Past changes reveal our climate change future

02 September 2011: If our knowledge of the past is the key to our understanding the future, then Dr Steven Phipps and the researchers at the International Union for Quaternary Research recent conference may have a clearer insight than most.

The conference, held every four years, was hosted this year in the picturesque medieval town of Bern, Switzerland. It brought together 2000 researchers from around the world who specialise at investigating Earth’s climatic and environmental changes over the past 2.6 million years.

Through understanding these changes they hope to reveal the likely challenges that climate change may pose for us all in the future.

”It was tremendously inspiring to meet so many other researchers, all of whom are determined to learn as much as we can from our planet's history”, Dr Phipps said.

“It provided an invaluable opportunity to exchange ideas, and I was able to emphasise the vital role that climate modelling can play in understanding the dynamics of the Earth system.”

Dr Phipps was invited to give a keynote presentation: From the tropics to Antarctica: Integrating palaeoclimate archives with climate system models. His presentation explored how climate and environment data retrieved from a wide range of sources could be combined with information from climate models to give a clear picture of the dynamics of past changes in climate systems.

He also presented a poster on Australian climate over the past 2000 years, which looked at the drivers of variability and change over the continent.

After the conference, Dr Phipps attended a one-day meeting of the PAGES (Past Global Changes) 2k network as a representative of the Australasian regional working group.

The PAGES 2k network is an international project that aims to reconstruct and understand changes in the Earth’s climate over the past 2000 years.

As part of this research Dr Phipps used the CSIRO Mk3L climate system model, a publicly available climate change model originally developed by him for the study of past climates.

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