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COP21: Australia’s Position

Climate change is a global problem that requires all nations to come together to be a part of the solution. Australia equates to 5.15% of the world’s landmasses and 1.3% of greenhouse gas emissions, the 13th largest emitter in the world per capita out of 195 nations.

Countries by carbon dioxide emissions in thousands of tonnes per annum, via the burning of fossil fuels.
Countries by carbon dioxide emissions in thousands of tonnes per annum, via the burning of fossil fuels.

Continue reading “COP21: Australia’s Position”

The A-factor

Akademik Shokalskiy stuck after weather conditions changed and sea ice closed down behind the vessel.
Akademik Shokalskiy stuck after weather conditions changed and sea ice closed down behind the vessel.

By Bianca

I just stumbled over a detailed media report about the Russian Akademik Shokalskiy that recently had to be rescued out of Antarctica’s sea ice, and have been reminded about our excursion to the continent.

Although I do agree that a lot went wrong on their expedition, and human failures played an important role, it has also be admitted that you simply can’t change the A-factor and you need to adapt to it as much as possible.

The A-factor simply stands for the Antarctic-factor and is a common saying under Antarctic expeditioners as the climate is so unpredictable and weather conditions can change quickly. Continue reading “The A-factor”

Extreme seasons: Australia melts while the US freezes

Observed maximum temperatures for Monday, 13th January, 2014. Image from BOM.
Observed maximum temperatures for Monday, 13th January, 2014. Image from BOM.

By Claire

I’m writing this post from hot hot Canberra, Australia, in my office, in front of my desk fan. In case you didn’t pick up on it, IT’S FREAKING HOT HERE!!!

This week, a large mass of warm, desert air is slowly making its way across southern Australia, bringing as many as five consecutive days above 40°C (104°F). Here in Canberra, we are forecast to swelter through five consecutive days over 38°C (100°F). Continue reading “Extreme seasons: Australia melts while the US freezes”

Best of 2013: How do clouds effect solar panel output?

welcompage_headshot
Nick Engerer, a researcher from Fenner School is looking at the relationship between weather events and solar energy output in Canberra.

By Claire

At the beginning of this year, I was at the annual AMOS Conference in Melbourne. It was Friday morning, and there wasn’t a lot of paleoclimatology going on, so I decided to head along to a session on solar energy.

Speaking in this session was Nick Engerer, a researcher from Fenner School at The ANU. Nick’s area of interest is the link between weather events and solar energy output. Now, this is an area of huge interest, especially now that we’re trying to move more towards green energy sources. But one of the key questions that keeps popping up is, “what happens when it’s cloudy?”

As part of Nick’s research, he has developed a real-time website, which shows you the weather across Canberra, and the related impact on solar energy production. Nick is working on the idea that on partly cloudy days, there will be at least some solar panels that are still able to produce power, even if some are not seeing a lot of the sun. And that’s exactly what you can see on his website.

Nick has written up a guest post for us to explain how to use his website, and introduce you to some of the cool features. I encourage you all to take a look. If you’re interested in his work, you can also subscribe to his blog and follow him on twitterContinue reading “Best of 2013: How do clouds effect solar panel output?”

What can we expect this summer?

Wet weather in Sydney yesterday. Source: News Limited.
Wet weather in Sydney yesterday. Source: News Limited.

 

By Claire

I don’t know what the weather is like at your place at the moment, but where I am, it’s raining. It feels like it has been raining for days (well, maybe two). My plants are looking pretty happy outside, but I’m wondering when the rain will end. Is this what we can expect over the coming months?

The last few years in Australia, we have been influenced by La Nina, which brings relatively cool and rainy conditions to the east coast of Australia. We have seen large flood events, particularly in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. We actually had so much rain in 2011, that we recorded a drop in sea level, due to all the rain that fell on the Australian mainland!

So, can we expect the same this year? Or will we be in for the hot, dry summers that Australia is known for? Continue reading “What can we expect this summer?”

Why are you interested in earth sciences?

lightning_in_sydneyBy Claire

People who are interested in earth sciences can usually point to something in particular that captured their attention- something that drew them to earth sciences and to understanding more about how our planet works.

I have always loved weather. Growing up in Sydney, I would get stupidly excited every time there was a thunderstorm. I absolutely love them! Mum and I would go outside and watch the lightning from our back porch, until the storm got too close and we quickly escaped back inside. I would often turn off all the lights in the room I was in and just watch the flashes of lightning. The scarier the better.

My fascination with weather lead me to do my undergraduate degree in atmospheric science. I love learning about how weather is formed and simply just observing it. Learning how to read weather maps was fascinating to me, and I still regularly check out the weather maps on the Bureau of Meteorology website to see what weather is in store over the coming week.

This video of a developing super storm captures beautifully the awe that I feel in the face of weather events. I could watch them for hours.

