October 11, 2016


Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Marie Tharp Lamont Research Professor

The Challenge

Extreme weather events exact terrible tolls on lives, social and economic stability, and national security. As public officials, the private sector, communities and citizens worldwide plan for the future, urgent questions demand attention: how are the risks of such disasters changing, and what should we do to prepare?

The Initiative

The Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate was formed to understand the basic science of extreme weather events in the context of climate change, establish comprehensive risk assessments, and develop engineering solutions to protect life and property in our changing environment. The scientists who make up the initiative are embarking on comprehensive, often cross-disciplinary research into tropical cyclones, tornados, droughts, floods, and heat waves. Those in engineering are designing innovative engineering solutions to benefit disaster planning, management, and recovery operations. Our scientists are engaged in the development of probabilistic estimates of risk that will allow systems analyses of potentially cascading infrastructure failure. Taken together, this solution-oriented research will allow for increased preparedness and adaptation to extreme weather events in a changing climate.

What’s Needed

The success of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate depends on the exceptional scientists who will work to unravel the complex dynamics that govern weather and climate and create solutions that can mitigate the effects of extreme weather on society. Supporting this research requires project funding to enable researchers to move quickly and investigate the world’s most pressing problems. Through the generous support of our early partners and future visionary donors, our researchers will be better able to meet the needs of our global society.

Why Lamont?

Much of the modern understanding of climate change is underpinned by pioneering studies conducted at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Lamont has long been a leader in the study of natural climate variability. Its scientists were the first to construct a model of the physics of El Niño events that could successfully predict their occurrence. This work introduced medium-term forecasts now used worldwide in planning for agriculture and emergency relief. Our scientists have continued to build upon this work to understand and predict the role of climate variability and climate change on hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, and wildfires.

Few research institutions in the world share Columbia University’s extraordinary mix of observational, analytic, and technical expertise across such a wide range of fields. The Initiative will draw expertise from across the University to focus on the science and engineering challenges and to make Earth’s populations and economies better prepared for and resilient to the risks posed by extreme weather and climate.