The Lyn Beazley AO 2021 Ecosystem Observations Webinar Series

Climate modelling in Australia – what’s the use?

Benefits for human health, society and the environment.

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Climate models are important tools for improving our understanding and predictability of climate behaviour on seasonal, annual, decadal, and centennial time scales across regions and the globe. Outcomes of modelling are used to inform decision making in all fields of life.  

In this webinar, our panel explores the topic from three perspectives – the status and process of climate modelling, the importance of climate modelling to health, and applying climate modelling estimates to research management.

Global and regional climate modelling – Professor Andy Pitman

Global climate models attempt to simulate the global climate system. Simulations are run at climate modelling centres around the world and compared to help scientists understand how the climate system works and to develop climate projections to inform planning decisions. The outcomes are key inputs to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports and Australia’s national and regional climate projections. The simulation of climate processes that contribute to how sensitive a model is to increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere differs between models and this results in different values of climate sensitivity for different models. There is no central coordination of how the different models simulate climate processes and the spread of climate sensitivity values across the range of models is not pre-planned. 

Disentangling health effects of environmental changes from social factors – Dr Ivan Hanigan

The World Health Organization (WHO) puts a changing climate as one of the most important health risks of the future (WHO, 2020). However, national environmental datasets are required to quantify the true magnitude of these health effects, predict future health impacts in Australia, and target geographic areas at greater risk to provide more targeted, cost-effective mitigation and management. Time-series data are being on a large range of indicators to track the ongoing developments of emerging public health issues from deaths due to human-made air pollution, lethal extreme weather events, infectious mosquito borne diseases and so on.

Research is not immune to climate change – Professor Lauren Rickards

Research is frequently presented as important to others’ capacity to cope with and adapt to climate change. What is less acknowledged is that research itself is increasingly threatened by climate change – whether in terms of climatic extremes and slow stressors, their myriad flow-on effects or indirect climate change impacts. Impacts on shared physical research infrastructure such as that supported by TERN then generate their own far-reaching flow-on effects. During this webinar Lauren provides a brief outline of the problem and some of the specific challenges the research sector needs to start facing.


Professor Andy Pitman

Professor Andy Pitman FAA is a member of TERN’s Science Advisory Committee. He is a passionate science communicator and his distinguished career related to atmospheric science has international impact. Andy is currently the Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) funded Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, led from the University of NSW. Andy’s research focus is on terrestrial processes in global and regional climate modelling, model evaluation and earth systems’ approaches to understanding climate change.

Dr Ivan Hanigan

Dr Ivan Hanigan is a Research Fellow at the University of Sydney and user of TERN data and tools.  Ivan applies a multidisciplinary approach to data manager and analysis to his research into understanding the health impacts of air pollution, socio-economic disadvantage, extreme weather events (e.g. bushfire smoke plumes, dust-storms, droughts or heatwaves). Ivan has experience in the integration of health, social and environmental data which involves reconciling health and socio-economic or population data based on incompatible spatial units.

Professor Lauren Rickards

Professor Lauren Rickards is a former Deputy Chair of TERN’s Advisory Board and is now the Director of the Urban Futures Enabling Capability Platform at RMIT and co-leader of the Climate Change Transformations research program. Lauren is a human geographer and ecologist by training, now working primarily on climate change futures and related questions about the urban-rural and human-nature relationship. Lauren conducts research on many of the social dimensions of climate change, particularly in the water and agri-food sectors.

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