IPRC researcher digs deep to gain insights into East African climate history

Honolulu, November 28, 2016
Christian Wolff, a post-doctoral climate researcher at IPRC, participated this past month in a deep drilling project in East Africa in collaboration with the International Continental Scientific Drilling Programme (ICDP) and an international team of scientists. The team deployed a floating drilling platform on beautiful Lake Challa near Mt. Kilimanjaro in an attempt to recover cores of the 210-m thick sediments of the lake floor. The team hopes that a complete record of the sediments will shed light on 250,000 years of climate history in the region, covering the time that humans evolved on the East African landscape. Wolff plans to use the sediment evidence of climate variability to examine details of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation phenomenon (ENSO) in the area and its effects on the local climate and landscape. Read more here. Visit the ICDP webpage for more information.

Timmermann chosen as EGU’s 2017 Milutin Milankovic Medal recipient

Honolulu, November 23, 2016
IPRC’s Axel Timmermann, climate researcher and Professor of Oceanography, has been selected by the European Geosciences Union as the recipient of their 2017 Milutin Milankovich Medal, acknowledging his exceptional contributions to climate change research and modeling. Read more here.

IPRC modelers look closer at the future climate of Hawai‘i

Honolulu, November 14, 2016
Most models employed for climate change predictions are global in scale, highlighting changes across large areas. But recently, more researchers are focusing their models to investigate changes at the smaller, regional scale. For an area like the Hawaiian Islands, exploring the smaller scale is particularly important, since the islands are dwarfed in large scale modeling, giving only the most cursory idea of future changes. A team from IPRC led by Chunxi Zhang has published a model in the Journal of Climate that simulates the regional scale variations that may occur in Hawaiian rainfall, wind flow, cloud cover, and temperatures by the end of the century. The most important results imply that temperature increases will be most strongly felt at high altitude and that regarding rainfall, the fine variations that already exist across the islands will be heightened: dry leeward sides will become drier, while wetter windward sides will become even wetter. Extreme rainfall events are also predicted to increase in frequency, highlighting the possibility of more coastal flooding. Read more in an article at Raising Islands here or their original paper here.

IPRC Director focuses on small scale battles: phytoplankton vs. viruses

Honolulu, November 10, 2016
Phytoplankton, tiny aquatic photosynthesizing organisms, not only represent the vital bottom rung of the ocean food web but also produce 50-85% of the world’s oxygen. Understanding what helps or harms phytoplankton populations is therefore of great importance. IPRC Director Kelvin Richards recently published a study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology examining the effects of ocean circulation on the impact that viruses may have on phytoplankton blooms. Using numerical models, he illustrated that the stirring and mixing of ocean currents increases the effects of a viral attack, subduing or even suppressing large portions of a bloom, and causing viral epidemics to last much longer than they would under still conditions. The key role that phytoplankton plays in the health of the ocean makes it critical that we understand mechanisms that might threaten that health of the phytoplankton. The presence of viruses may fundamentally alter the way our changing planet impacts the marine ecosystem. Read more details in the abstract here.

IPRC study finds a warmer climate is more sensitive to CO2 changes

Honolulu, November 9, 2016
Scientists have understood for a long time that carbon dioxide acts to trap solar energy as heat in the atmosphere. But according to a new study led by Tobias Friedrich, an IPRC post-doctoral researcher, and Axel Timmermann, Professor of Oceanography, the amount of heating due to an increase in CO2 depends on how warm the climate already is. By reconstructing temperatures and CO2 levels on Earth for the past 784,000 years, Friedrich was able to determine how the atmosphere reacted to previous changes in the system. His results suggest that as the climate gets warmer, it becomes more sensitive to changes in CO2. As our planet is currently in a warmer, interglacial phase, this may have significant implications for how the climate will continue to respond to anthropogenic CO2 increases. Read more details in the press release here. Or read their abstract and paper here. Listen to a very good radio interview here with EcoShock radio. And the work got a mention in The Nation's Health here.

IPRC researchers improve the prediction of Arctic annual sea ice minimum extent

Honolulu, October 3, 2016
With the summer of 2016 showing the second lowest extent of Arctic sea ice on record, and increased interest in Arctic resources, the status of the ice at the top of the world is drawing more attention. Climate modelers have been working for years to improve annual predictions of these minima, but have shown mixed results in matching predictions to observations. Recent work published in the Journal of Climate by IPRC’s Gary Grunseich, post-doctoral fellow, and Bin Wang, Professor of Meteorology, took a new approach that includes accounting for processes that affect early season ice conditions as well as predictions of atmospheric patterns in the Arctic summer. They found that there are four main forms of natural climate variability from around the calendar and the globe that shape summer sea ice extent. Taking all these predictors into consideration produces a model that matches well with previously observed sea ice extents, promising a useful predictor of future annual minimum sea ice extent. Read their abstract here.

