Australian news, and some related international items

“Direct Action” effect on greenhouse emissions would be wiped out if Adani coal mine goes ahead

coal CarmichaelMine2Adani coal mine would wipe out Direct Action gains within a year, estimates show, The Age,  Peter Hannam, 20 Oct 16, 

Carbon cuts made by the federal government’s Direct Action climate change plan by 2020 would be wiped out by pollution from a single coal mine in just over a year, new data revealed at a Senate estimates hearing shows.

Officials from the Clean Energy Regulator said that projects paid for from the first three auctions of the Emissions Reduction Fund – the backbone of Direct Action – would trim pollution by just 42 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent by 2020.

Even if all the remaining funds were spent – with a fourth auction planned for November 16 – emissions reductions are projected to total only 92 million tonnes by the year 2020, officials told senators.

By contrast, the Adani coal mine proposed for Queensland’s Galilee Basin would trigger emissions of about 79 million tonnes a year – nullifying the ERF’s pre-2020 abatement in little over a year if it proceeded……

October 20, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

Australian taxpayers’ funded publishing of climate denialist Bjorn Lomborg’s book

Government funded Lomborg’s ‘vanity’ book: Senate Estimates,, , Higher Education Editor Canberra @harejulie , 21 Oct 16, Taxpayers contributed $640,000 to a book edited, written and published by Bjorn Lomborg and his Copenhagen Consensus Centre which was ridiculed in Senate Estimates on Thursday as “vanity publishing”.

Lomborg, Bjorn

October 20, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australia under question at UN over its climate change policy

Map Turnbull climateAustralia facing questions at UN over post-2020 climate change stance, The Age, 13 Oct 16, Adam Morton  Australia is facing renewed international pressure to explain what it is doing to tackle climate change, with a United Nations reviewfinding its emissions continue to soar and several countries calling for clarity about what it will do after 2020.

Countries including China and the US have put more than 30 questions to the Turnbull government, asking for detail about how Australia will meet its 2030 emissions target and raising concerns about a lack of transparency over how the government calculates and reports emissions.

It comes as the federal government has been facing calls at home – sparked by its own criticism of ambitious state renewable energy targets – to reveal what it would do on climate change and clean energy beyond 2020.

An expert review commissioned by the UN found, based on data submitted by Australia, its emissions would be 11.5 per cent higher in 2020 than they were in 1990. Industrial emissions – not counting those from forestry and land-clearing – were expected to rise 33.5 per cent over the three decades.

The reviewers found a recent Australian report lacked transparency about how it estimated its future emissions. And they noted the report failed to mention the abolition of the carbon price scheme, or explain what impact scrapping the policy would have on it meeting targets……..

Physicist Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Action Tracker and an adviser to developing countries at climate negotiations, said the questions asked of Australia showed deep scepticism and frustration beneath a diplomatic veneer. “It is very strange that the government had put forward no projections, which are the sine qua non [essential ingredient] of this area of policy,” he said.  “It is as if the Treasury produce a report for the International Monetary Fund with no future numbers in it. It raises alarm bells.”

A Climate Action Tracker analysis found Australia’s emissions were headed to be more than 27 per cent greater than 2005 levels in 2030……..

October 13, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Should Australia follow Canada – let the states lead on climate?

text politicsCanada lets the states lead on climate, should Australia do the same? The Conversation, October 11, 2016 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed Australia a thing or two when he announced a new climate change plan last week – and not just because it was delivered impeccably in two languages. Trudeau has decided to leave climate policy to the provinces, while forcing them to act.

Is this state-based approach a model for Australia? Continue reading

October 11, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

‘reckless’ and ‘indefensible’ Carmichael coal mine approved by Queensland govt

coal CarmichaelMine2Queensland fast tracks ‘reckless’ and ‘indefensible’ Carmichael coal mine, Independent Australia  Renew Economy 11 October 2016 Minus financial backing, reneging on the Paris Agreement and even ignoring Adani’s own loss of interest in the project, the Queensland Government is fast tracking the Carmichael coal mine, writesRenewEconomy‘s Sophie Vorrath.

IN A MOVE that has been labelled “indefensible” and “reckless” by green groups, the Queensland Government has declared the massive Carmichael coal mine and port proposed for the State’s Galilee Basin as “critical infrastructure”, in an effort to fast-track its development.

