Can atmospheric science improve global disaster resilience?


Many of the natural disasters that make the news headlines are related to extreme or unusual weather events. In an open-access article recently published in Reviews in GeophysicsSteptoe et al. [2018]examine extreme atmospheric hazards effecting different countries and regions around the world, and their connections with the global climate system. The editor asked the authors to explain more about these hazards and describe how scientific insights can be used by governments, communities and corporations involved in disaster risk reduction.

What do you mean by “extreme atmospheric hazards”?


Extreme atmospheric hazards are high impact weather events, typically judged by human or financial losses, caused by processes occurring in the Earth’s atmosphere. The atmospheric processes responsible for extreme events are themselves often influenced by some other large-scale component of the Earth’s atmosphere-ocean system, such as ocean-wide changes to sea-surface temperatures.

Why is it important to understand regional extreme atmospheric events in the wider context of large scale atmosphere-ocean processes?

In atmospheric science, the links that connect large scale changes in the atmosphere or ocean (such as widespread changes in temperature or humidity in an ocean basin) with localized hazards relating to regional weather conditions (such as extremes of rainfall or temperature) are collectively referred to as teleconnections. Most local extreme events may be related to temporal changes in the large scale dynamics of the climate system. Large scale changes are predicted by weather and climate models more skillfully than local extremes so understanding the link is vital to understanding impacts.

There are many different kinds of teleconnection, typically named after the geographic location in which they are observed. Because any one teleconnection may influence weather conditions in multiple remote locations, understanding the interplay between regional extremes and teleconnections helps us to understand how different extreme hazards occurring in widely separate locations can have a common origin. In our review, we examined 16 different regional hazards and their interplay with eight different teleconnections.



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