What is it about earth sciences that draws you in?

Why look at the monsoon?

monsoon-bike_1449924cBy Claire

My PhD topic involves recreating the Indo-Australian monsoon rainfall over the last 40,000 years using stalagmites from caves. Now, I know that’s a bit of a mouthful and when I tell people that’s what i’m doing I often get met with blank stares and the inevitable question, “what does that mean?”

At the moment I’m putting together a draft paper and yesterday I needed to write my, “conclusions and implications” paragraph. This meant that I actually had to think about what the implications of looking at the past monsoon actually has.

In my musings, I thought that I might try and connect the dots between my paleo-monsoon (i.e. “past” monsoon) record, and the present day monsoon system. In order to do that, I needed to better acquaint myself with the modern monsoon system, and I actually realised that what I’m studying could (if you squint) have real world implications.  Continue reading “Why look at the monsoon?”

How do clouds effect solar panel output?

welcompage_headshot
Nick Engerer, a researcher from Fenner School is looking at the relationship between weather events and solar energy output in Canberra.

By Claire

At the beginning of this year, I was at the annual AMOS Conference in Melbourne. It was Friday morning, and there wasn’t a lot of paleoclimatology going on, so I decided to head along to a session on solar energy.

Speaking in this session was Nick Engerer, a researcher from Fenner School at The ANU. Nick’s area of interest is the link between weather events and solar energy output. Now, this is an area of huge interest, especially now that we’re trying to move more towards green energy sources. But one of the key questions that keeps popping up is, “what happens when it’s cloudy?”

As part of Nick’s research, he has developed a real-time website, which shows you the weather across Canberra, and the related impact on solar energy production. Nick is working on the idea that on partly cloudy days, there will be at least some solar panels that are still able to produce power, even if some are not seeing a lot of the sun. And that’s exactly what you can see on his website.

Nick has written up a guest post for us to explain how to use his website, and introduce you to some of the cool features. I encourage you all to take a look. If you’re interested in his work, you can also subscribe to his blog and follow him on twitterContinue reading “How do clouds effect solar panel output?”

Europe’s extreme weather chaos

skyBy Bianca

Coming from Germany I try to keep myself informed about European news and it’s becoming more and more obvious that there is especially one type of news: the weather.

This year Europe has been experienced a fair bit of freak weather, and it looks likely to be continued.

The year started with one of the longest winters experienced so far. With an average of only 100 sun-hours it was simply dark and miserable. It wasn’t necessarily freezing cold the entire winter (Christmas was unusually warm in some parts) but it wasn’t warm either and by Easter, normally a time with comfortable spring temperatures and sun, Germans had to hide their Easter eggs in the snow (easy to hide, difficult to find). All together it was the darkest winter since records began, with snow until the beginning of April (in the previous years April was the month of record breaking heat waves). Continue reading “Europe’s extreme weather chaos”

Seminars, seminars and more seminars

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!

Continue reading “Seminars, seminars and more seminars”

Particles in the Air

Hazy Kumamoto
Hazy Kumamoto

By Evan

Some might have noticed (particularly Claire, sorry!) that my postings have dropped quite a bit during the past month. The reason for this is that I have been on a world tour during the past month. I have literally flown through every major time zone in the world. Due to this, my 2013 has 364 days!

Right now, I am having an extended stay in Japan. It is exciting to experience this country, which is quite different than hanging out in the Commonwealth. I struggle a bit with Japanese (i.e. I can say hello, good evening and thank you, and that is about it), but everyone is so friendly.

japan_air_qualityOne thing that isn’t so nice about Japan is particulate matter in the air. My girlfriend came home last night and said “it isn’t cloudy, there is just a lot of particles in the air!” Sure enough, going outside it smelled like smoke. The imagine on the left is a capture of the air quality readings in Japan on Friday morning, taking from this website. Orange values indicate that people with breathing problems should take precautions when outside. As I write this, the region I am in, Kyushu, has low values, but that is because it is raining out.

It is not an uncommon sight to see people wearing face masks while walking around. They do this to try and protect themselves from the particulate matter. However, people generally wear surgeon masks, which according to the air quality website, are inadequate to protect yourself from the particles, because they do not completely seal off the mouth and nose. The only effective masks are the ones that strap on to the back of your head.  Continue reading “Particles in the Air”

Investigating the Investigator

By Kelly

investigator_19-02-13_0018-banner-e1365372338896
Source: http://csirofrvblog.com

One of the major draw cards for the Earth Sciences comes from the tantalizing prospect of field work. And for marine scientists, this couldn’t be more exciting than when field work involves a trip on a research vessel; an excursion we affectionately call going on a “cruise”*. I have not had the pleasure of sailing onboard Australia’s RV Southern Surveyor and opportunity is fading fast with the Research Vessel’s imminent decommissioning.

