Year of selection 2012
Institution The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Country Hong Kong
The importance of climate change study to the world and next generation
Climate change affects every facet of human society and the natural world. Such issues as global warming, altered rainfall patterns, sea level rise and increased incidence of extreme weather events have strong implications on our general life style, agricultural practices, economic growth, public health and design of our habitat in urban and rural settings. Weather hazards that might be related to climate change, such as tropical and extratropical storms, flood and drought episodes, and heat and cold spells, lead to considerable loss of human lives and socio-economic upheavals. Scientific projections indicate that many of the climate change signals will become clearly discernible in the course of the 21st century, and their impacts will be felt by the present and future generations. It is very important that we understand how the climate system will behave in the coming decades, so as to make advance planning to adapt to our changing environment.
The AXA Professorship, held by Professor Gabriel Lau will advance CUHK’s cross-disciplinary educational and research agendas in the environmental field. To achieve this, Professor Lau will launch scientific investigations into climate variability and change on different time and space scales, and leverage CUHK’s recently-established Institute of Environment, Energy and Sustainability (IEES), which is responsible for environment-related education, research and knowledge transfer. He will also be devoted to nurturing the next generation of climate and environmental scientists in Hong Kong and mainland China.
What is the research topic and content in brief? Why this topic?
The research will be focused on the projection and understanding of the impacts of climate change on the East Asian sector. In particular, the mechanisms through which climate change affects the mean and time-varying components of the atmospheric circulation patterns in East Asia will be studied. The weather systems of interest include the ‘Plum Rain’ belt occurring in the onset phase of the summer monsoon in this region, tropical cyclones and heat waves during the warm season, and wintertime cold-air outbreak episodes. Such weather events exert strong influences on the livelihood and commercial/farming activities in a densely populated region that has experienced strong economic growth in recent decades. The findings from this study would therefore be of strong interest to industrial, agricultural and environmental planners and policy-makers in this region. The availability of new supporting datasets from the Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), for which the holder of this Professorship has served as a lead author, will facilitate this study.
What is the expected research findings? When?
The research is expected to yield new physical understanding of the expected climate change signals in the East Asian sector, including behavior of various meteorological features associated with the summer and winter monsoon circulations in this region. The relative roles of atmospheric dynamics, remote and local air-sea coupling, radiative forcing, land processes and orographic influences, and precipitation physics in driving climate change in East Asia will be identified. The reliability of the results based on different climate models will be assessed. It is anticipated that the findings from the initial phase of this research project will be obtained in a 2-3 year time frame. More comprehensive and detailed results will be available in 4-5 years.
What is the expected contribution to the community?
The new findings will contribute to increased skill in forecasting unusual weather and climate events on time scales ranging from weeks to several years, as provided by hydro-meteorological services in the East Asian region. The results will also serve as important input to planners and policy-makers in their efforts to manage water and air resources in this region for the coming decades. Outreach efforts to communicate the impacts of climate change will also raise the awareness of the general public of the consequences of human activities on the natural environment, thereby spurring constructive community actions such as life-style changes and implementation of various conservation measures.
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