Directors Report - Annual report 2011


COECSS Director Prof Andy Pitman

Welcome to the first annual report of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. We report on a complex, yet successful half-year.

Much of the first half of 2011 was spent in negotiation with our collaborating partners on the legal agreements that underpin our Centre.

As a result of fantastic support at the legal offices of all the collaborating organisations, and the legal offices at each of the partner organisations, the Centre of Excellence formally came into existence on July 1, 2011.

This report covers six months of activity – from July 1, 2011, to December 31, 2011. In some research areas, appointments of research fellows and/or PhD students occurred so fast that there are surprisingly impressive research outcomes to report. (See Performance Measures chapter for details of our research achievements).

In other areas, truly outstanding research fellows have been appointed but to get them we had to wait.

So, the Centre is not quite at its initial capacity but we have a clear roadmap through to Easter by which time virtually all appointments will be completed.

It is already hard to select the highlights but I am almost shocked by the speed some transformations have taken place. For example:

  • The oceans program have already begun simulations with a new generation modeling system capable of capturing ocean eddies to a scale of around 10 km2;
  • The convection program has already undertaken simulations over the tropics at resolutions of 4 km;
  • The land program has already coupled the CABLE model into the Weather and Research Forecasting tool to obtain early simulations including carbon;
  • A version of the ACCESS model is now available to University researchers on the National Computational Initiative super-computers – a new student can now do in days what used to take months;
  • We have driven a process nationally of establishing procedures for version control for model developments;
  • We have already run some training for research fellows and PhD students in software tools;
  • We have appointed 20 research fellows and other research staff;
  • We have published 27 peer reviewed papers including major papers in Nature Climate Change, Geophysical Research Letters, Journal of Climate, Journal of Atmospheric Science etc; elite journals in our field.

The Centre has established its administrative systems led by Stephen Gray. His building of the administration team has been remarkably effective. He is capably and enthusiastically supported by Simone Purdon and Vilia Co at UNSW and Anna Haley at Monash Univesity.

If you have not seen our web site (www.climatescience.org.au) please browse it – but you will need to do so regularly as our media manager, Alvin Stone, updates it very regularly with new publications, major presentations, blogs and opinion pieces.

The Centre has also established its computational modelling support team. This was fully staffed in December 2011 with Dr Mike Rezny, based at Monash University, leading a team of four others based at each collaborating institution. As reported later, this team has proved transformative. Several key goals, which were expected to take 12 months, have already been achieved.

Support from colleagues at CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and at the National Computational Infrastructure have proved central to several achievements, but Mike’s team has provided the expertise and critical mass to move us forward at a remarkable pace.

There are several Centre Chief Investigators whose CVs were embellished in 2011 with nationally significant prizes. Dr Todd Lane won the Anton Hayles medal for research in Earth Sciences while Dr Andrew Hogg was awarded the Frederick White prize for physical terrestrial and planetary science. Dr Lisa Alexander won the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society’s Priestley Medal. After the first six Priestley Medals, which are awarded biannually, were awarded to men, it is

indicative of the sea change emerging in our science that the last three medals were awarded to women.

Another major activity for the Centre through 2011 was the development of a strategic plan. A one-page summary of our agreed strategies is included in this report to provide a clear sense of our over-arching vision, strategy and goals. While this is a dynamic document it provides a clear indication of where we see priorities over the next few years.

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