IPRC modelers use climate to deduce likely timing of human migration

Honolulu, September 21, 2016
The spread of the human species, anchored and radiating out from Africa to migrate around the globe, has occurred in waves over many millennia. However, when the first small groups ventured out of Africa is subject to debate. New results published in the journal Nature by IPRC researchers Axel Timmermann and Tobias Friedrich integrate climate models with human migration models to determine the most likely timeframe for human dispersal based on the influence of changing climate patterns. Read more about their compelling results in the press release, or the original journal abstract, and view a short explanatory video at vimeo or on youtube. Read how their study relates to new genetic models of human migration here. Or listen to a different take in a Nature Podcast (starting at 16:14).

IPRC hosts distinguished climate scientist, Dr. Thomas Stocker

Honolulu, September 19, 2016
IPRC recently had the honor of hosting Dr. Thomas Stocker for an extended visit, highlighted by a Distinguished Lecture entitled "Climate Change: Curse or Opportunity?" Professor Stocker is a renowned climate researcher, serving as Professor of Climate and Environmental Physics at the University of Bern since 1993, studying climate dynamics and paleoclimate modeling and reconstruction. More recently, from 2008-2015, he served as Co-chair of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) helping to produce the Fifth Assessment Report in 2013 and giving him a fascinating perspective on the current status, and possible future, of our climate. Please read more about his talk and views here. Watch a different IPRC Seminar talk he gave on some recent research here.

IPRC scientists aid international study on unexpected changes in high-level equatorial winds

Honolulu, September 8, 2016
No one likes a disruption in their routine, least of all scientists. In February of this year, though, one of the most repeatable, predictable phenomena of atmospheric winds threw scientists for a loop by breaking its long-standing pattern. High altitude (16-50 km) equatorial winds typically oscillate between prevailing eastward and westward wind-jets, with a period of about 2-3 years, creating a pattern referred to as the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO). But in February, the unexpected occurred: the pattern changed. IPRC scientists Kevin Hamilton, recently retired Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, and Chunxi Zhang, Atmospheric Modeling Specialist, worked with Scott Osprey of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Oxford and an international team to study the unexpected disruption. Read more here and in the Oxford press release.

IPRC scientists participate in ArtSci 2016 exhibit

Honolulu, September 6, 2016
In a novel partnership to bring science to the public, ten teams made up of UH Mānoa scientists and Honolulu Printmaker artists collaborated to combine their respective expertise and create paired prints and posters for a new exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art School. The exhibition, called ArtSci 2016 Where Art and Science Meet, runs September 7-30. Two of the scientists involved were IPRC climate researchers Professor Axel Timmermann and Professor Niklas Schneider. The show is designed to convey science to the public in new and engaging ways, exploring each topic in a scientific poster and accompanying artistic print. Read more here. Or watch a video news story by UH News.

IPRC Researcher to share communication insights on ThinkTech Hawaii and at TEDxHonolulu

Honolulu, June 23, 2016
When the general public thinks of approachable science topics, equatorial dynamics and stability analysis are probably not ones that spring to mind! But IPRC’s Andrei Natarov is an assistant researcher who studies theoretical oceanography and believes in communicating to the public the importance of science, how integral it is to our world. In fact, he will be speaking about science communication at the TEDxHonolulu 2016 event (on July 9th), applying the theme of FLOW to the area of communication. “While it is necessary to be precise in communicating science, being precise is not nearly as painful as many assume,” encourages Natarov. To hear an archived version of a live discussion about the importance of science and science communication, as well as details of Natarov’s own oceanography research, go to ThinkTech Hawaii.

Vessel Lost in Tsunami Drifts over 10,000 Miles back to Japan

Honolulu, June 22, 2016
The Research Vessel Kaisyou of the Kesennuma Local Fisheries Laboratory in Miyagi_Prefecture was sucked out into the Pacific during the tragic 2011 tsunami in Japan. On May 12 2016, the boat was found about 4 miles offshore from Miyako-jima, Okinawa Prefecture. The IPRC Drift Model, developed by Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner and used to chart the drift path of millions of tons of debris from the tsunami, simulated the likely route the Kaisyou drifted during its astonishing 5-year-2-month-long journey, floating eastward across the Pacific during 2011 and 2012 and then circulating back westward during 2013 to 2016.

