Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

CLaSP Seminar Series - Professor Noah Diffenbaugh

Date: March 23, 2017
Time: 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Location: Space Research Building Auditorium, Room 2246

Our guest for this week's CLaSP Seminar Series is Professor Noah Diffenbaugh, senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Please join us!  

Title: "Quantifying the influence of observed global warming on the probability of historically unprecedented extreme climate events"

Abstract: Effective climate risk management requires robust quantification of the probability of different kinds of hazards, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and severe storms. As a result, there has been increasing interest in the extent to which historical global warming has influenced the occurrence and severity of individual extreme climate events. However, although trends in the extremes of the seasonal- and daily-scale distributions of climate records have been analyzed for many years, quantifying the contribution of observed global warming to individual events that are unprecedented in the observed record presents a particular scientific challenge. I will describe a framework for leveraging observations and large climate model ensembles to quantify the influence of observed global warming on the probability of unprecedented extreme events. This approach is grounded on three tenets: (1) Focus on understanding the physical causes of the individual event; (2) Use formal uncertainty quantification to test the probability of those physical conditions occurring in the current climate; and (3) Use formal hypothesis testing to compare the probability of those physical conditions occurring in the current climate and a climate without human influence. My group has applied our analysis to a number of different climate variables from a number of individual events, including temperature, precipitation, soil moisture, and atmospheric circulation patterns. Together, this work has shown that global warming can influence the risk of extreme events that are unprecedented in historical experience, particularly by altering the probability of the physical conditions that are responsible for the event. In addition, given the widespread public interest in “real time” attribution, the prospects for operational attribution analysis will also be discussed.

Bio: Noah Diffenbaugh is a Professor at Stanford University. He studies the climate system, including impacts on agriculture, water resources, and human health. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of Geophysical Research Letters. He has served as an IPCC Lead Author, and has provided scientific expertise to the White House, the Governor of California, and U.S. Congressional offices. Recognitions include the Holton Award from the American Geophysical Union and a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation.

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