UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS | INTERNATIONAL ARCTIC RESEARCH CENTER

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Rick Lader Highlight Picture

Rick Lader

After completing his doctorate at UAF, Rick Lader continued his career as a postdoctoral fellow working on projecting changes to weather and climate extremes. These include drastic increases in the likelihood of events such as fires and floods, and even changes in the length of certain seasons.

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Producing locally useful climate data.

A difficult part of Lader’s work is finding data that can be accurately applied to Alaska. Much of the climate and weather information produced is done on a larger, more global scale.  Although vitally important, this data is not always useful on a local scale. Much of the work that Lader is involved in is taking the global data, feeding it through locally-relevant climate information, and extracting Alaska specific climate data through a process called dynamical downscaling.

“We are able to do this research because of the dynamical downscaling modeling that is done here at IARC, and has not been done anywhere else for this area,” says Lader.  “A lot of other research centers and universities have downscaled climate model information before, but often these projects won’t go up to Alaska, or will crop off half of the state or the Aleutians or something like that.”

Long-reaching effects of climate change.

Lader explains that although most people are generally prepared for the everyday weather and climate, it’s the extremes that can truly cause problems. As weather patterns change, processes that we take for granted can be similarly altered. A good example of this is in Alaskan construction, where current building guidelines are written based on information that is quickly becoming outdated.

“Our simulations suggest that precipitation extremes will be more intense, and be outside the historically observed distributions,” explains Lader. “Future construction will need to be built according to higher precipitation amounts, greater flow rates, higher water levels, that kind of thing .“

By using downscaled data, Lader and his fellow researchers at IARC are able to project longterm changes, even decades in advance.

As Lader puts it, “... changes to the snow season length and the changes to the growing season length based on number of days around the freezing point is projected to change not on the order of days or weeks, but on the order of one to three months by the end of the century.”

Through Lader’s work, these types of weather and climate changes can be more accurately projected. This allows not just the scientific community at large, but people in communities throughout the state to be more aware of future changes and be better prepared for what climate change holds in store for Alaska.

A figure from one of Lader’s many scientific contributions showing the projected average daily percentage of sea ice in March within a set of given decades. This decrease in sea ice comes alongside an increase in precipitation within the state, as the water vapor from the melting ice condenses back into liquid in the atmosphere and falls as rain.
A figure from one of Lader’s many scientific contributions showing the projected average daily percentage of sea ice in March within a set of given decades. This decrease in sea ice comes alongside an increase in precipitation within the state, as the water vapor from the melting ice condenses back into liquid in the atmosphere and falls as rain.
Rick Lader showcasing his research at the annual Arctic Research Open House. His research suggests an increase in winter temperatures, wildfire severity and oceanic heat in and adjacent to Alaska. These results were found using the process of dynamic downscaling.
Rick Lader showcasing his research at the annual Arctic Research Open House. His research suggests an increase in winter temperatures, wildfire severity and oceanic heat in and adjacent to Alaska. These results were found using the process of dynamic downscaling.