State development minister Anthony Lynhamsaid on Monday that the Labor PalaszczukGovernment had invoked special powers to help progress Adani’s $21 billion project, reinstating and expanding its “prescribed project” status to include its water infrastructure…….

while governments of all colours appear to be rolling out the red carpet for the coal project, there are other hurdles it has yet to clear – not least of all economic ones – as coal looks more and more like a high-risk investment.

As John Quiggan wrote last month, a long list of banks and other funding sources have announced they won’t touch the project, or have pulled out of existing finance arrangements.

The list includes the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (formerly a big lender to Adani), NAB, the Queensland Treasury and global banks including Standard Chartered (another former big lender), Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Barclays, as well as BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole and Societe Generale. The U.S. and Korean Export-Import banks and the State Bank of India have been touted as possible sources, but appear to have backed away.

Even Adani Group, the Indian conglomerate behind the project, has appeared to lose interest in its coal plans. And just this week, the energy minister for India – the main market for the coal that would be dug up at Carmichael – called on the country’s power generators to cease coal imports if the nation was to come good on its “One Nation, One Grid, One Price” energy goal…..,9578

October 11, 2016 Posted by | business, climate change - global warming, politics, Queensland | Leave a comment

Legal challenge to Adani’s Abbot Point plans in Queensland’s Supreme Court

coal CarmichaelMine2Adani’s Abbot Point plans face court challenge,SMH , 7 Oct 16   Whitsunday residents are bound for court in a bid to show the Queensland government failed the environment when it approved a port expansion for Adani’s new mega-coal mine.

Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping say dredging required for Adani’s expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal, north of Bowen, could do untold environmental harm and the mine itself will fuel global warming and endanger the reef.

Lawyers for the group will appear in the Supreme Court in Brisbane on Friday, arguing Queensland’s environment department failed to properly assess the port project before it gave Adani the go ahead.

The expansion is needed to ship coal from Adani’s planned $16 billion Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin…….

The action group’s case will be heart in the Supreme Court in Brisbane from 10am (AEST).

October 8, 2016 Posted by | climate change - global warming, legal, Queensland | Leave a comment

Malcolm Turnbull could, and should, now ratify the Paris climate agreement

Turnbull climate 2 facedAustralian ratification of international treaties is done through the executive, not the parliament. Prime Minister Turnbull makes the final decision as to whether Australia will ratify the Paris Agreement.

Paris climate agreement comes into force: now time for Australia to step up, The Conversation, , 6 Oct 16  The Paris climate agreement is set to enter into force next month after the European Union and Canada ratified the agreement overnight. The agreement, reached last December, required ratification by at least 55 countries accounting for 55% of global emissions to become operational.

US President Barack Obama hailed the news as perhaps “a turning point for our planet”, but also noted that it “will not solve the climate crisis” alone.

So far, 73 countries accounting for 56% of emissions  have ratified the agreement. This includes the world’s two largest emitters: China and the US. This week the European Parliament approved ratification of the agreement for the EU. The European Council has formally adopted this decision and finalised ratification.

This has put the agreement over the 55% threshold and triggered entry into force. However, by the rules of the agreement, 30 days must now elapse before the agreement becomes operational. The agreement will enter into force on November 4.

This will mean that, from that date, the agreement will be active and legally binding on those who have ratified it……..

Ratifying Paris imposes few additional actions on countries, aside from making a pledge every few years. Not ratifying would make the dissenting country a climate pariah internationally. There is little for parliaments and leaders to debate.

The speed of entry into force may simply betray how little is expected of parties to the pact. It could be a sign of weakness, rather than strength and momentum.

What about Australian ratification? Continue reading

October 7, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australia still an international leper on climate change

“A key reason why countries have moved so fast after Paris is that they now recognise the great attractiveness of the growth and development paths for both rich and poor countries that will result from the transition to a low-carbon economy,” 

Australia, however, is showing no such ambition. The Coalition is rejecting any talk of increasing its targets in next year’s policy review, and is looking at trying to force states that have higher renewable energy targets to bring them back to the less ambitious national target.

On green finance, Australia is also moving in the opposite direction……..“The race has begun: September has been an extraordinary month for green finance globally”……But, not in Australia.

