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Extreme events and environments – from climate to society (E3S)

Climatic extremes are likely to increase in the future and will affect ecosystem functions and services. The need to make informed estimates about how the land biosphere will respond to the global changes currently underway is a global challenge on which new research is needed.Increasingly, a distinction is made between the possible impact of changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme events (such as droughts, flood, heat and cold waves, insect outbreaks), and changes in the mean climate with possible shifts into climatic regimes where environmental conditions are more extreme.

In extreme environments, such changes can expose new resources for human exploitation, which has implications for the productivity and sustainability of fragile environments. Both changes in climate extremes, and climate change leading to new extreme environments, pose distinct challenges for research and society, including for democratic governance in states of emergency and for the role of knowledge.

Meeting these challenges will also require improvements in observation systems, the temporal depth of our data, dynamic vegetation and other Earth system models, and our ability to manage the risks from changing patterns of environmental extremes.

We need to know how extremes (extreme events or permanently extreme environments) shape institutions, societal networks, rules and solidarity – and what role modern communication and networking tools may play in this interaction.

This initiative will identify and bring together the different scientific communities working on past, contemporary and projected extreme climatic event and permanently extreme environments. It will include researchers from the social and natural sciences, and relevant stakeholder communities from the official government sector, from supra-national or intergovernmental organizations and from the private sector. It will establish a new science plan focusing on the implications of increasingly frequent extreme events and the likely changes in the extent and locations of permanently extreme environments in shaping societies, economies, land-use planning, and risk governance around the world.

Research questions
  • Which are the most important unprecedented climate extremes we may have to expect in the future?
  • Which are the most relevant climate metrics for extreme impacts on ecosystems and societies?
  • To which level of precision do we need to predict extreme impacts as useful support of decisions? At which time scale?
  • What do different examples of extremes tell us about the vulnerability of the coupled social-ecological system?
  • How do different societies cope with extreme environmental conditions and how do they govern the risks of extreme events?
  • What determines the ability of coupled socio-ecological systems to adapt to extreme events and environments?
  • What determines the resistance, resilience, and adaptation of ecological and societal systems to extremes?

Extreme events and environments – from climate to society (E3S) website