The Heatwaves and Cold Outbreaks Research Program is in full swing, welcoming a new associate investigator in Debbie Hudson from the Bureau of Meteorology and pressing ahead with research across a range of areas. Some of our researchers are also extending their reputation.

Mia Gross recently won best poster at the 8th GEWEX conference for The sensitivity of daily temperature variability and extremes to dataset choice. This is an impressive award for a student in a very competitive international field.

Meanwhile associate investigator Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick will be editing a special issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health – Changes in heatwaves – past, present and future. The brief is a wide one with submissions covering regional and local heatwaves; small and large-scale interactions; observed events; future projections; measuring heatwaves; addressing uncertainty in future projections; understanding impacts of heatwaves; physical mechanisms of heatwaves; risk and exposure; and attribution to natural and anthropogenic processes.

The research produced by the Heatwaves and Cold Outbreaks RP has tackled both scientific and policy issues.

A paper led by Andrew King took its lead from the Paris Agreement, comparing the difference to our climate if the global warming target was limited to 1.5°C and 2°C levels above pre-industrial conditions. The aim of the paper was to look at the regional temperatures when the global surface average temperature reached 1.5°C and see if there was a linear relationship when temperatures reached 2°C. In general the paper found that there was a consistent linear relationship for most regions with the exceptions of North Pacific, northwest Atlantic, northwest Africa and China. Intriguingly they found the difference in these areas was caused by other forcings, like aerosols, that are not related to changes in greenhouse gas conditions.

Another paper with policy significance written by a team including Jason Evans, looked at how inversion layers may change with climate change along Australia’s east and south-east regions and what this would mean for pollution. CLEX researchers found inversion layers in east coast cities would be 40-80% stronger as a result of climate change – especially during winter. The overall frequency of low-level inversions did not change, however there was a slight increase in the number of daytime temperature inversions. This suggested a likely increase in adverse air quality impacts, as there is generally more pollution during daylight hours.

Eric Oliver, Neil Holbrook and three other co-authors wrote an article published in The Conversation explaining that marine heatwaves are getting hotter, lasting longer and doing more damage to the environment.

In a cross-over with some of our colleagues in the Drought RP, CLEX researchers tested a recently developed quantile-based bias correction scheme in combination with a new method to improve projections of extremes. Those climate models that were selected using this scheme effectively reduced biases in temperature/rainfall distribution shape. However the scheme was less effective in reducing probability ratios that are used in the field of event attribution. This was fundamental research that could significantly improve projections of future extreme temperature events.