Weather assessment tool gains govt funding

A team led by an Alexandra-based research company has secured funding to create a world-leading, near real-time assessment tool to the public that will analyse extreme weather events and their link to climate change.

Bodeker Scientific, along with Niwa and MetService, will develop the tool - called Extreme Weather Event Real-time Attribution Machine (Eweram) - that would show how an extreme weather event, such as the heavy snowfall in Queenstown and Wanaka earlier this week, would have occurred in the atmospheric conditions of 1750.

Bodeker Scientific owner and director Greg Bodeker said this could be done by running simulations similar to those made for daily weather forecasts, but changing the conditions such as surface temperature, atmospheric temperature and humidity to mimic those of 1750.

''After the big snowfall that happened in Queenstown, they'd be able to say whether this event would've happened [in 1750] or wouldn't have happened, or it would've been the same.

''It could've been that with climate change putting more water vapour into the atmosphere it would've made the snowfall in Queenstown bigger. But so far no-one has any capability to make that statement.''

He believed Eweram would raise awareness that climate change was more than just global warming.

''I suspect few if any people would've seen the snowfall in Queenstown and wondered if climate change had made it more severe, because we only think of climate change as global warming.

''But it is quite possible that climate change did cause the snowfall to be heavier, as there's more water vapour in the air and more water vapour means more precipitation.''

The project has received just under $1million over three years from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Endeavour Fund.

Mr Bodeker said it was hoped the tool would become part of Metservice's regular weather-forecasting chain.

While others around the world were attempting to build the same thing, Mr Bodeker said that, to his knowledge, no country had yet implemented such a tool as part of its weather forecasting.

Minister for Research, Science and Innovation Megan Woods said climate change was the ''biggest environmental challenge of our time'' and wholeheartedly backed the project.

''Making information on the impacts of climate change more accessible is an incredibly valuable public service, and research like this will make a vital contribution to highlighting the need to transition to a low-emissions economy.''

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