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Climate Change Seminar - Long-term Climate Perspectives, Mega Drought and Seasonal Forecasts

Monday, February 29, 2016 at 3:35pm to 4:35pm

Plant Science Building, 233

Led by: Toby Ault (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences)


Abstract: Coping with climate change during this century will require us to build new tools for anticipating "emergent" climate risks--i.e., hazards whose likelihood cannot be easily inferred from the historical record because they are the consequence of both natural climatic variations and climate change. Obvious examples of these kinds of hazards are heat waves, rainfall events, and severe or prolonged droughts. Even when underlying climatic influences are relatively minor however, phenomena with strong ecological or economic consequences can occur. For example, small changes in spring and fall temperatures may have large implications on the growing season. This in turn influences the spread of certain pests and diseases, effecting both agricultural yields and human health. Thus far, Dr. Ault's research has coalesced around three areas of inquiry related to emergent climate risks: (1) estimating the risk of prolonged drought under climate change; (2) understanding the dynamics of seasonality, particularly spring; and (3) characterizing variations in the Tropical Pacific on timescales of decades to centuries, and their influence on global climate. His methods entail data synthesis from observational sources as well as numerical and statistical modeling. The nature of this work is therefore highly interdisciplinary, affording the opportunity to collaborate closely not only with climate scientists and modelers, but with colleagues in many other disciplines, including geography, paleoclimatology, and ecology.


The 2016 Cornell University Climate Change Seminar meets Monday afternoons through May 9. This university-wide seminar provides important views on the critical issue of climate change, drawing from many perspectives and disciplines. Experts from both Cornell University and other universities will present an overview of the science of climate change and climate change models, the implications for agriculture, ecosystems, and food systems, and provide important economic, ethical, and policy insights on the issue.

The seminar is free and open to the Cornell and Ithaca Community at large, and will be videotaped and available via Webex.

Organized and sponsored by the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture, and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future

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Event Type



Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Sustainability



Toby Ault

Speaker Affiliation

Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

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