Parkinson-Report-Australia on the outer again as Paris climate treaty comes into force By  on 5 October 2016

Australia will find itself again on the outer in global climate change efforts, excluded from key decision-making processes because it is one of a minority of major polluters that has yet to ratify the Paris climate accord. The European Union on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to ratify the Paris treaty, a day after India announced it would also do the same thing. The ratification is expected to be formally voted by ministers later this week, taking the total well past the trigger point of 55 countries and 55 per cent of total global emissions.

The speed of the ratification – less than a year after the Paris treaty was voted to general acclimation last year – compares with the eight years it took to get its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol, into force after it was adopted in 1997.

The move will impact Australia in two ways. Firstly, under current arrangements only those countries who have ratified the treaty can vote in negotiations for the next step in the treaty’s implementation. That means Australia would be excluded from these processes, although it may have observer status.

It also means that Australia will reinforce its status as a climate outlier, a reputation it earned when former prime minister Tony Abbott and former Canadian prime minister Steven Harper were branded “climate villains” because of their opposition to action on climate change.

Malcolm Turnbull was expected to change this. but has instead entrenched the policies of his predecessor. Continue reading

October 7, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Ignite Energy Resources pulls out of a $90 million clean coal project

clean-coal.Company withdraws from government-funded clean coal scheme in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley ABC Gippsland, 4 Oct 16  

The call comes as Ignite Energy Resources pulls out of a $90 million Advanced Lignite Demonstration Program to find cleaner uses for Victorian brown coal.

Chinese company Shanghai Electric last year also withdrew from the program, after being offered $25 million to develop a demonstration plant to convert coal into briquettes.

Environment Victoria campaigns manager Nicholas Aberle said there needed to be a focus on other ways of developing the Latrobe Valley economy, outside of coal………

Dr Aberle said the continued focus on coal was distracting from other efforts to develop the regional economy.

Greens energy spokeswoman Ellen Sandell said government grants for failed coal schemes should be redirected to renewable energy initiatives in the Latrobe Valley.

“This money should support the transition to clean, modern jobs, not prop up dead-end coal projects,” Ms Sandell said.

“The future will be powered by the sun and the wind. With support the Latrobe Valley could become a renewable energy powerhouse.”……..

State says ‘not one dollar’ went to Ignite

A spokeswoman for Victorian Resources Minister Wade Noonan said not one government dollar had gone to Ignite Energy Resources because the company had failed to meet the benchmarks for the Advanced Lignite Demonstration Program.

Ignite was offered $10 million from the State Government and $10 million from the Federal Government.

The Victorian Government said it was yet to allocate those unused funds.

A third company, Coal Energy Australia, remains in the Advanced Lignite Demonstration Program, with access to $30 million in government support.

October 5, 2016 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Victoria | Leave a comment

Australia’s farmers feeling the effects of climate change

climate-changeBetting the Farm: Farmers confront climate change Climate change is here, and Australian agriculture is acutely feeling the effects. Three farmers explain how it’s impacting their lives and livelihoods.

By Jo Chandler for Background Briefing Real-world observations of temperature spikes, pasture growth and grape harvests across southern Australia reveal that the landscape is heating up at rates experts did not expect to see until 2030.

In some instances the rates of warming are tracking at 2050 scenarios.

Scientists concerned that climate change is biting harder and faster than models anticipated are campaigning for more research investment to protect Australia’s $58 billion agriculture industry from extreme weather.

Background Briefing has learned that their concerns about the capability of Australian research to address climate change will be validated in an independent review by the prestigious Australian Academy of Science.

The review, due for release in the next few weeks, has identified a substantial shortfall in the nation’s climate research firepower.

It’s understood that the review will recommend that the number of scientists working for CSIRO and its partners on climate science needs to increase by about 90. That is almost double the current number of full time positions.

Meanwhile, the reality is already confronting farmers on the front line, many of them battered by this last year of wild conditions.

Climate change makes farming more of a gamble than it ever was. It should be a complete concern to everyone who eats on this planet, because the whole world is going to be gambling on food production.

George Mills, Tasmania
We are seeing grapes ripening faster and ripening within a much shorter timeframe than they once did.

Brett McClen, Victoria
Climate change is here, there is no doubt about it … The hip pocket is when it makes you decide it is here or not, and it hurt our hip pockets, so we know.

