Dynamics and Multiscale Interactions
When climate and weather stray from their typical range, extremes such as heatwaves and cold spells, floods and droughts, can have adverse consequences on society. It is a central priority at NOAA to understand and predict these departures from normal. As an example, consider the Boulder, Colorado Floods of 2013. These historic rains cost lives, destroyed buildings and infrastructure, and still have lasting effects. This type of event often brings numerous questions, such as whether it could have been predicted a week, a month, or a season in advance? Or, could its impacts have been better anticipated with more complete knowledge of the complex interplay between ocean, atmosphere, and land?
PSD's Dynamics and Multiscale Interactions Team is working to understand and predict variations and trends in weather, water, and climate, with an emphasis on extremes. To address these issues, theoretical, observational, and modeling approaches are used. Theoretical approaches are guided by the idea that the complex interactions of the atmosphere and ocean can be significantly simplified by separating out unpredictable interactions and focusing on those that are predictable. Storms, weather patterns, seasonal irregularities such as El Niño, floods and droughts, and decades-long climate variations, all can be better understood and even predicted with this focus. We also use these approaches to better understand extremes by characterizing the complete distribution from which the extremes are drawn.
We also use global models of the atmosphere and ocean to understand the connections between variations in weather, water, and climate extremes and changes in atmospheric composition, such as greenhouse gases or aerosols from volcanoes, or changes in sea surface temperature, such as those associated with El Niño. While useful, such models still have room for considerable improvement, such as in representing observed weather patterns or the exchange of heat and moisture between the ocean, land, and the atmosphere. To make progress in these areas, we develop global historical weather data sets, and a variety of innovative measurements. For example, we are determining how Global Navigation Satellite Systems, Sirius radio, satellite TV, and sound waves can each be used as low-cost measurements of the atmosphere, land and ocean surface.