Extreme Weather and Ecosystem Change

A man pours water from a pot on the back of a floating house boat.

The Issue 

Even small fluctuations in the air’s temperature can increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and change the local ecosystem. Some areas may experience increased flooding events from hurricanes and other hydrometeorological events, while other areas facing increased aridity and drought conditions are more prone to wildfires and dust storms. These changes not only motivate humans to leave their homes, but they can spur the migration of other species as well. Warmer temperatures in the water, for example, can cause ecosystem changes and habitats for disease-bearing organisms to expand to new areas. Warmer temperatures can also lead to excessive harmful algal growth that can deplete the water’s oxygen and block sunlight, disrupting ecosystems in the water. These changes to natural systems affect health in different ways. Researching these effects can lead to improved capabilities to anticipate extreme weather and ecological transitions and avoid devastating impacts for health and livelihoods.

CHI Research & Action 

CHI researchers are studying the effects of climate change on “extreme weather” events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, droughts and dust storms. We are investigate the climate system, health impacts, prediction capabilities, resilient technologies and governance structures. For example, our researchers recently used climate change predictions to estimate the concentration of dust particles in the air over the coming decades and the associated impact on public health. This analysis showed that under one climate scenario, we may see an increase of over 200% in dust-related deaths with an economic value of $34 billion. Another study analyzed the effects of extreme heat on pregnancy and maternal health, finding that high temperatures can affect the length of pregnancy, fluctuations in birth weight, and frequency of stillbirths. Additional projects at CHI are further exploring the effects that extreme weather and ecosystem changes have on both public health and infrastructure.

Our Experts

Payman Dehghanian
Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
GW School of Engineering and Applied Science

Royce Francis
Associate Professor, Engineering Management and Systems Engineering
GW School of Engineering and Applied Science

Samer Hamdar
Associate Professor
GW School of Engineering and Applied Science