Projecting changes to extreme weather and climate for Alaska during the 21st century

This project is the focus of Rick Lader’s PhD research and involves extreme events assessment for Alaska using dynamically downscaled regional climate model simulations. The dynamical downscaling makes available a full suite of model variables at 20 km spatial resolution, allowing broad expansion of extreme events analysis for Alaska. The simulations include both historical (1970-2005), and future (2006-2100) runs, thus enabling study into projected changes, in terms of magnitude and expected return period.

Extreme events are characterized by values that exceed a threshold at the upper and lower tails of the distribution of a given variable. The World Meteorological Organization’s Expert Team on Climate Change Detection and Indices (ETCCDI) recommended a standardized list of extreme event metrics that use temperature and precipitation distributions. In addition to these indices, this research will include Alaska-specific ones that relate to snow, ice, and wind.

With a statistical understanding of how extreme events are projected to change for Alaska, a connection can be made to natural hazards, which include these events, but also incorporate the interrelationship between exposure and vulnerability of humans. In Alaska, these natural hazards often center on wildfire, coastal erosion, and flooding.