Annual Report 2014



Follow this link for a low res pdf of the Annual Report 2014.

This is the fourth Annual Report of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (four-page summary below). It has been another outstanding year with multiple successes measured by publications, capacity building especially in the computational area, consolidation of our graduate training initiatives, enhanced national and international collaboration and media impact. It is extremely pleasing to see how quickly we have transitioned from a scale of a series of projects to one where outcomes reflect the scale and integration of a true Centre of Excellence. We are now seeing outcomes of many of our outstanding cross-centre activities, highlighted by continued emergence of leadership from Early Career Researchers. These are demonstrably benefiting from our strengthening national and international partnerships and from enhanced training programs we have established.

This report provides details on a selection of our 2013 activities to demonstrate our successes in achieving the goals we set out at the start of the Centre. There are reports from each research program, details of the contribution from the Computational Modelling Support team, vignettes focused on student experiences and some highlights of how we have helped communicate ARC-funded research outcomes in the print, radio and television media. As in previous years, it is challenging to choose highlights, but here is my very personal selection:

  • Our publications in 2014 were outstanding, increasing further on our 2013 performance. We are delighted to report 17 Nature papers, 2 Science paper, 17 Geophysical Research Letters, 20 Journal of Geophysical Research papers, 21 Journal of Climate papers, 7 Journal of Physical Oceanography papers and 11 Climate Dynamics papers. Research in the Centre has led to a series of important discoveries as well as significant contributions to new data sets for use by the national and international science community.
  • Model development is a priority for ARCCSS. Karsten Peters has successfully implemented the Stochastic Multicloud Model as a new convection closure in a climate model. Numerous other studies are underway for a range of convection processes, which should provide the improvements in understanding that will underpin future models improvements. Jatin Kala developed and implemented a new soil albedo parameterization in the Australian land surface model. Dietmar Dommenget led significant developments in the ACCESS hierarchy development including the first papers using the hierarchy by Nicholas Tyrrell. There has also been significant development of high-resolution ocean models coupled into the ACCESS framework.
  • Other major achievements include a paper by Matthew England published in Nature, that made a profound contribution to understanding the warming hiatus and Shane McGregor led a study examining the role of the tropical Atlantic warming in forcing the tropical Pacific winds. Research by Steve Sherwood published in Nature identifies what is causing much of the spread of estimates of future warming between different climate models, and why most of them show clouds near the surface thinning out as the climate warms. Ruth Lorenz led an important paper examining how land atmosphere coupling strength affects how tropical deforestation is simulated in ACCESS. Jeff Exbryat explained how spin-up procedures in global climate models explain why land-based soil carbon stores vary widely.
  • We have worked hard to bring climate science knowledge and capacity into other communities including, for example, papers by Harris et al. (2014) guiding ecologists in their use of climate projections and Macadam et al. (2014) in using new information in wheat yield simulation.  Combined with contributing to regional projections science via the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, this highlights the role the Centre plays in supporting a wider research community.
  • The National Computational Infrastructure (NCI, a Partner Organization) continues to be a critical partner in the Centre. They have provided us computational capacity as promised, but have also been strongly supportive in helping the Computational Modelling Support team deliver outstanding results. NCI were hugely supportive in helping the Centre win an ARC LIEF grant and provided the Managing Chief Investigator for this project. The Australian National Data Service (ANDS), another e-research Partner Organisation has also worked closely with the Centre in delivering a tools project that will aid access to our data. The Centre remained associated with a National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (Nectar) project led by the Bureau of Meteorology (a Partner Organisation). Centre staff are on the advisory board and the community engagement group of this project.  The Centre has provided the capacity to interact with these major e-research providers in a way that would have been impossible for individual researchers. Our Computational Modelling Support team provides the technical capacity to engage with the e-research providers enabling us to sustain our contribution.
  • We have quite dramatically increased our publication rate for major data sets thanks to the on-going leadership by Paola Petrelli. These data are hosted at NCI and are publically discoverable on the Earth System Grid (ESG) and via Research Data Australia. There are 5 collections, linked with ACCESS1.3 results prepared for the Coupled Model intercomparison Project phase 5. In addition, to support a wider range of potential climate data users, regional projections data have been made available in collaboration with the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Australian National Data Service.
  • We ran another a very successful winter school for our graduate students and participants from a number of Australian and Pacific institutions. Hosted by the Research School of Earth Sciences at ANU, this year’s theme was geophysical fluid dynamics. We welcomed 48 students from ARCCSS affiliated institutions, and from Victoria University Wellington, RMIT, UQ, and students from the University of the South Pacific funded through the Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning (PACCSAP) program. The school included an advanced, climate science focussed, Python tutorial. Students were also given a tour of NCI facilities and had the opportunity to see Australia’s new supercomputer, a particularly exciting visit for our many Raijin users.
