Environment

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Oli Wilson, a PhD student and Graduate Teaching Assistant in the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Sciences, is exploring Brazil’s unique and endangered Araucaria forests – how they were shaped in the past by humans and climate change, and how likely they are to survive in the future.

Recently, Oli won an online competition, ‘I’m A Scientist: Get Me Out Of Here!’. Here, Oli explains how this outreach activity is helping to inspire a new generation of scientists, and why he’ll be spending his winnings on an innovative resource for public engagement. Read the rest of this entry »

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By Dr Helen Dacre and Dr Andrew Prata, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

Mount Agung is erupting in Bali

The volcanic ash being spewed out by Mount Agung in Bali has brought back memories of the 2010 eruption in Iceland, which caused chaos for holidaymakers in Europe. Airlines operating flights to and from Bali and its neighbouring Indonesian islands have again been hit this week, however research is being carried out to reduce the impact of eruptions in the future.

Mount Agung had been showing signs of increased seismic activity since mid-September, but last Tuesday it moved into a new phase and began releasing steam and volcanic ash into the atmosphere. Denpasar International Airport in Bali has reported ash at ground level accumulating on aircraft and satellite images show glimpses of an ash-rich plume, but it is often obscured by meteorological clouds.

Due to the damaging effect of volcanic ash on jet engines – molten ash blocks engine cooling holes causing engines to overheat and shutdown – air travel is restricted in ash contaminated airspace. A prolonged eruption, such as the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption in Iceland that grounded flights across Europe, will lead to inevitable economic damage to Bali and the surrounding area due to lost tourism and productivity.

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By Christian Pfrang, Department of Chemistry, University of Reading

 

Our new study found surprisingly complex arrangements of molecules inside droplets mimicking atmospheric aerosols.

These types of aerosols are typical of pollution emitted in large quantities by cooking processes in Greater London. This self-assembly is caused by molecules –such as fatty acids– containing both water-loving and water-hating parts.  While the general concept of self-assembly is well-known and surface films of these molecules have been studied before, complex three-dimensional arrangements inside water-based droplets found in the atmosphere have not previously been considered.

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By Professor Tim Dixon, School of the Built Environment, University of Reading

Is this how Reading will look in 2050?

As the world’s urban population continues to grow, it will be increasingly important for the built environment sector to offer solutions that work for individual streets as well as whole cities.

Buildings already make up 20% of global emissions, and the world’s population will be 70% urban by 2050. So, understanding how we can join up our thinking and disciplinary understanding from individual building level to neighbourhood level and at the urban level will be essential to make the built environment work better for society and create more resilient and sustainable places.

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By Professor Keith Shine, Regius Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science

The United Nations Climate Conference

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the principal negotiating forum where countries agree ambitions for limiting greenhouse gas emissions; the aim is to avoid “dangerous human interference with the climate system”.

The UNFCCC meets annually at its “Conference of the Parties” (COPs). Sometimes COPs culminate in headline-grabbing agreements. COP3 led to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997; COP21 resulted in the Paris Agreement in 2015. More often, COPs focus on issues of implementation and preparing the way for future agreements. This year, COP23 (https://cop23.unfccc.int/) is being held in Bonn, Germany (6 – 17 November) and is focusing on implementing the Paris Agreement.

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By Lydia Messling, University of Reading

Is it fair that climate change has the worst effects in areas that contributed to the problem the least?

It isn’t just polar bears being affected by climate change – people all over the world are already being negatively affected by changes to the climate, from droughts, flooding, and ruined harvests.

That’s not fair. Particularly as these communities had no role in making the problem in the first place. Fast forward a few years, and the environmental situation for our children’s children is not looking too peachy either… but could it look green?

If we changed the way we thought about climate change instead of it being ‘just a problem for science to solve’ to a problem about social justice, could we come up with a solution that addresses injustice that would help these communities and climate change at the same time? Can fairness create a green future?

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By Dr Claire Ryder, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

Some of the headlines about Monday’s orange sky

Monday’s red sun and the yellowy-orange sky produced an eerie atmosphere, and some beautiful photos, but what was the cause?

We’re used to seeing red skies at sunset, or even at dawn if we’re up early enough, but a red sun throughout the day is an extremely unusual event over the UK. A few unusual events combined this week to give us a blood-red sun for much of the day.

Firstly, we were under the effect of southerly air flow, associated with ex-hurricane Ophelia. While the centre of the storm was out to the west, central and southern England had relatively cloud-free skies allowing the sun to be seen.

Secondly, this southerly airflow brought both Saharan dust, whipped up by strong winds over desert surfaces, and smoke particles from wildfires over Portugal and Spain, lofted to high altitudes and transported our way. The combination of these two types of particles in the atmosphere then led to the red sun and orange skies.

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By Professor Paul D. Williams and Luke N. Storer, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

The study makes turbulence projections for multiple global regions

Our new study calculating that climate change will strengthen aviation turbulence has caused a stir on social media. Most of the online comments about the article have been positive – albeit expressing a little anxiety at the prospect of experiencing double the amount of severe turbulence later this century.

The new paper, as well as our previous study on this topic in Nature Climate Change, was peer-reviewed by international experts in aviation turbulence and found to be scientifically correct. However, as is commonplace in the public discussion about climate science today – at a time when opinions seem to count more than evidence and facts – a small number of non-expert commentators have misunderstood the scientific details and attempted to discredit the findings.

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Kate Green, Partnerships Manager, Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH)

One of the farms managed by the University’s Centre for Dairy Research

The shocking fact that 1 in 4 adults in the UK are obese is quite something. This figure has trebled in the last 30 years and is expected to increase to an astounding 1 in 2 by 2050. Do we, as a nation, know what we’re eating when it comes to fat?

This was the question posed by ITV’s Tonight programme (Fat: The Healthy Option?) which asked us to consider what we know about fat and to question the widely held belief that fat is a key opponent in our struggle against weight gain and the health risks that come with this. Professor Ian Givens kicked off the show by challenging the belief that dairy consumption makes you fat, as the evidence from innovative research undertaken by the University of Reading suggests that this is not in fact the case and that in some cases diary consumption can actually enhance weight loss.

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