By Kelly Unknown

Part of the PhD experience is that we attend as many seminars as we can to broaden our horizons, which I sometimes find hard because I’m having enough troubles keeping on top of my own subject. Or on top of this blog for that matter, as this post went up for an hour when I hadn’t finished writing it (sorry folks). So I shall be honest at the risk of reprimand from my panel….I often don’t go if it’s not climate, coral, oceannographic, environment or biology focused. Oh come on that covers a lot!

However, this week I have not one but two seminars from researchers at the University of Arizona that I am really looking forward to attending. If you happen to be at the ANU then you might be interested in attending. First up, actually it’s tomorrow afternoon, Dr Jonathon Overpeck will be speaking on “Assessing Future Drought and Megadrought Risk” and then on Friday at 4pm we have Dr Julia Cole with Climate Variability in the Tropical Pacific: Beyond El Niño?”. I have attached the abstracts below, and hope to see everyone there!

Dr Overpeck, co-ordinating lead author for the IPCC’s 2007 report , plans to cover the following:

“Increased drought risk is (and will be) arguably one of the most certain and troubling aspects of anthropogenic climate change for many parts of the world. At the same time, it is emerging in the scientific literature that state-of-the-art climate and Earth system models are not able to simulate the full range of drought, whether decade-scale droughts like seen recently in both the SW US, and Australia, or multidecadal “megadroughts” that eclipse droughts of the instrumental era in both duration and severity.

Evidence for this assertion will be examined, particularly as it comes from the paleoclimatic record of several continents, in both semi-arid and wetter regions. The implications for decision-making will also be discussed, including the on-going operational use, in the United States, of no-regrets drought planning strategies that incorporate paleoclimatic data. Because some climate change adaptation planning efforts in Australia lack the needed paleoclimatic perspective, a strategy will be proposed to assess megadrought risk for this region.

Fortunately, because droughts will still occur for natural reasons as well as anthropogenic, increased drought preparedness is a clear “no-regrets” climate change adaptation strategy.”

And to round out your week of climate education, on Friday Dr Cole will cover:

Anticipating and preparing for climate change requires that we know the natural as well as human-caused dimensions of change. One of the largest uncertainties in future climate projections is the behavior of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon and its associated global impacts.

Recent observations, along with model and paleoclimate results, challenge the paradigm that ENSO is a well-understood component of global climate. Paleoclimate evidence suggests a richer set of climate patterns in space and time than are seen in observations or models. For example, coral records indicate that during the 19th century, ENSO variability assumed a longer time scale relative to more recent decades. In the frequency domain, ENSO-related paleoclimate records exhibit greater long-term variability than expected from long climate model simulations. In the western US, where ENSO’s influence is strong, moisture records show long-term variability (“megadrought”) that is not well captured in climate models.

Without a robust representation of low-frequency Pacific variability, climate models will underestimate projections of climate risk for many parts of the world. A better understanding of low-frequency variations in the tropical Pacific will improve estimates of future climate extremes.

Both seminars will be held in the Jaegar seminar room at the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University. But if you can’t make it, don’t worry, I plan to tell you all about it, because I’m actually going 🙂