Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2021

Hydrological modelling and pizza making: why doesn’t mine look like the one in the picture?

Is this a question that you have asked yourself after following a recipe, for instance, to make pizza? You have used the same ingredients and followed all the steps and still the result doesn’t look like the one in the picture… Don’t worry: you are not alone! This is a common issue, and not only in cooking, but also in hydrological sciences, and in particular in hydrological modelling. Most hydrological modelling studies are difficult to reproduce, even if one has access to the code and the data ( Hutton et al., 2016 ). But why is this? In this blog post, we will try to answer this question by using an analogy with pizza making. Let’s imagine that we have a recipe together with all the ingredients to make pizza. Our aim is to make a pizza that looks like the one in the picture of the recipe. This is a bit like someone wanting to reproduce the results reported in a scientific paper about a hydrological “rainfall-runoff” model. There, one would need to download the historical data (rainf

Bristol Science Film Festival 2021 – Cabot Institute for the Environment film prize

Film is a medium that so many of us connect over, whether going to the movies, watching YouTube videos with friends, or sharing clips on Instagram. With the increasing prevalence of mini-movie-making machines (smartphones), we think film is a great and accessible form of science communication!  Bristol Science Film Festival runs an annual science film competition to support all those film-makers trying to tell the most interesting facts (or science fictions), no matter their resources. Shortlisted films are screened on the Big Screen in Bristol and at a special film-makers screening during the Festival.  There will be an additional prize awarded this year for a short film submitted to the competition with an environmental or climate change theme. Cash prizes will be awarded to the winner and runner up on behalf of the  Cabot Institute for the Environment . The University of Bristol-based Institute supports  evidence-based and interdisciplinary solutions  to environmental challenges. T

Beast from the East 2? What ‘sudden stratospheric warming’ involves and why it can cause freezing surface weather

Darryl Fonseka / shutterstock A “sudden stratospheric warming” event took place in early January 2021, according to the Met Office , the UK’s national weather service. These events are some of the most extreme of atmospheric phenomena, and I study them as part of my academic research. The stratosphere is the layer of the atmosphere from around 10km to 50km above the Earth’s surface, and sudden warming up there can lead to very cold weather over Europe and Siberia, with an increased possibility of snow storms. Happy Major Sudden Stratospheric Warming day! — Simon Lee (@SimonLeeWx) January 5, 2021 In winter the polar regions are in darkness 24 hours a day, and so the stratosphere over the north pole drops to -60℃ or even lower. The pole is surrounded by strong westerly winds, forming what is known as the polar vortex, a normal occurrence which develops every winter. However, about six times a decade, this vortex

Frozen Empires revisited

Image taken from the front cover of Adrian Howkin's book - Frozen Empires The recent release of the paperback edition of Frozen Empires: An Environmental History of the Antarctic Peninsula , offers an opportunity to revisit the arguments I made in this book and reflect on how it continues to shape my work in Antarctica and thinking about environmental history.  The book sets out to frame the mid-twentieth century Antarctic sovereignty dispute among Argentina, Britain, and Chile as an environmental history of decolonization.  Through a strategy I refer to as asserting ‘environmental authority’, Britain used the performance of scientific research and the production of useful knowledge to support its imperial claims to the region as a territory known as the ‘Falkland Islands Dependencies’.  Argentina and Chile both contested Britain’s claim, and put forward their own assertations to sovereignty based on a sense that this was their environment as a result of proximity, geological cont