Environment

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More than £2 million of new funding was confirmed for University of Reading research during April.

A total of 19 research projects received awards ranging in size from less than £1,000 up to nearly £500,000. The total value is £2,033,172.

Professor Steve Mithen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “Congratulations to all those who have been awarded research funds.

“I am pleased that we are attracting funding for both applied and pure research. It is vital that we continue both to research topics that show immediate benefits to society, as well as projects aiming more generally to advance our understanding.”

Funders during the month include UK research councils and trusts, charities, and international government agencies in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Among those winning grants are:

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By Phil Newton, Research Dean for Environment, University of Reading

Science is a global business. Very few truly great advances in science happen these days without some level of international collaboration. A quick look at the list of recent Nobel Laureates for Physics tells that story.

But the organisation of science, like many other things, is influenced by politics. Which is how we should view the offer of French President Emmanuel Macron to recruit foreign climate scientists to French institutions.

Macron is riding the wave of populist politics that also helped sweep Donald Trump to victory in the United States. But Macron’s popularity is based on very different foundations to Trump’s. He has wasted little time in opposing the US administration’s policy on pulling America out of the Paris climate change agreement.

What’s really going on here?

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By Stephen Burt, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

There is much febrile comment in the media concerning the current heatwave. A common statement is ‘this is the greatest heatwave since the hot summer of 1976’.

Always a shame to spoil a good story with the truth, but that’s simply not true, and by a long way.

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By Professor Sandy Harrison

I am delighted to be spearheading a forthcoming workshop to be held at Reading University in July that brings together observationalists and modellers working on palaeoclimates, model development and assessment of future climate changes to address this question.

Climate models are mathematical representations of the interactions between the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, ice – and the sun. The models used for future climate projections were developed and calibrated using climate observations from the past 40 years. They are also the only tools available to project the human impact on the environment changes over the 21st century. These models perform well in terms of global features (e.g. magnitude of global warming), but model performance at a regional scale is poor.

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President Donald Trump has indicated an intention to withdraw the US from the Paris accord on climate change.

His announcement, made on Thursday 1 June, means the US will no longer recognise the collective aim of mitigating the impact of climate change.

The University of Reading is a world leader in climate science and research into the physical, economic and social impacts of climate change, helping to provide the strong scientific evidence upon which the Paris agreement was based.

Here, we look at some of this celebrated research, which remains central to the aims of the 194 countries that remain signed up to the Paris Agreement.

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Are you an Open Researcher? Do you support or promote Open Research? Did the conference convert you? If you’ve got an Open Research story to tell and would like to write a post for our blog, please drop me a line. We would love to hear your stories.

On 30th March we hosted the conference Open in Practice: Inspirations, Strategies and Methods for Open Research here at the University of Reading. Our aim was to stimulate conversation about Open Research, to showcase the benefits of an Open Research approach, and to enthuse researchers to adopt open methods in their own research practice.

The conference featured a number of guest speakers, including academics, publishers and data specialists, who came to talk about their experience of Open Research and what it means in practice. The audience included a broad representation of University researchers and research students, members of the University’s research support services, and academics from beyond Reading. Altogether 90 people, over two-thirds of them research-active, attended the conference, and took part in a day of stimulating discussions.

Slides from speakers’ presentations and a record of the concluding panel discussion can be found here, and you can relive all the drama of the day at our Storify timeline. In short video clips Marcus Munafo and Simon Tanner summarise the key messages of their plenary talks, and several of our delegates tell us about their Open Resolutions.

Why a conference on Open Research?

This is the first time the University has organised an event of this nature. Why did we do it? For two reasons.

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By Sally Stevens, Institute for Environmental Analytics, University of Reading

An important new skills gap survey highlighting the urgent need for in-career training in state-of-the-art data analytics was presented at this week’s European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly in Austria on Thursday [April 27].

The key findings are:

  • 53% of respondents said the research habit that needed most improvement was reluctance to share data or models.
  • 52% identified the most vital skill for global change research as data processing and analysis.
  • 42% said the digital skills needing most improvement were computational and numerical analysis.
  • The biggest data challenge was data complexity and the lack of data standards and exchange standards.

The survey was commissioned by the Belmont Forum, a highly influential global group of science funders dedicated to speeding up high quality environmental research around the world.

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Three University of Reading scientists in the Department of Meteorology have been honoured with awards and prizes from the Royal Meteorological Society.

The awards, which will be presented on 17th May, celebrate excellence in meteorology are well regarded among weather and climate scientists across the world.

The prizewinners from Reading are

  • The Buchan Prize has been won by Professor Suzanne Gray
  • The Climate Science Communications Award goes to Dr Ed Hawkins
  • The Quarterly Journal Prize will be awarded to Prof Anthony Illingworth

Professor Dame Julia Slingo, and Professor Stephen Belcher – the former and current Chief Scientist of the Met Office respectively, both of whom previously worked full time at the Department of Meteorology,  are also honoured in the awards.

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By Professor Hannah Cloke, hydrologist, Water@Reading

If you knew there was a strong chance that your local river was about to burst its banks and sweep away your house, you’d get yourself, and your family, out of harm’s way.

Yet tragically, despite major advances in flood forecasting, hundreds of people every year still die in floods. Either warnings are not getting through, or people and authorities are failing to take appropriate action.

Severe flooding brought on by a strong coastal El Nino has left more than 90 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless in Northern Peru [photo: Maria-Helena Ramos]

This month has again seen severe flooding in many parts of the world, including Peru and Australia, leading to loss of life and destruction of homes and livelihoods.

We will never be able to stop such awful floods. But there are some vital steps that we can take to reduce the risk from these events and to save lives.

In recent years we have been taking great strides in our capability to provide early flood warnings, so that people can prepare for upcoming floods – often before it even starts to rain.

The Water@Reading research group at the University of Reading works alongside flood forecasters to develop better forecasts and warnings, such as those of the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) and the Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS), part of the EU’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service.

But how do we know if we’re doing a good job? How can we convince people that the warnings are accurate, and worth acting on?

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