Instead, the Australian marine science community will set forth into our watery future aboard the RV Investigator, which in similar fashion to its namesake will be able to circumnavigate our great continent, survive battering by fierce storms and  potentially be required to serve for ~70 years. But it’s not the capabilities that the two Investigators share that have the oceanographers amongst us all aquiver, but the technological modifications that ???????????????????????????????distinguish them. Not least the fact it has its very own blog, there is also talk of winged keels, dual polarisation weather radar and ‘work’ boats straight from the set of Baywatch (okay so they are orange, other than that they have nothing in common with Baywatch).
Continue reading “Investigating the Investigator”

Giant rose discovered on Saturn!

A false color image of Saturn's giant hurricane, which closely resembles a rose.
A false color image of Saturn’s giant hurricane, which closely resembles a rose.

By Claire

Now before we all resort to name calling, I realise that a giant rose wasn’t actually discovered on Saturn on Monday. What was discovered however, is a giant hurricane centred on the planet’s north pole – an equally as exciting discovery!

It has been known for a number of years that a strange hexagonal shaped weather phenomenon was located on Saturn’s north pole. However, the orientation of the planet relative to the sun has meant that this feature has remained in darkness since its discovery in 2004. In August of 2009, Saturn finally transitioned into spring, bathing this weather anomaly in light for the first time, allowing the Cassini spacecraft, which is currently orbiting the planet, to properly study it. Continue reading “Giant rose discovered on Saturn!”

Climate change is not only about global warming

snowBy Bianca

The first thing people think about when hearing the words climate change is global warming and that the Earth’s surface temperature will continue its rapid warming over the next few years, expecting to continuously experience warmer temperatures throughout the year.

But how can we believe that the Earth is warming if we look at the extreme low temperatures in North Europe and North America at the moment? Continue reading “Climate change is not only about global warming”

New York snow storm!

Snow!By Claire

Being Australian, I have never really seen snow. Last year in Canberra, there was about 20min where it did snow, but unfortunately the ground was too wet for the snow to build up – not that there was really that much of it anyway…

Since I found out that I would be in New York in winter/spring, I have been hoping for snow. When the plane landed at JFK airport, there was snow falling, but not enough to stick to the ground.

Well, last night, my prayers were answered. IT SNOWED!! Continue reading “New York snow storm!”

Intense storms, tornadoes and tropical cyclones: Australia’s wild week of weather

An East Coast Low off the QLD coast
An East Coast Low off the QLD coast

By Claire

The week of wild weather began when an intense storm system known as an “east coast low”* formed off the Queensland coast. South-eastern QLD and northern NSW are still recovering from intense rainfall associated with  ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, with water logged soil and catchments full to the brim. Additional rainfall in these areas lead to flash flooding as the area struggled to cope with all the water.

Part of the Midtown Marina at Bundaberg washed away after the river bank collapsed due to heavy rain. Picture: Jan Douglas
Part of the Midtown Marina at Bundaberg washed away after the river bank collapsed due to heavy rain. Picture: Jan Douglas

Bundaberg, north of Brisbane was hit hard by ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, suffering its worst ever flood at the end of January. Additional rainfall brought by the east coast low system lead to the formation of a sinkhole on the banks of the Burnett River, which caused a marina to disappear into the river. Continue reading “Intense storms, tornadoes and tropical cyclones: Australia’s wild week of weather”

Climate Change and extreme weather

By Claire

I came across this post on the skeptical science website that I thought was really interesting.

“Independent videographer Peter Sinclair in this Yale Forum “2013 Climate Outlook” video pairs the expert insights of Michigan and Minnesota meteorologists Jeff Masters and Paul Douglas with the expert climatology perspectives of scientists Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University, Michael Mann of Penn State University, and Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University” (see the full post here).

The scientists interviewed talk about the extreme weather seen across the USA in 2012 and talk about it in the context of climate change.

What I found particularly interesting was the histogram plot shown near the end of the video. What this plot shows is the change in the mean global temperature, and the effect that this has on extreme weather events. You’ll see that as the globe has warmed (by only 1 degree Celsius so far), temperatures that in the early part of this century, were thought of as “extreme” have become much more common, and even higher temperatures have now begun to occur.

To echo Kelly’s post from last week, we need to act now to stop this mean from shifting even higher to limit the expansion of extreme weather events.

Queensland coast on flood watch

24 hr rainfall totals to 9am 27/1/13
24 hr rainfall totals to 9am 27/1/13

By Claire

Ex-tropical cyclone Oswald is causing havoc to the eastern Australian coast. The strong low pressure system is bringing torrential rain, flash flooding and strong winds to southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Overnight, rainfall totals topped 100mm in many parts of the southern Queensland coast.  Continue reading “Queensland coast on flood watch”

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