Near-term climate predictions for New Zealand

Otematata Station, photo by Aaron Smale

Improving predictions and understanding deep south drivers of New Zealand’s climate

Climate change is already here. Living in a changing climate means playing catch-up: trying to work out what has changed, what is changing and what changes are just around the corner. Although the dramatic transformations expected later this century get the most attention, the impact of current change is already significant, and is affecting societies now.

  • Project funding: $1.4 million
  • Project Duration: Initially 2015-2019

Climate change is already here. Living in a changing climate means playing catch-up: trying to work out what has changed, what is changing and what changes are just around the corner. Although the dramatic transformations expected later this century get the most attention, the impact of current change is already significant, and is affecting societies now.

    Detection and attribution

    Events like floods and droughts can cause life-altering shocks to families and communities. We need to look at changes in the recent past to work out if extreme weather events are more frequent, and the extent to which human-induced climate change is responsible.

    Extreme weather events are inherently rare. We need to run the models until we have enough data to draw reliable conclusions about how aspects of the climate system interact to cause such dangerous weather. This takes a huge amount of processing power. For this reason, we are part of Weather@Home, a citizen science project that harnesses the power of thousands of personal computers
    around the world to run a climate model.

    The emergence of climate change

    This part of our research examines how climate models expect weather and climate to change, relative to “normal” or “expected” climate and weather variability. Our Pacific and Southeast Asian neighbours – and trading partners – are experiencing the effects of climate change most intensely.

    Deep South Challenge researchers are at the global forefront of research in this area. Recent work includes using climate models to simulate the link between cumulative carbon dioxide emissions and human exposure to more frequent hot days; and research into how reducing carbon emissions can slow climate change and ensure the climate of the coming decades is familiar to humanity (this will not be the case if emissions continue
    unabated).

    Decadal predictability in the New Zealand region

    We’re trying to understand predictability on timescales between a few years and a few decades. We use climate observation datasets (from a range of instruments and, most importantly, satellites) to examine the sources of New Zealand’s climate variations. By learning which features of the climate system most strongly influence changes in New Zealand’s climate, we then examine these more closely to see how they might evolve in future years.

    Primary Contact and Principle Investigator:

    • Professor Dave Frame, Victoria University of Wellington, Dave.Frame@vuw.ac.nz

    Dave’s main research interests focus on the interface between climate science and policy. His two main areas of research are in simple modelling and climate policy, and understanding more about the climate response and future change. More information on Dave’s work can be found here.

    Project Partners:

    • Victoria University of Wellington
    • NIWA
    • UK Met Office
    • University of Oxford (UK)
    • University of Melbourne (Australia)
    • University of Tasmania (Australia)

    Weather@Home

    Modelling climate events on home PCs

    One of the most innovative ways of understanding weather extremes involves running models of the same year many thousands of times.

    This requires vast amounts of computing power – more than is feasible even on the best supercomputers currently available to scientists. The problem can be overcome through distributed computing, which combines the power of thousands of ordinary home and work computers.

    Using ordinary PCs limits the size of the models that can be run, so in this project we use a relatively simple climate model. We run both global simulations and regional simulations that cover the Australasia region. Weather@Home in New Zealand is run at NIWA by the Deep South Challenge, working closely with the project’s headquarters at the University of Oxford, England.

    Project contact: Suzanne Rosier, NIWA

    Other Earth System Modelling and Prediction projects:

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