Research News

Using Latest Simulation Technologies to Predict Extreme Heat Events

A team of researchers from Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) has been awarded a three-year $500,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to use its Seamless System for Prediction and Earth System Research (SPEAR)—a next generation computer modeling system for simulating global climate change—to project future extreme heat events, which are major contributors to global warming impacts.

Temperature extremes, particularly persistent and widespread in extreme heat events, can severely affect ecosystems and vast areas in society causing wildfires, harvest failures, and excessive injury and death to populations, particularly the most vulnerable. In recent years, the contiguous US and Europe have been identified by scientists as hotspots for extreme heat events with the fastest increase in frequency and intensity.

“Our goal with this project is to find an answer to this question: Why have extreme heat event hotspots over the US and Europe occurred in the recent past, and how will such hotspots evolve in the coming years and decades?” says Ping Liu, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor and Principal Investigator of the project, which runs through August 2026.

Co-Principal Investigators of the project are Kevin A. Reed, and Levi G. Silvers.

Previously the SoMAS researchers focused on atmospheric blocking, which blocks troughs and ridges by way of a type of high-pressure system causing extreme heat. This new work extends the understanding of blocking and heat waves across the US and Europe. They will evaluate and attribute past heat waves in SPEAR simulations, then forecast and attribute heat waves to the year 2030. With the work they hope to improve SPEAR simulations of extreme temperature, while also predicting extreme temperatures and drivers in the future.

They will use SPEAR with respect to the climatological statistics of the two hotspots and established weather pattern information in order to evaluate SPEAR’s ability to simulate future extreme heat events.

Ping and colleagues believe they will be able to further attribute extreme heat events to other highly relevant atmospheric factors such as the thermodynamic contribution of ongoing atmospheric warming and the dynamic contribution from persistent high-pressure systems, jet streams and near-surface wind speeds.

The research will also address how extreme heat events have broader applications to water resources and marine ecosystems in the US and Europe.

SPEAR was developed in 2021 by NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). The funding for the research comes from NOAA Climate Program Office through the Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) Program.


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