New project aims to understand extreme weather under future climate change

New project aims to understand extreme weather under future climate change

Representatives from 177 countries have signed the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global warming below 1.5°C. The University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute, Atmospheric Physics department and e-Research Centre are pleased to announce their involvement in the HAPPI project, a new international collaboration assessing the effects of climate change.

The decision on whether to increase the ambition of climate change mitigation efforts to stabilise temperatures at 1.5°C rather than 2°C above pre-industrial levels is arguably one of the most important this decade, but to date there has been little scientific analysis of the risks relating to each outcome, particularly regarding the role of extreme weather.

To inform the assessment on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is required to provide in 2018 for the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), research will need to be undertaken immediately.

It is likely that if temperatures are stabilised at 1.5°C global warming, effects will be dominated in many regions by changes in extreme weather events. If additional research is not undertaken to quantify these changes as a matter of urgency, there is a danger that the evidence available by the end of 2017 will be insufficient to clearly distinguish between impacts at 1.5°C and 2°C of warming.

The HAPPI project, which originated at the University of Oxford, will partner with climate modelling groups to undertake a series of experiments specifically designed to quantify the relative risks associated with 1.5°C and 2°C of warming, particularly focussing on extreme weather events.

This is a truly international collaboration, with researchers from the UK, USA, UAE, Tunisia, Morocco, Canada, Australia, Japan, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Norway. Some of the impacts that could be studied under the collaboration include hurricane frequency and changes in location, crop yield changes, flood risks and resultant economic impacts, and health risks due to extreme hot or cold spells.

Dr. Daniel Mitchell, postdoctoral researcher in the university’s Department of Physics and chair of the HAPPI steering committee, says “The project utilises a consortia of modelling centres to build an international collaboration of our ‘best guess’ as to what impacts will be felt under the Paris Agreement. The project allows for a different analysis to conventional climate projections studies, but this is what is needed to address policy makers concerns”.

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