  • Our Centre-wide annual workshop attracted 136 participants – our largest yet.
  • We organised another writing workshop to help Graduate Students and Early Career Researchers with preparing manuscripts. Students spent three days working on a draft manuscript under the guidance of their academic mentors and a student buddy.
  • We have continued to strengthen links with The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research (CAWCR) (a partnership between the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO). CAWCR contributed strongly to the Winter School, to a week-long workshop and to a suite of 1-3 day workshops. The Centre of Excellence has contributed strongly to CAWCR workshops on model evaluation and Australian Community Climate and Earth Simulator (ACCESS) events.
  • We have continued to develop, and will develop further, the cross-cutting initiative focussed on the Maritime Continent. This involves major ARCCSS and CAWCR collaboration as well as international collaboration within our region. Major systematic biases in climate models, including in ACCESS, will be tackled and alleviated in this highly collaborative project.
  • We launched a new web site focussed on extremes. Led by Sarah Perkins, the Scorcher web site builds an inaugural Extremes workshop at UNSW. The weather@home project was also launched and is on-going.
  • It is a great pleasure to observe how our centre increasingly provides a home for outstanding national and international experts on short and long-term sabbatical visits. This year we welcomed 56 visitors from 13 countries. We are working towards a stronger engagement with China and with southern hemisphere counties following advice from the mid-term review.
  • We have made a lot of progress at the interface of scientific modelling, high performance computing and software engineering. Simulations for the atmosphere have been carried out at resolutions of 1km and higher in our study of convective process. The oceans team has made extensive use of a ¼o resolution global model developed in 2013, and through collaboration with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory has made good progress towards a model with 0.1o global resolution. This will give us unprecedented opportunities to examine many observed phenomena in ever greater detail. We have continued our partnership with Breakaway Labs, a software engineering company, to develop a fully-coupled Global Climate Model based on the ACCESS modeling framework. This work progressed rapidly in 2014, allowing us to complete several high-resolution global climate experiments. This model will be an invaluable tool for the laboratory, allowing us to do transformative future work in ocean and atmospheric science, variability and extremes.
  • There are many examples of leadership nationally and internationally by Centre researchers. Lisa Alexander now co-chairs the WCRP Grand Challenge on Extremes, Kevin Walsh is a co-chair of a CLIVAR working group and Helen Phillips was appointed as the Australian representative on the International CLIVAR/GOOS Indian Ocean Panel. Todd Lane is the new AMOS President.
  • Chief investigators have maintained a strong commitment to communicating Centre activities via the media, public talks and a commitment to providing policy relevant advice to State and Federal governments. We maintain an active web-site which received 38,000 hits in 2014, a small increase over 2013 but a doubling over 2012. We maintain a Facebook and Twitter account with 0ver 1000 followers. We were delighted by a Centre related story that made the Front page of the New York Times and research by Steve Sherwood received sustained international coverage including a special board editorial in the Washington Post. There was also strong worldwide reporting on Matthew England’s hiatus paper to the point where it became a default reference point for stories on the hiatus throughout the year. Alvin Stone, our Media manager was a guest panellist at the Australian Science Communicators conference, and closing plenary speaker at the Environmental Institute of Australia and New Zealand’s (EIANZ) conference.
  • There were five new Discovery Early Career Researcher Award to Centre-affiliated researchers: Ailie Gallant (Monash), Max Nikurashin (University of Tasmania), Markus Donat (UNSW), Paul Spence (UNSW), Laurie Menviel (UNSW).
  • I am delighted to congratulate the following for their elections to scientific societies: Matthew England (Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science), Neville Nicholls (Fellow of the American Geophysical Union), and Ross Griffies (Fellow of the American Physical Society).
  • I will again finish my report with the pleasure of highlighting some outstanding personal successes my Centre researchers. We again celebrate some major international prizes. Internationally, Andy Hogg was awarded the Fofonoff prize by the American Meteorological Society, Steve Griffies was awarded the Fridtjof Nansen Medal by the European Geophysical Union) and Hoshin Gupta won the John Dalton Medal from the European Geophysical Union. Nationally, Nerille Abrams was awarded the Dorothy Hill award by the Australian Academy of Science, and Trevor McDougall won the Jaeger Medal from the Australian Academy of Science). The Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society awards include the Morton Medal, won by David Karoly Early Career Researcher Award won by Sophie Lewis.

Our priorities for 2015 reflect our commitment to innovative science, building on model development and process-level biophysical science. We will continue to strive for break-trough discoveries and maintain investment in both model development, and cross-centre initiatives such as the Maritime Continent. Our investment in our Graduate Programs and graduate students will also be maintained to ensure they each have the very best opportunities to develop intellectually.

In summary, 2014 was a very successful and positive year, highlighted by the mid-term review. We are transforming the scale and quality of university-led climate system science. Through 2015 we will further enhance our cross-centre activities to meet climate system science’s grand challenges.

Andy Pitman
ARC Centre for Excellence for Climate System Science

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