The climate negotiations are becoming more and more important in order to come up with an action plan for the Climate Agenda which came into being in 2015. The knowledge on scientific aspects of climate shifts are important when determining the action required across different places on earth. This is of course in addition to the action that is much needed regardless of the location. Therefore, we have recently been looking into the IPCC publications and the report recently published by Annual Reviews titled, “Recent Progress and Emerging Topics on Weather and Climate Extremes Since the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”. This article focuses on discussing the precipitation extremes based on the facts highlighted in the above report.
The report indicates that the confidence level for the precipitation extremes not high enough to be satisfactory in regions of Central and South America, Asia, and Africa. Therefore, the uncertainties that come with this might lead to inaccurate and insufficient understanding of changes in monsoon behaviors. This indicates that there is a need for more reliable monsoon modelling. Institutions like Colorado State University (CSU) are looking in to integrate machine learning techniques for the climate models to better understand monsoon circulations.
Intermittent behavior of precipitation extremes is another concern and is studied to understand the nature of high precipitation events. Sri Lanka seems to observe high precipitation events in each year in recent years and specifically in 2011, 2014, 2015. 2016 and 2017 significant damages were reported. Another point to note is despite the 2018 precipitation was relatively less damaging for Sri Lanka, south-western Indian provinces were severely affected. More data extractions during these events through gauge observations, radar, and satellites would be highly useful for further research and modelling.
Another aspect to consider is sub daily precipitation extremes, the report claims that this was “insufficiently assessed in AR5 and SREX”. There are statistical studies from countries like Singapore and would be useful to incorporate. In Singapore's case, precipitation activity is influenced by the El Niño Southern Oscillation, but not during the North-East Monsoon season. During the La Niña phase, the precipitation is shifted towards the morning.
Post-AR5 there has been research into changes in extreme snowfall, which exhibit an overall tendency toward decreases in several metrics at both regional and continental scales. It would be interesting to look at the current winter in the Southern hemisphere and coming winter season in the northern hemisphere for further analysis. By observation we could state that in states like Colorado in USA, the snowfall has decreased over the years.
- Written by Sajith Wijesuriya
With the climate negotiations kicking off in Bangkok last week, there was much attention on producing an agreed basis for negotiations for all PAWP(Paris Agreement Work Programme) items. PAWP needs to be finalized by COP 24 which has lead to these added meetings on the process. PAWP shall be an effective toolset for implementation of climate agenda. In the light of this the technology mechanism of UNFCCC becomes an important factor as well. Within the UN Climate Change process, countries have confirmed the importance of enhancing technology development and transfer to developing countries. To facilitate this, in 2010 the Conference of the Parties established the Technology Mechanism. The Technology Executive Committee is the Technology Mechanism’s policy body and analyses issues and provides policy recommendations that support country efforts to enhance climate technology development and transfer.
The Technology Mechanism consists of two bodies: the Technology Executive Committee and the Climate Technology Centre and Network(CTCN). The implementation body of the Technology Mechanism is the CTCN. UN Environment hosts this entity in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization(UNIDO), and is further supported by several knowledge partners based in different locations across the world.
Asian Institute of Technology(Thailand)
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research(South Africa)
Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands(Netherlands)
UNEP DTU Partnership(Denmark)
World Agroforestry Centre(Kenya)
Therefore, we have institutions from Africa(4), Asia and Pacific(2), Europe(6), South America(2), North America(1). While there should be more partners coming together in Asia and Pacific region, CTCN contributes with the following services to speed up the development and transfer of technologies.
Providing technical assistance at the request of developing countries on technology issues
Creating access to information and knowledge on climate technologies
Fostering collaboration among climate technology stakeholders via its network of regional and sectoral experts
It should be interesting to look at how young practitioners are included in these platforms. It is encouraging to see AIT being an academic institution included in the list of partners. In a following article we will discuss the contribution of these entities in different sectors of implementation.
- Written by Sajith Wijesuriya
The smoke from wildfires is a major concern for western parts of the United States of America. Late summers and fall show high risk of wildfires. In addition to the damage to the flora and fauna, human communities from the fires, the smoke can also be dangerous in many ways. Cities like Denver, Colorado have issued numerous air quality advisory notices throughout last couple of months. While wildfires are geographically limited by nearby fuel sources like the dried up accumulated biomass, wildfire smoke travels fast with the wind. Carried on eastward-flowing air currents, dangerous particulate matter from wildfires is increasingly seeping into the cities across the US during this time period. This microscopic particles can penetrate deep into a person’s lung and eyes causing health issues where children are at high risk since they spend more time outdoors in summers. Aggravated chronic heart and lung diseases and even death is possible due to inhalation of smoke. We have also witnessed this in heavy smog in south asia during the winter.
The situation is much worse across the westernmost states, California, Oregon, and Washington. Therefore, there is a need for better modelling, monitoring, and warning systems to in place to ensure the safety of the communities. Detailed forecasts can help not only the communities but also transportation systems. The “HRRR(High-Resolution Rapid Refresh)-Smoke” model is a major advancement in predicting the direction and height of wildfire smoke plumes. It is an experimental study by NOAA. The model simulates the emissions and transport of smoke from wildfires to help NOAA NWS forecast offices provide core partners and the public information about the severity and movement of wildfire smoke. Furthermore, NOAA-20 satellite has the ability to transmit data such that researchers can pinpoint the locations and the intensity of the wildfire. This data also feeds into the HRRR model to enable improved predictions.
This information has been helping entities like the National Park Services, Amtrak to make better decisions about the possible dangers and convey them to the public in a timely manner. This work has also helped scientists to conclusively connect wildfire smoke with specific health outcomes which was difficult in the past due to incomplete data. We look forward to bring more research findings of these studies in the future.
- Written by Sajith Wijesuriya
Issues of the 21st century are complex due to their interrelations and interdependencies and the challenges in the foreseeable future are believed to be similar or worse, putting multi-disciplinary approach on the spotlight. The sustainability of solutions put forward to tackle current issues or better prepare for anticipated future challenges depends on their capacity to facilitates social and economic upliftment while ensuring environmental protection. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to identify the social, economic and environmental impacts of the problem as well as the vulnerabilities imposed on them and design solutions that could negate or ideally reverse such impacts and vulnerabilities. Some major issues are globally common and highly sensitive, such as those relating to water, food and energy securities, thus proposals of mitigation and adaptation mechanisms related to those can create public chaos and controversy. This highlights the significance of incorporating multi-stakeholder perspectives in designing an inclusive final solution.
Such factors, but not limited to them, are what makes the issues of our time complex and demanding a cross-disciplinary approach in related scientific research. Scientists/engineers may find the ideal solution, but the ideal is subjective. What is required is to make this ideal solution, the feasible and optimum one with least compromises and creating a win-win situation for all involved parties. Thus, a scientific research team should include expertise knowledge spanning across disciplines such as humanities, social sciences, gender etc. in developing insightful coping mechanisms. This also creates the opportunity to value other individual disciplines by recognizing their indispensable input. Such multidisciplinary teams have the capacity to develop sustainable responsive mechanisms for the issues of the 21st century, enabling meaningful action to make a positive change on the ground.
- Written by Naditha Imbulana
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