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At the Center for Prototype Climate Modeling, our research encompasses a diverse range of projects, unified by one central goal: improving our ability to understand and make predictions about future climate. The magnitude and importance of this task is evident from the looming fact of climate change: if we are to implement meaningful solutions to combat the disastrous effects of climate change, we have to be able to anticipate these effects, which makes it essential that we first specify and describe the exact nature of this change.
To this end, we work on developing new and innovative methods for high-accuracy prediction, such as high-resolution simulations, parametrizations, and low-order predictive models: think complex mathematical models and high-performance computing. We apply these methods to understand fundamental earth processes — atmospheric, oceanic and biogeochemical — that determine and influence changes in climate. We also use these mathematical tools to understand the interaction of these processes, and how they influence one another. And then, by carefully simulating these processes and tracking their complex interactions, we predict and quantify the precise nature of imminent changes to climate in regions around the world — with a close focus on the Gulf and South Asian regions. Consequently, our methods allow us to engage in a number of highly impactful research activities — these include predicting variations in the South Asian monsoons, studying the dynamics of regional cyclones, and examining the ecological implications of deoxygenation in the Arabian Sea.
At the Center for Prototype Modeling, therefore, we work hard towards our mission of bridging the existing gaps between climate theory, mathematical models and observation, in order to see our future — and the future of climate — more accurately and clearly.
Biogeochemistry of the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean
Principal Investigator: Shafer Smith | Senior Scientist: Zouhair Lachkar
The Arabian Sea represents less than 2 percent of the world’s ocean area. Yet, it hosts the world’s thickest oceanic oxygen deficient zone, is a source of N2O (a potent greenhouse gas that also contributes to stratospheric ozone depletion), and is responsible for up to 40 percent of global pelagic denitrification, a process that depletes the oceanic pool of bio-available nitrogen (essential for phytoplankton growth, the base of the oceanic food chain). The fact that the Arabian Sea’s effects on climate are disproportionate to its size makes a close and careful examination of this region’s biogeochemistry extremely important on a global scale. Our work primarily concerns the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean Oxygen Deficient Zones - regions with particularly low concentrations of dissolved oxygen. We use mathematical models and high-performance computing cluster called Dalma (with 12,000 computing cores) to determine the sensitivity of these zones to potential changes such as the warming of the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea, the perturbations of the Indian monsoon winds, and the rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Our simulations also help us to anticipate the implications of further deoxygenation on the carbon cycle and climate and to better understand the effects the exacerbation of such zones will have on life in the sea. For instance, several marine species are profoundly influenced by changing oxygen levels, including fish: fish in the region have adapted to become increasingly efficient at absorbing oxygen, but any further decrease in oxygen might prove disastrous to marine life, and, by extension, to industries that depend on it — like the UAE’s fisheries. Precisely modeling these anticipated changes are crucial to the development of preventative solutions. As a closely related project, we also use simulations analyzed in a Lagrangian framework to study water transport pathways in the ocean and how their dispersion affect the growth of photosynthetic organisms and the cycling of carbon. Thus our research seeks to holistically understand the multidirectional relationship between climate change and variability, biogeochemical processes, and ocean ecosystems.
Prototype Climate Models for Better Prediction of Weather and Climate
Principal Investigator: Andrew Majda | Senior Scientist: Ajaya Ravindran
We focus on the development of new methods, including parameterizations, diagnostics and low-order predictive models. These newly-developed methods are applied to critical problems of the tropical and subtropical atmosphere and ocean. For instance, we’ve developed a stochastic multicloud model to parameterize tropical convection and have tested with Global General Circulation Models. Another major research area is the development of low-order models to predict various nonlinear atmospheric and oceanic phenomenon like ENSO, low-frequency oscillations (like the Madden-Julian/Monsoon intra-seasonal oscillations). A new diagnosis technique called Nonlinear Laplacian Spectral Analysis has been developed and used to analyze monsoon intra-seasonal oscillations. These advanced mathematical techniques help us in understanding the basic dynamics of the atmospheric-oceanic system and thereby leads us to improved prediction of the weather and climate.
Monsoon Mission: Predicting Variations in South Asian Monsoons
We were recently awarded a USD 500,000 Monsoon Mission grant by the Government of India to study precipitation variability in the high precipitation regions of South Asia. The South Asian monsoon impacts millions of people in South Asia who depend on it as their main source of rainfall, and, as a key player in tropical climate, it affects weather in extratropical regions too. Thus we develop models and analyze model simulations to predict the impact of global warming on low pressure monsoon systems, identify the dynamics behind winter rainfall in the UAE, precisely quantify intra-seasonal variability in monsoon rainfall, and examine the impact of the El Nino Southern Oscillations (perturbations of wind and sea surface temperatures) on tropical climate. This research helps enhance our understanding of how global warming affects extreme precipitation events, such as droughts and floods, in South Asia.
Regional Climate Modeling for the Arabian Peninsula and South Asia
Principal Investigator: Olivier Pauluis
Global models used to predict future climate changes offer a broad picture of how weather conditions will evolve around the world, but provide little information on local impact. Our group has been developing a high resolution regional climate model to assess how changes in global climate will specifically affect the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian Subcontinent. Our research aims to better understand how regional features affect the hydrological cycle (the evaporation of water from the ocean, the formation and movement of clouds, and the subsequent return of water in the form of precipitation). This allows us to better identify risks to the water supply, study extreme weather such as tropical cyclones and droughts, and develop methods to combat them.
As part of this broad effort, we have studied the intensity of tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea, which have important implications for summer climate in the Arabian Peninsula and for extreme rainfall over the Arabian Gulf. We also study the onset and evolution of the Indian Summer Monsoon; for instance, we examine the extent to which the Madden-Julian Oscillation — a pattern of intra-seasonal rainfall fluctuations — determines the timing of onset of the South Asian monsoons, which allows us to make highly accurate predictions about the arrival of the monsoons.
Apart from the above research activities, we are also part of an international effort to assess the potential for rainfall enhancement in the UAE, working with researchers from institutes in China, Germany and the US. Our work as part of this initiative is instrumental in helping us understand how we can improve water security in arid and semi-arid areas around the world.