CAFE will train 12 young scientists to tackle extreme weather events

BGSMath Faculty member Álvaro Corral, who also heads the Complex Systems Group at CRM, will be leading an international partnership training 12 brilliant young researchers who will advance climate change science with a new interdisciplinary approach. “Extreme weather events are increasing as a consequence of climate change. To limit their catastrophic consequences, we need to learn how to model complex systems,” he says.


Sudden heat waves or devastating floodings; catastrophic draughts or unexpected super storms. Climate change has accustomed us to the rising costs of extreme weather events. Nowadays, we can barely predict them when they are about to happen.

But all of this could change, thanks to a new H2020 project (Innovative Training Network) coordinated by CRM researcher and BGSMath Faculty member Álvaro Corral.

“The most important problems humanity is facing in the 21st century,” says Corral,” have to do with our incapacity to understand, predict, and manipulate complex systems. Extreme weather events can be a consequence of climate change and they are the perfect example of how a complex system works. To limit their catastrophic consequences, we need to learn how to model them,” he says.

ITNs are training programs within the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) that aim “to train a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative” young researchers, according to the official definition of the European Commission, “able to face current and future challenges and to convert knowledge and ideas into products and services for economic and social benefit.”

One of these challenges with an enormous economic impact is clearly improving climate and weather forecasts on the subseasonal scale, one that is between weather forecast and climate change predictions. Mitigating damage and enabling prevention in the transport, agriculture, energy and tourism sector on a timescale that goes from ten to ninety days would be the most obvious long-term benefit for society.

“Climate and natural disasters have something in common: the distribution of probability follows similar statistical laws. That is, extreme events are very rare but have an important impact on the system,” explains Corral.

The problem with subseasonal predictions is that we have a poor understanding of the phenomena that affect the predictability at this time scale.

The ITN coordinated by Corral is called CAFE (Climate Advanced Forecasting of sub-seasonal Extremes – Project “813844 — CAFE — H2020-MSCA-ITN-2018”) and brings together ten organizations from across Europe plus the Universidad de la República in Uruguay. Besides the CRM itself, the other European organizations are the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, the Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg (all three in Germany), the Spanish Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), the UPC, the French forecast agency Météo-France, the French company ARIA Technologies, and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). The CAFE consortium is completed by another 11 partners, who will contribute to training 12 young researchers in climate science, meteorology, statistics and nonlinear physics. Two CAFE young researchers will be at CRM and will soon join the BGSMath PhD-student community.

“The objective of the CAFE network is to improve the predictions by merging expertise in different fields, as well as ensure translation to users, through the participation of government agencies and industry. Most of us are experts in nonlineal phenomena. Working side by side with meteorologists and climatologists will ensure that the field moves significantly forward,” explains the coordinator.

Mulidisciplinarity and academia-industry interaction will be fostered by the provision that students’ theses will have to be supervised by scientists in more than one institution. These young researchers will be given top-level training not only by their respective universities, but more specifically through a thorough programme organised by the consortium. The CAFE Programme encourages researchers to gain experience in different working environments, while developing transferrable skills, such as speaking in public, science communication, or innovation management.

One of the industrial partners in CAFE is the German insurance multinational Munich Re, that will co-supervise one of the students to work on extreme weather anomalies related to ENSO, the El Niño Southern Oscillation, a periodic variation in winds and sea surface temperatures over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean and that cause a number of important damages on the ground.

BGSMath Research Manager Arantxa Sanz has aided Corral and the researchers shape the ITN consortium and proposal. “Mathematical modelling is key to tackle the most urgent challenges humanity is facing,” she says. “At BGSMath, we are in the right place to provide top-level international expertise that can contribute to significant advances for society.”

“Thanks to the Network,” emphasises the CAFE coordinator, “we will train a new generation of brilliant researchers; one that will have a background in climate, meteorology and in nonlineal phenomena, who will also be able to work for private companies. All-round top-quality professionals that today are very difficult to find on the market.”



Álvaro Corral

Complex Systems Group Leader

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