APDRC/PaCIS help develop a climate warning system for Vanuatu's marine sector

Honolulu, May 25, 2016
One of the most important tasks of climate scientists is disseminating data and insights of the scientific community to those who can act on the information. In May, Jim Potemra, manager of IPRC’s Asia-Pacific Data Research Center, travelled to Vanuatu to do just that. With collaborators from NOAA’s Pacific Climate Information System, Potemra attended a meeting in Port Vila to work with the Vanuatu Meteorological and Geohazards Department. One of the workshop goals was to train the VMGD staff to access important climate data via a website that APRDC and PaCIS created: Vanuatu Coral Reef and Coastal Fisheries Outlook Dashboard. It includes current conditions and seasonal predictions for rainfall, sea surface temperature, coral bleaching, cyclone activity, and even the ENSO state. The assembled data gives the beginnings of a “climate warning system” that local shareholders can develop further. Ultimately, regional data for the entire Southwest Pacific will also be included. Read more in a local Vanuatu newspaper article HERE.

Researchers gather for IPRC 15th Annual Symposium

Honolulu, April 8, 2016
In a year of a wopper El Niño, record-breaking global temperatures, and the lowest arctic ice maximum, climate science research continues its steady march forward. IPRC professors, research scientists and post-doctoral fellows assembled at the East-West Center for a day of communicating their on-going research at the 15th Annual Symposium on March 29. Read more.

Hiatus or Not? NCAR scientist discusses recent climate trends

Honolulu, March 22, 2016
Last week, IPRC had the pleasure of hosting Gerald Meehl for a seminar on climate variability of the last several decades. Dr. Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, was also one of the founders of IPRC. He began with the history of how an interesting statistical variability (a slowing of the rate of increase in the global surface temperature, dubbed the “hiatus”) became “proof” to climate deniers that global warming has stopped. Meehl emphasized that one facet of this non-controversy is simply a disconnect in how words are used by scientists versus politicians, for example using data on “global surface temperature” to imply total “global warming.” To scientists, global warming describes the trend of the entire energy system of the Earth, which continues to show a net increase in energy absorbed vs. energy radiated. In contrast, graphs of global surface temperature show persistent, long-term fluctuations, associated with numerous natural processes, that produce some decades of slower heating and others of accelerated heating. Thus, another important facet is that the time scale over which climatic trends are examined is critical to interpreting those trends correctly. Fluctuations in temperature may occur, but when the entire global energy system is considered over the long term, global warming certainly continues unabated.

IPRC researchers contribute to 2016 AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting

Honolulu, March 1, 2016
Last week, several IPRC researchers headed to New Orleans to attend the biennial AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting. The Ocean Sciences Section welcomes research in all aspects of ocean science, but more recently the ocean’s role in the climate system has become a particularly hot topic. Some of our group’s presentations explored the roles of eddies and turbulence in mixing the oceans, particularly redistributing salinity, freshwater, and heat. Others focused on air-sea interactions, investigating the response of the atmospheric boundary layer to variable sea surface temperatures, and how that boundary layer is affected by drag from ocean currents. Sea levels were discussed in the context of a new model for short-term, seasonal predictions that should help with forecasting sea level extreme fluctuations in the Pacific associated with El Niño/La Niña cycling. Finally, our Marine Debris group illustrated how to calibrate drift models better by capitalizing on debris from well-characterized natural disasters. Clarifying ocean processes is critical to understanding the global climate, and our IPRC researchers are immersed in the task. To read their abstracts, click here.

Ocean trash appeals to elementary students

Honolulu, February 24, 2016
IPRC’s Marine Debris expert modeler, Jan Hafner, extended the hand of outreach again this week to speak to fifth-grade students from Hahaione Elementary School about ocean currents and marine debris. After illustrating the orbital satellites and ocean-going floats that scientists use to track currents, Hafner explained about sources of debris, like the 2011 Japanese tsunami, and the pathways that debris takes around the oceans of the world. Objects of all sizes, from trash-bags to floating docks, are swept by currents and winds for thousands of miles, often to end up trapped in giant garbage patches in the Pacific, Atlantic, or Indian Oceans. Hafner finished by sharing samples of debris that have washed up on Hawai‘i shores, from mm-sized plastics to tsunami-related balls, bottles, wood beams, and even a mini-fridge door. The students left with a greater appreciation for the complexity of our oceans and the awareness that trash can linger for many years in that environment. Click for large photo; click for group photo

IPRC hosts NASA Mission on global monitoring of marine debris

Honolulu, January 28, 2016
Eight million tonnes of plastic estimated entering the ocean every year jeopardize fish and other marine life on which we depend. Much of it comes from landfills leaking one-third of the 78 million tons of plastic collected annually. On January 19-21, the IPRC hosted the Workshop on Mission Concepts for Marine Debris Sensing, which was sponsored by NASA Physical Oceanography and co-organized by Remote Sensing Solutions, Inc. The international group of oceanographers, remote sensing scientists, and marine debris experts came together to review existing and emerging technologies and to draft the mission objectives. Discussions included characterization of different types of debris, identification of gaps in our knowledge, and requirements for the future observing system. The meeting began work on a white paper that will be produced with contributions from a larger scientific community. (Click for photo)

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