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Showing posts from November, 2016

The Day After Tomorrow

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New research suggests something like the movie The Day After Tomorrow may have happened in the past, with sobering implications for the future. In this blockbuster, melting Arctic ice led to dramatic cooling across the Northern Hemisphere, highlighting the paradox that in a warming world, some regions may indeed cool (or at least not warm as much as expected). Whilst no one is suggesting this could lead to a new ice age, climate model projections do suggest some parts of the world may respond differently to long-term warming. One of the big uncertainties is the impact a melting Greenland ice sheet might have across the North Atlantic. At a simple level, the world’s oceans are connected as though by one enormous conveyor belt. At one end of the loop, warm tropical waters popularly known as the Gulf Stream drift up into the North Atlantic where over the course of a year the evaporating surface delivers heat downwind equivalent to the output from a million power stations. It’s a major re…

Ice cold in Commonwealth Bay

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Commonwealth Bay in the East Antarctic will be forever associated with Sir Douglas Mawson’s pioneering scientific venture a century ago: the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. Mawson’s team had only intended to spend one year south, but it was not to be. A sudden turn of events led to tragedy on the ice, the deaths of two men, allegations of cannibalism and, with the return of winter sea ice, an extended stay in Antarctica. While the efforts of Mawson and his men laid the foundations for modern Antarctic science, the region has continued to experience dramatic change. And it doesn’t get any more dramatic than the arrival of iceberg B09B in 2011. The word ‘berg’ doesn’t really do it justice though – B09B is a monster. Weighing in at an estimated 500 billion tonnes, this block of ice is 97 miles long and over 20 kilometres wide. There’s enough freshwater in B09B to provide all of New York’s drinking needs for 300 years. And it started out even larger. In 1987, an iceberg the size of Bal…

Giving future Australian drought a 500-year perspective

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Here at Intrepid Science we focus a lot of effort on trying to better reconstruct past climate and environmental change. The main reason is that by understanding what happened when in the recent geologic record we can reduce the uncertainties surrounding future climate change and its impact(s). But don’t be misled by the term ‘geologic record’. Basically we’re looking beyond the historic record of scientific observations by reading what’s preserved in the landscape – what are sometimes described as ‘natural archives’. Nature has a fabulously diverse library and can include trees, corals and even ice cores. The real test is finding these ‘books’. As a result, the team work around the world unearthing new records.

One of our most recent projects is to reconstruct changing drought across eastern Australia and New Zealand over the last 500 years. When Australia experiences a drought, it can cause billions of dollars of environmental and economic damage. A classic example is the ‘Millennium…