The Climate and Earth System Dynamics Group is led by Prof. Noah S. Diffenbaugh. Our research takes an integrated approach to understanding climate dynamics and climate impacts by probing the interface between physical processes and natural and human vulnerabilities. This interface spans a range of spatial and temporal scales, and a number of climate system processes. Much of the group's work has focused on the role of fine-scale processes in shaping climate change impacts, including studies of extreme weather, water resources, agriculture, human health, and poverty vulnerability.
We use the present vulnerabilities of natural and human systems to identify the climate phenomena that exert the most direct and acute influence on climate-sensitive systems. We then employ a suite of numerical modeling and data analysis techniques to understand why those physical phenomena occur in the current climate, by what mechanisms those physical phenomena are likely to respond to changes in climate “forcing”, and how those physical responses could impact humanity and other life. Employing this approach across a range of climate-sensitive systems has led to insights about (1) the importance of fine-scale climate processes in shaping the pattern and magnitude of climate change, (2) the importance of interactions between physical processes and human dimensions in shaping the impacts of climate change, and (3) the likelihood that high-impact climate change will occur locally and regionally at different levels of global warming.
Our ongoing research activities are directed at answering a suite of specific questions about the interaction of physical climate processes and climate-sensitive systems. These questions include:
- What are the climate phenomena that most impact natural and human systems?
- What physical processes control the frequency and severity of those phenomena at present?
- How do those physical processes respond to changes in forcing of the climate system (such as from changes in greenhouse gas concentrations or variations in Earth’s orbit)?
- How are natural and human systems likely to be impacted by changes in those physical processes?