National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)
1 Park Place, Suite 300
Annapolis, MD 21401
Title: Winter Weather Whiplash: Impacts of Compound Extreme Winter Weather Events on Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Seminar presented by Dr. Alix Contosta, University of New Hampshire.
Abstract: “Weather whiplash” is a colloquial phrase for describing an extreme event that features shifts between two opposing weather conditions. Past media coverage and research on such extreme occurrences have largely ignored winter weather events. Yet rapid swings in winter weather can include the abrupt crossing from frozen to unfrozen conditions, or vice versa. Thus, the potential impact of these types of events on coupled human and natural systems may be large, particularly given the trajectory of rapidly changing winter conditions. This seminar will present new conceptual and quantitative frameworks for understanding the drivers and impacts of winter weather whiplash events, including: 1) a conceptual typology of winter weather whiplash events; 2) statistical techniques that can quantify the behavior of compound extremes to examine whether and how occurrences of these events have changed through time; 3) the determination of the impacts of winter weather whiplash on coupled human and natural systems; and 4) the outcome of key informant interviews with stakeholders to shape the trajectory of research activities. The goal of this transdisciplinary data synthesis and stakeholder engagement, completed in part during an extended residency at SESYNC, is to enable a deeper understanding of such events and the extent of their impacts in order to minimize their risks.
Bio: Dr. Alix Contosta is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Earth Systems Research Center. She explores interactions between land use and climate, with emphasis on carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions from ecosystems under a variety of land uses and management regimes. She also studies winter ecology and the winter-to-spring transition, especially the ways in which climate change impacts terrestrial ecosystems during these periods. Dr. Contosta utilizes a combination of innovative field and lab experiments, state-of-the-art environmental sensors, and data-model integration to pursue her research agenda.