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After a protracted delay, full funding of £3.6 million has been awarded to a NERC Consortium proposal, BRITICE-CHRONO (Constraining rates and style of marine-influenced ice sheet decay) involving groups within C3W based at Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea Universities, working in collaboration with other teams across the UK.

IPCC 2007 noted that prediction of major ice sheet behaviour is one of the major weaknesses in climate science. The implications of this weakness – not least for global sea level – are profound. Such predictions can only be achieved via numerical modelling, but ice sheet models have yet to be tested against data on the pattern and timing of a major shrinking/collapsing  ice sheet.

The former British-Irish Ice Sheet (BIIS) shares many features in common with, for instance, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. BRITICE-CHRONO will generate, via a series of transects from the edge of the continental shelf to land, the pattern and rate of decay of the former BIIS from its maximum extent around 24,000 years ago until it retreated onto land. Accurate and precise dating will be the key, and it is expected that BRITICE-CHRONO will generate the most detailed reconstruction of any decaying ice sheet. The research will start later in 2012 and will involve targeted campaigns of terrestrial fieldwork as well as two major research cruises – one along the western margins of the former ice sheet and another into the North Sea – using NERC research vessels.

BRITICE-CHRONO was developed during the first C3W-sponsored proposal-writing workshop, held at Gregynog in May 2011.

Empirical reconstruction of British-Irish Ice Sheet at 27,000 years ago. (Clark et al. 2010).

The Consortium is led by Chris Clark (Sheffield) with collaborators outside Wales in Durham, