Annual report 2017

7th ARCCSS Annual Report

This is the seventh and final annual report of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (ARCCSS). 2017 was our final full year of operations, and what a year it has been! Despite the delightful distraction of starting the new ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes (CLEx) and, as a result, switching directors, we can once again point to remarkable achievements in all areas of our work.

This year saw the publication 156 scientific articles (plus over 30 in press or pre-published online) by ARCCSS researchers, bringing our total tally of publications to over 1000 across the life of the Centre. Many of the year’s studies once again appeared in the top journals in our field and have attracted national and international interest. At last count, we published 16 papers in Journal of Climate, 10 in Climate Dynamics, 11 in Geophysical Research Letters, 10 in Nature journals, and 7 in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Importantly, we also saw a number of publications in journals beyond our immediate community, such as six in Environmental Research Letters and three in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, showing our broad reach. I am particularly pleased to see our model-development activities acknowledged and documented in specialist journals, as evidenced by a total of 13 articles in Geoscientific Model Development and the Journal for Advances in Modelling the Earth System. It is easy to forget what an achievement it is to publish an article. They are the lifeblood of science, and I would like to thank all Centre members who have contributed either directly or indirectly to this great success.

Our graduate program continued its march from strength to strength under the leadership of its director, Melissa Hart. Some 75 students participated in this year’s winter school on The Science of Climate Change, which was held in Sydney. Many more took the opportunity to participate in training courses to increase their skills in programming, running models, and science writing. Ten of our PhD scholars and two masters students completed their degrees this year. This makes the Centre the proud parent of a combined 62 masters and PhD graduates, who are applying their skills in exciting new ventures here and abroad.

The vast majority of our students and postdoctoral fellows, as well as many of our national and international collaborators, joined the Chief Investigators at our annual workshop in Canberra in November. Not surprisingly, the workshop was another record-breaking event with more than 160 participants. Through its location it allowed us to showcase our work to the Australian Research Council as well as government departments. At the workshop I had the pleasure to award our annual prizes. Aarian Purich won the prize for Best Paper by a Student for her work linking modelled trends in Antarctic sea ice with errors in westerly wind changes, published in Nature Communications. Claire Vincent took out the prize for Best Paper by an Early Career Researcher for her study on the diurnal cycle of rainfall over the Maritime Continent with the passage of the MaddenJulian Oscillation, published in Monthly Weather Review.

And of course, I enjoyed awarding the Director’s Prize to the Computational Modelling Systems team, whose great work over the years enabled many of the studies we are so proud to report here.

Our work is not only recognised by ourselves of course, and I am pleased to report the award of several major honours to Centre staff, students and affiliates. Lisa Alexander won the 2017/18 World Meteorological Organization Commission for Climatology Outstanding Service Award for her many contributions not only to the study of climate extremes but also for enabling others to do so, through the development of data sets and methodologies. Matt England was awarded the Tinker-Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica as well as the 2017 Sydney Institute of Marine Science Emerald Award for “contributions to our knowledge of the ocean’s role in climate”. The World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)/Global Climate Observing System International Data Prize 2017 went to Markus Donat. Nicola Maher’s thesis won the 2017 Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS) Uwe Radok Award for the best PhD thesis in the fields of meteorology, oceanography, glaciology or climatology. Our international Partner Investigators Steve Griffies and Sandrine Bony won major awards, becoming a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and being awarded the Gérard Mégie Prize by the French Academy of Sciences, respectively. We congratulate Associate Investigators Andrea Taschetto, Scott Sisson and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, who all won ARC Future Fellowships. Finally, I myself was humbled and of course very pleased to have been made a Fellow of AMOS, which makes me officially FAMOS! Congratulations to all award winners and a big thank you to all who were involved in their nominations.

In reflecting on the great achievements of this year, I personally — and I am sure all Centre members — are particularly grateful to one individual. None of what we report in this document would have been possible without the vision and passion of Andy Pitman, the founding director of ARCCSS and now Director of CLEx. Andy’s outstanding leadership has provided all of us with the opportunity to contribute to the incredible experience that is ARCCSS. His tireless work to build a world-class climate science effort has lifted all of us and has influenced the community well beyond the Centre boundaries. Thank you, Andy!

The question I am asked most these days is what the Centre of Excellence has achieved and what its legacy will be. I see several major achievements, all the result of a tremendous collective effort by so many. First, there is our science, some of which is already recognised as breakthrough, and more will come in due course. We investigated all spheres of the climate system, enabling us to make contributions within them, such as providing new insights into the workings of tropical clouds or ocean eddies and clarifying their role in the climate system. Importantly, we were able to integrate across the spheres too, making major contributions to an increased understanding of past and present climate variability, such as the processes involved in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and the recent effects of decadal variability. And we didn’t stop there: we translated our understanding into new tools for modelling the system, such as new land model components and a high-resolution ocean model, the application of which, in turn, further increased our understanding.

Our commitment to the national approach to climate modelling makes these tools available to all researchers for a long time to come. Through our involvement in international scientific bodies, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the WCRP, we have not only shaped national but also international climate science. Our one-ofa-kind graduate program, superbly led by Melissa Hart, has trained more than 100 students and early career researchers, many of whom will make major contributions to our science in the years to come. Our people, science and tools all contribute to improving our ability to predict weather and climate, thereby affecting policy and decision makers throughout society and, ultimately, every Australian.

Being part of the ARCCSS has been an incredible journey, and having the opportunity to lead it in its final year is a great privilege. I hope that many of the readers of this report will be able to join us when we communicate and celebrate our achievements with the wider community at a showcase event in late June 2018 in Canberra.

Professor Christian Jakob
Director

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