Characterizing Variability in the Drivers of Extreme Climate Events in Alaska

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Funded Title: 
Variability in the Drivers of Extreme Events (Host Agreement Project)
Aug 2017 to Jul 2022

In Alaska, extreme climate events such as very warm days, very cold days, and intense storms can have a range of impacts, from damaging infrastructure to disrupting the tourism economy. For example, in 2013, a colder than normal spring led to late ice break-up and rapid thaw, causing massive flooding along the Yukon River that displaced roughly 500 residents in a single town. Meanwhile, in Denali, cold May temperatures delayed openings for some tourist-related businesses.
Previous work has identified which atmospheric circulation patterns are associated with extreme events, information which can help refine forecasts and downscale future climate projections. The goal of this project is to test whether these patterns hold true for all days that experience extreme weather. So far, researchers have found that not all extreme days are created equal. Some extreme climate events, such as very warm summer days, routinely occur under the expected atmospheric circulation patterns, and those circulation patterns are almost always associated with extreme climate events. However, other extreme events, such as cold summer days, can occur under a much wider range of circulation patterns. Researchers will characterize this variability in the drivers of extreme events in Alaska, ultimately improving the ability of forecasters to predict the occurrence of these events in the future.