During this project, you will take a new approach to transform understanding of continental heatwaves in a changing climate. Combining computational models with physical theory, the project will tackle three key objectives:
(1) A NEW THEORY FOR CONTINENTAL HEATWAVES. A new theory for continental heatwaves and their response to climate change will be developed. This work will build on influential research linking average continental temperatures to land aridity and ocean warming (Byrne & O’Gorman 2013; Byrne & O’Gorman 2018). The goal is to build a robust, conceptual understanding of the mechanics of continental heatwaves. The new theory will challenge the current heatwave paradigm based on complex computational models and will fill a notable gap in our knowledge of how the climate system operates.
(2) INNOVATIVE CLIMATE SIMULATIONS TO ADVANCE UNDERSTANDING. A novel hierarchy of climate models, from simplified continental configurations to state-of-the-art simulations, will be performed and analysed to investigate continental heatwaves under climate change. The goal is to test and refine the theory for continental heatwaves developed in Objective 1 in a systematic manner. Simulations will also be designed to probe the processes controlling how continental heatwaves in different regions (e.g. low versus high latitudes) respond to global warming.
(3) EMERGENT CONSTRAINTS FOR CONTINENTAL HEATWAVES. The theory and simulations from Objectives 1 and 2 will be combined to develop “emergent constraints” for continental heatwaves for the first time. Emergent constraints are observable quantities in the current climate that have great potential to provide a new pathway to narrowing uncertainty in future predictions but have not yet been developed for continental heatwaves. Potential emergent constraints will be tested using the simulations described in Objective 2 and, if successful, will be applied to narrow uncertainty in heatwave predictions from state-of-the-art climate models.
For Objective 2, you will perform novel climate simulations using the Community Earth System Model (CESM). These simulations will be designed to investigate the dynamics of continental heatwaves and their response to climate change. For Objective 3, the student will analyse heatwaves in state-of-the-art climate simulations from the CMIP6 data archives, with the aim of narrowing the large uncertainty in future projections.