupled climate models, a major tool used by scientists to evaluate future climate change, simulate known processes in the Earth climate system.
One area that remains challenging for future climate change projections is simulating correctly modes of decadal to multi-decadal variability in the climate system. The main reason for this difficulty is the lack of sufficient observations in our historical record to capture these modes. As such, making sure we understand the processes in the atmosphere, ocean, and land-surface that are working to produce these low-frequency modes of variability. As such, there is a strong need for further research into these low-frequency patterns of climate variability, both in observations and models.
In the Applied Climate Dynamics Research Group, we focus on multi-model evaluations and testing of currently known and newly-discovered modes of climate variability. We also assess how these modes will change in the future. Areas of particular interest include:
- Asymmetry in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, including how different “flavors” or types of ENSO (i.e., central Pacific ENSO vs. eastern Pacific/canonical ENSO events) may change in frequency or structure.
- How Pacific decadal climate variability will change in the future.
- How Arctic Amplification will impact the mid- and high-latitudes in the future.
- Trends and projected changes in the stratospheric polar vortex.
- Changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events (heavy rain, drought, and heatwaves/coldwaves) across North America.
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