Mark McDougall, Tasmania
Hear Jo Chandler’s full investigation into the impact of climate change on Australian agriculture on ABC RN’s Background Briefing at 8:05am on Sunday, or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesABC Radio or your favourite podcasting app.

October 1, 2016 Posted by | Audiovisual, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

South Australia’s electricity blackout was caused by extreme weather, not by renewables – energy experts

Map-South-Australia-windSA weather: No link between blackout and renewable energy, experts say, ABC News, 29 Sep 16 By political reporter Matthew Doran  Linking the statewide blackout in South Australia with the state’s heavy reliance on renewable energy is unfounded, energy industry experts say.

Key points:

  • South Australia has the highest rate of renewable energy in Australia
  • The ‘one in a 50 year’ weather event ‘couldn’t have been prevented or foreseen’
  • SA to be an example for other states and territories when planning for significant weather events

severe storm caused the entire state to go dark yesterday afternoon, following serious damage to more than 20 transmission lines.

That infrastructure failure put extra strain on the interconnector system that links the South Australian electricity grid with the east coast — and tripped safeguards which shut down the power supply to the state………

Mr Frydenberg highlighted the underlying cause of the blackout was the weather.

South Australia has the highest rate of renewable energy in the country, with a fraction over 40 per cent of the state’s power supply generated from sources such as wind and solar farms.

Earlier this week, the Grattan Institute released a report detailing the pressure high uptake in renewables had put on the state’s wholesale power prices, and how it was being viewed as a test case for the rest of the nation.  But the report’s author, Tony Wood, said the blackout was as a result of a particularly violent storm and it was usual for a system to shut down to protect itself from further damage.  “My understanding, at least at the moment, is there’s no evidence to suggest these two issues are related,” Mr Wood said.

“There’s no evidence to suggest this was caused by too much wind power, or the dependence on wind power, or anything else, or would’ve been any different if any of the power stations that had been shut down earlier this year had still been operating.

“If you’ve got a wind farm or a coal-fired power station at the end of a transmission line, and that system either is taken out by a storm or is forced to shut down to protect itself from a storm, it doesn’t matter what the energy source is.”

There are two interconnector power lines between South Australia and the eastern states, but Mr Wood said there was no indication having more links would have prevented the issue.

“When this event has occurred, it’s created a fault in the system which has caused the generation to trip offline,” the Clean Energy Council’s Tom Butler said.

“It’s separate to the interconnector entirely.

“This is a one-in-a-50 year, almost-unprecedented event for the state that couldn’t have been prevented or foreseen.”

Mr Butler said the Snowtown wind farm, north of Adelaide, was actually helping to prop up the state’s power supply ahead of gas power stations as the network was gradually brought back online.

Labor’s assistant spokesman for climate change, Pat Conroy, told AM it was premature to link the blackout to renewables.

“The South Australian Government has made the point that even if the coal-fired power station that was recently closed down was still operating, it would not have been able to supply power to the state,” he said.This was a failure of the transmission network, and it didn’t matter what sort of fuel was feeding into the grid, power was not able to flow……..

September 30, 2016 Posted by | climate change - global warming, energy, South Australia, wind | 1 Comment

No modelling done to show how Australia is supposed to meet Paris climate pledge

Turnbull climate 2 facedOfficials admit no modelling shows how Australia will meet Paris climate pledge, Guardian, , 29Sept 16  Environment officials tell parliamentary inquiry there is no modelling on how current policies will affect emissions beyond 2020, or when emissions will peak Government officials have acknowledged that Australia’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reductions pledged at Paris in 2015 were made without any modelling to show whether existing policies could achieve those targets.They also admitted the government did not have any modelling revealing when Australia’s emissions would peak.

The admissions, made in a parliamentary committee under questioning from Labor Senator for New South Wales Jenny McAllister, fly in the face of advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, telling the government it had “existing legislation, policies and measures to enable it to achieve” the the reductions.

They also follow a string of independent modelling exercises showing current policies will not achieve the emissions reductions committed to in Paris. Last week energy advisory firm RepuTex released modelling showing Australia’s emissions wouldn’t fall much at all between now and 2030, under current policies……….

McAllister told Guardian Australia the Turnbull government needed to “own up and admit that their climate policies just aren’t credible”.

