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.

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.

    Weather@Home

    Weather@Home is a sub-project of Near-term climate predictions for New Zealand. It aims to combine the power of thousands of ordinary home and work computers to run global and regional simulations. To find out more visit the project page.

    Project contact: Dave Frame, Victoria University of Wellington 
    Project budget: $1.4 million
    Project duration: 2015 – 2019

    This project in the media:
    New Zealand's Next Top Model, New Zealand Geographic
    Breaking the ice, NIWA

    Research and findings:
    Emission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C, Richard Millar et al, Nature Geoscience
    Population-based emergence of unusual, unfamiliar and unknown climates, David Frame et al, Nature Climate Change

     

     

    Return to the Earth System Modelling and Prediction programme page
    Check out the full list of Deep South Challenge projects

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