Climate Variability and Predictability

Research and Activities

The research foci of the Hurrell group at CSU include empirical and modeling studies and diagnostic analyses to better understand climate, climate variability and climate change, with an emphasis on the mechanisms, predictability and impacts of leading patterns of climate variability. We are especially interested in naturally-occurring variations in climate from seasonal to decadal timescales, and the predictability of those variations.

The indisputable evidence of global warming, and the knowledge that surface temperatures will continue to rise over the next several decades under any plausible emission scenario, is now a factor in the planning of many governments, businesses, and socio-economic sectors for which weather and climate sensitivity and vulnerability are high. On the timescale of a few years to a few decades ahead, however, regional and seasonal variations in weather patterns and climate, and their corresponding impacts, will be strongly influenced by natural variability.

Decision makers in diverse arenas thus need to know the extent to which the weather and climate events they are seeing are the product of this natural variability, and hence can be expected to reverse at some point, or are the result of potentially irreversible, forced anthropogenic climate change. It is a central challenge of climate science to predict such regional-scale climate variability and change over timescales from seasons to decades.

Moreover, the international community is not presently addressing climate change through policy and mitigation in a way that will avert profound consequences. This reality is leading to the consideration of climate intervention (or geoengineering) – deliberate, large-scale intervention in the climate system designed to counter global warming or offset some of its effects. Climate intervention could well be in our collective future, especially as the impacts of climate change become more severe and climate intervention technologies are within reach.