“These officials have confirmed Australia’s worst kept secret – that the Turnbull government has no idea how it will meet our 2030 emission reduction targets,” she said.

“They can’t say when Australia’s emissions will peak and begin to decline, and they wouldn’t confirm that the government’s current policy settings will see us meet the target without adjustment.”

September 30, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Climate change shifting rain from Australia towards Antarctica,

climate-AustClimate change stealing rain from Australia by shifting winds towards Antarctica, Canberra Times, Clare Sibthorpe, 29 Sept 16  When much of southeast Australia faced abnormally hot and dry weather last summer, forecasters put it down to a high-pressure system blocking clouds from forming.

But rising greenhouse gases were also to blame, researchers have found.

A new study by the ANU and 16 other institutions revealed human-caused climate change is already harming parts of Australia by robbing vital rain and pushing south westerly winds towards Antarctica.

The ANU’s lead researcher associate professor Nerilie Abram said the hijacking of rain combined with 2015 being Australia’s fifth-warmest year on record and 2016 on track to be the hottest was an ominous mix.

“The findings confirm that climate change is already having an impact on parts of Australia.”……..

Professor Abram said the study, published in Nature Climate Change, showed southwest Australia was hurting the most from the change, where it had lost one fifth of its rainfall since the 1970s.

A 2015 study between CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology found climate change would hit Australia harder than other countries, predicting a rise in temperature of more than five degrees within 80 years.

They forecast reduced rain in southern Australia over the next few decades as well as harsher fire seasons for southern and eastern parts of the country.

This August, Germany-based researchers Climate Analytics found the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming – the two goals included in the Paris climate deal – would be much greater in terms of extreme events and disasters than previously believed.

It found that within just 10 – 20 years, southern Australia would face heatwaves on average 13 days longer at 1.5 degrees and 20 days longer at 2 degrees, while dry spells would be 3.5 days longer at 1.5 degrees and six days at 2 degrees.

September 30, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australia’s super funds are backing exploration for fossil fuels

fossil-fuel-industryDigging Deeper: How energy company executives are remunerated to expand fossil fuel reserves, and how Australia’s major super funds support them, Market Forces 29 September 2016 Australian-listed fossil fuel companies are continuing to search for more unburnable carbon, with $12.69 billion spent on fossil fuel exploration by just fifteen companies since July 2012. Another $14.62 billion has been spent by just ten foreign companies on fossil fuel exploration in Australia between 2013-2015.

In many cases, exploration is encouraged through executive remuneration packages. Seven companies in the S&P ASX300 explicitly refer to reserve replacement or exploration targets in their executives’ bonus structures, as do six international companies with major Australian fossil fuel operations.

Senior executives at the seven Australian companies stand to make a combined $2.02 million in additional bonuses each year if their reserve targets are met.

Australia’s super funds are failing to effectively challenge this business model, despite their stated belief in engagement as a strategy for changing the behaviour of companies. In the last year, only three Australian energy companies incurred a significant vote against their remuneration packages, none of which were an explicit protest against reserves-based incentives.

Only eighteen of Australia’s 50 largest super funds disclose their complete proxy voting record, making it difficult to determine which funds are genuine ‘active owners.’ Our analysis of twelve funds’ voting records shows only three voted against any Australian-listed energy company’s remuneration package in the last year. Major funds including AustralianSuper, First State Super, MLC and ANZ OnePath supported the remuneration packages of every Australian energy company they held shares in.

Australia’s super funds must have effective engagement policies and practices, and demonstrate how these are being implemented to ensure companies they invest in are  compatible with a low carbon future. An obvious step to demonstrate alignment with the goals agreed to in Paris is for funds to reject fossil fuel exploration incentives.

September 30, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Urgent need for research to increase, on climate change impacts on Antarctic sea ice

The combination of Antarctica’s dynamic climate system, its short observational records, and its potential to cause costly heatwaves, drought and sea-level rise in Australia, mean that we can’t afford to stifle fundamental research in our own backyard.

Record high to record low: what on earth is happening to Antarctica’s sea ice? 29, 2016 2016 continues to be a momentous year for Australia’s climate, on track to be the new hottest year on record.

To our south, Antarctica has also just broken a new climate record, with record low winter sea ice. After a peak of 18.5 million square kilometres in late August, sea ice began retreating about a month ahead of schedule and has been setting daily low records through most of September.

