The ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes (CLEx) is primarily funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC). It brings together five Australian universities and a suite of outstanding national and international Partner Organisations. The establishment of the Centre – the first of its kind globally – marks a shift from investigating climate averages to a specific focus on the process-level understanding that explains the behaviour of climate extremes that directly affect Australian natural and economic systems. With this increased evidence-based understanding as our foundation, the Centre will improve our capability to predict climate extremes with the goal of reducing our national vulnerability.

CLEx was established in August 2017 with extensive investment from the ARC, the University of New South Wales, Monash University, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Tasmania, The Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales Government’s Research Attraction and Acceleration Program and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. We have strong links with CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), and through them with the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS) initiative. The Centre works in partnership with the National Computational Infrastructure Facility (NCI) and informs scientifically robust policy decisions via our partnerships with state and federal departments and the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub of the National Environmental Science Programme. We have two industry partnership already established: Risk Frontiers, an industry funded research centre focussed on risk, and the Managing Climate Variability Program, who helps link weather and climate information with the agricultural sector.

There is an increasing need to capture the behaviour of climate extremes in national prediction systems and to date the assumption has been that models with skill in capturing the averages will have skill in capturing extremes. Evidence has emerged that disputes this assumption, leading to the need to build new mathematical models with explicit attention to the behaviour of systems under extreme conditions. CLEx will focus on the processes underlying extreme rainfall, droughts, heatwaves and cold air outbreaks. Because these are all affected by the background climate, including variability on many timescales, we will maintain research efforts on climate variability, teleconnections and climate sensitivity. Our research will be necessarily quantitative, understanding the physics, dynamics and biology of climate extremes and describing them in ACCESS. Central to our research is therefore the high-performance computers and data environment provided by NCI.

We aim to help reduce Australia’s economic, social and environmental vulnerability to climate extremes. Climate extremes affect many facets of Australian society including health, soil and water, agriculture, infrastructure, energy security and financial security. Our research therefore touches on many of the national Science and Research Priorities including food, soil and water, transport, energy, environmental change and health. In the first instance, by linking with Risk Frontiers we will prioritise how climate extremes affect insurance risks, and via the Managing Climate Variability Program we will prioritise how climate extremes affect food production.

With national and international partners, we will implement new understanding into our national prediction systems and improve predictions of climate extremes. By linking with key economic sectors we will enable better decision-making that builds increased national resilience to climate extremes and help minimise risk to the Australian environment, society, and economy.