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Showing posts from February, 2015

Life on the ice: Fieldwork in Antarctica

From early November last year, I was lucky enough to spend over two months doing fieldwork on Pine Island Glacier, an ice stream in West Antarctica, which is currently the largest single contributor to sea level rise. I was part of a twelve person team that made up the second iSTAR traverse.

iSTAR is a collaborative scientific programme, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and co-ordinated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). It aims to improve our understanding of the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which could potentially undergo rapid retreat in the coming centuries. It is divided into two halves – half the programme is ocean focused, looking at how relatively warm Circumpolar Deep Water intrusions onto the continental shelf interact with the ice shelves in the Amundsen Sea. The University of Bristol is involved in the second half of the programme, which is concerned with the ice sheet dynamics and mass balance, particularly the changes happening t…

The challenges of global environmental change: Why we (Bristol) should 'bridge the gap'

Our planet and the people who live upon it face profound challenges in the coming century. As our population, economies and aspirations grow we consume increasing amounts of precious and finite resource.  The side effects and waste products of this consumption also have profoundly negative impacts on our environment and climate, which  in a vicious circle will make it even harder to support our food, energy and water needs.

In order to live on this planet, we must bridge the gap between wasteful lifestyles based on limited resources to efficient lifestyles based on renewable ones. Nowhere is that more apparent than in our consumption of fossil fuels. Much of our prosperity over the past two centuries has derived from the exploitation of these geological gifts, but those gifts have and are causing climate change with potentially devastating consequences. These are likely to include more extreme weather, loss of marine ecosystems and droughts; in turn, these could cause famine, refugee c…

Professor Dame Julia Slingo: Modelling climate risk

When Professor Dame Julia Slingo visited the Cabot Institute last week, her message was clear: We need to look at climate risk in real world contexts.

Dame Julia was in the city to receive a Cabot Institute Distinguished Fellowship, which involved giving a talk about her work as a world leading meteorologist and Chief Scientist at the Met Office.

One of the first things she highlighted was that climate change isn’t isolated from other pressures like population growth and limited resources, so we need to understand the risks it poses in a real world context. We need to define the effects it may have on the security of food, water, health and energy around the world, and use the science as a guide to define an evidence-based and cost effective plan of action going forward. This, she said, is “one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century”.

Are we making extreme weather worse? Today, the huge global population boom is putting an ever increasing strain on limited resources like land…