Dr Dim Coumou awarded VIDI grant to examine prolonged heat-drought extremes

Dr Dim Coumou has been awarded a prestigious VIDI grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to examine the impacts, drivers and predictability of persistent heat-drought extremes.

06/02/2017 | 3:03 PM

Extreme heat waves are rapidly increasing in intensity on a global scale, trends which will continue with future global warming. Summer, with most biological and agricultural production, is probably the season when changes in weather extremes will have the most-severe impacts on humanity. Coumou: “Summer extremes are particularly devastating when they persist for several days with many consecutive hot-and-dry days often causing harvest failure”.

Despite this importance, persistence of extreme summer weather has largely been neglected by the climate science community so far. What maintains stagnating summer weather? Do climate models capture persistence and the underlying processes accurately? What is the role of global warming? Coumou will study these questions focusing on the most high-impact, persistent summer extremes. The project combines novel methods from disciplines which historically evolved largely independently: (1) Machine learning techniques and (2) modelling experiments using state-of-the-art climate models.

In recent publications, Coumou has reported a pronounced weakening of boreal summer circulation since 1979 and hypothesised that this leads to more-persistent, and therefore more-extreme, summer weather conditions. Coumou: “I will put this overarching hypothesis to the test, looking both at observations and climate model data”.

The research will be carried out in close collaboration with colleagues at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and also involve stakeholders like Munich RE.