It may not seem unusual in a warming world to hear that Antarctica’s sea ice – the ice that forms each winter as the surface layer of the ocean freezes – is reducing. But this year’s record low comes hot on the heels ofrecord high sea ice just two years ago. Overall, Antarctica’s sea ice has been growing, not shrinking.

So how should we interpret this apparent backflip? In our paper published today in Nature Climate Change we review the latest science on Antarctica’s climate, and why it seems so confusing.

Antarctic surprises

First up, Antarctic climate records are seriously short.

The International Geophysical Year in 1957/58 marked the start of many sustained scientific efforts in Antarctica, including regular weather readings at research bases. These bases are mostly found on the more accessible parts of Antarctica’s coast, and so the network – while incredibly valuable – leaves vast areas of the continent and surrounding oceans without any data.

In the end, it took the arrival of satellite monitoring in the 1979 to deliver surface climate information covering all of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. What scientists have observed since has been surprising.

Overall, Antarctica’s sea ice zone has expanded. This is most notable in the Ross Sea, and has brought increasing challenges for ship-based access to Antarctica’s coastal research stations. Even with the record low in Antarctic sea ice this year, the overall trend since 1979 is still towards sea ice expansion.

The surface ocean around Antarctica has also mostly been cooling. This cooling masks a much more ominous change deeper down in the ocean, particularly near the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the Totten glacier in East Antarctica. In these regions, worrying rates of subsurface ocean warming have been detected up against the base of ice sheets. There are real fears that subsurface melting could destabilise ice sheets, accelerating future global sea level rise.

In the atmosphere we see that some parts of the Antarctic Peninsula and West Antarctica are experiencing rapid warming, despite average Antarctic temperatures not changing that much yet.

In a rapidly warming world these Antarctic climate trends are – at face value – counterintuitive. They also go against many of our climate model simulations, which, for example, predict that Antarctica’s sea ice should be in decline.

Winds of change

The problem we face in Antarctica is that the climate varies hugely from year to year, as typified by the enormous swing in Antarctica sea ice over the past two years.

This means 37 years of Antarctic surface measurements are simply not enough to detect the signal of human-caused climate change. Climate models tell us we may need to monitor Antarctica closely until 2100 before we can confidently identify the expected long-term decline of Antarctica’s sea ice.

In short, Antarctica’s climate remains a puzzle, and we are currently trying to see the picture with most of the pieces still missing.

But one piece of the puzzle is clear. Across all lines of evidence a picture of dramatically changing Southern Ocean westerly winds has emerged. Rising greenhouse gases and ozone depletion are forcing the westerlies closer to Antarctica, and robbing southern parts of Australia of vital winter rain.

The changing westerlies may also help explain the seemingly unusual changes happening elsewhere in Antarctica.

The expansion of sea ice, particularly in the Ross Sea, may be due to the strengthened westerlies pushing colder Antarctic surface water northwards. And stronger westerlies may isolate Antarctica from the warmer subtropics, inhibiting continent-scale warming. These plausible explanations remain difficult to prove with the records currently available to scientists.

Australia’s unique climate position

The combination of Antarctica’s dynamic climate system, its short observational records, and its potential to cause costly heatwaves, drought and sea-level rise in Australia, mean that we can’t afford to stifle fundamental research in our own backyard.

Our efforts to better understand, measure and predict Antarctic climate were threatened this year by funding cuts to Australia’s iconic climate research facilities at the CSIRO. CSIRO has provided the backbone of Australia’s Southern Ocean measurements. As our new paper shows, the job is far from done.

A recent move to close Macquarie Island research station to year-round personnel would also have seriously impacted the continuity of weather observations in a region where our records are still far too short. Thankfully, this decision has since been reversed.

But it isn’t all bad news. In 2016, the federal government announced new long-term funding in Antarctic logistics, arresting the persistent decline in funding of Antarctic and Southern Ocean research.

The nearly A$2 billion in new investment includes a new Australian icebreaking ship to replace the ageing Aurora Australis. This will bring a greater capacity for Southern Ocean research and the capability to push further into Antarctica’s sea ice zone.

Whatever the long-term trends in sea ice hold it is certain that the large year-to-year swings of Antarctica’s climate will continue to make this a challenging but critical environment for research.

September 30, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment