Annual report 2016


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This is the sixth annual report of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (ARCCSS).

I think 2016 was the most challenging year for the Centre to date. Navigating the ultimately successful submission to the Australian Research Council (ARC) for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes was demanding, and had to be accomplished while maintaining activity, strategy and energy in the ARCCSS. I am delighted to note that despite the challenges, 2016 has proven a highly successful year of publications, PhD completions, other successful ARC grant applications, and awards.

Through 2016 the Centre published 173 articles in the peer-reviewed literature. That included our usual successes in the Nature family of journals including two papers in Nature itself. A particular highlight was Ariaan Purich’s Nature Communications paper – a tremendous achievemen for a PhD student. It is particularly delightful how of the nine papers in the Nature family, authors included Nerilee Abram, Ruth Lorenz, Markus Donat, Nicola Maher and Laurie Menviel, who are all early career researchers. Of course, most of our publications are in the highest quality specialist journals and we can celebrate 14 papers in Journal of Climate, 17 papers in Geophysical Research Letters and 15 papers in Journal of Geophysical Research . As usual, the full list is provided in this report, and many of these and other papers are profiled in the research reports.

Our graduate program, led by Melissa Hart, remains a jewel in our crown. We again ran writing workshops and supported coding academies. We had 96 PhD students enrolled in 2016, with 16 new students and 15 completions. We therefore continue to grow. Importantly, our graduate destinations remain impressive, including positions in Cambridge University, University of Edinburgh, and the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting internationally, and CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia. A key to our graduate program is our annual winter school. This year the focus was on tropical meteorology, highlighting both a research program in tropical convection and a focus on the Maritime Continent.

We had 59 participants, including students from Centre Collaborating Organisations, and Partner Organisation CSIRO, but also from the Federation University, Murdoch University and the University of Auckland. Many Centre Chief Investigators presented lectures at the school and I would like to thank Dr Dietmar Dommenget, Prof Christian Jakob, A/Prof Todd Lane and Prof Steve Sherwood for their ongoing support of this core activity.

A Centre of Excellence would not be excellent if our researchers did not win independent funding and awards. Two Centre researchers won Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA): (Leela Francombe and Alejandro DiLuca). I’d also like to congratulate former Centre research fellow Jatin Kala, now at Murdoch University, who won a DECRA. Three ARC Future Fellowships were won by Andrea Taschetto, Nerilie Abrams and Shayne McGregor. Both DECRAs and Future Fellows are extraordinarily challenging to win and all deserve our congratulations.

Centre researchers also won some major awards. Christian Jakob won the American Geophysical Union’s Atmospheric  Science Section Ascent Award. Tasmania’s Young Tall Poppy award for 2016 was won by Stephanie Downes. Two Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS) awards were also won by our researchers, including the Early Career Researcher Award to Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick and the AMOS Uwe Radok Award 2016 to Tim Cowan. Benjamin Henley was awarded the 2016 GN Alexander Medal at the Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium, Queenstown, NZ.

The Centre awards its own prizes each year, to recognize particularly impressive contributions by a student and an early career researcher. Best Paper by a Student was awarded to Martin Bergemann for his paper, How important is tropospheric humidity for coastal rainfall in the tropics?.

Best Paper by an Early Career Researcher was awarded to Markus Donat for his paper, More extreme precipitation in the world’s dry and wet regions. Congratulations to both, and my thanks to all those who nominated and who helped with the assessment process. Finally, the Director’s Prize was awarded to Stephen Gray for an outstanding contribution to the Centre over a sustained period of time.

Finally, two Centre researchers were elected to the American Geophysical Union: Matthew England and Harry Hendon. This is a phenomenal achievement, well deserved and timely.

Our research through 2016 has been at the highest level, with major successes. I am not going to repeat what is provided in the research summary, or the report on activities from the Computational Modelling Services team. These provide details on specific discoveries, advanced visualizations, new modelling capabilities, new data sets and so on. The reports document a year in which we have exceeded our agreed key performance indicators across all measures. In addition to reporting on 2016, the research summaries again highlight our intent for 2017 and 2018.

We welcome contact from researchers with similar interests wishing to collaborate on these intentions.

This is expected to be my final Director’s Report on the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. I have to resign this role to take on the equivalent position in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes. Transition arrangements are currently being considered by the ARC but the expectation is to transfer to Professor Christian Jakob from the end of June 2017. We anticipate maintaining very similar administrative, graduate program, computational and investigator team structures in the new centre, so there are few “good-byes” and more “emerging challenges”- but I should formally thank everyone for their help and support through the last five years. It is impossible to run a centre without active and collegial teams and we have always managed to maintain both.

Finally, I will finish on a sad note. We celebrate research fellows moving on to new positions, or PhD students who complete and move to new jobs. I suppose I should therefore celebrate Stephen Gray’s departure for greener

pastures but that would be disingenuous. As most of you reading this know, Stephen has been Centre Manager and Chief Operations Officer for our entire existence and has been phenomenal in these roles. I do congratulate Stephen and wish him every success of course and thank him for all his support and encouragement over the years.

Prof Andy Pitman
Director ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. 

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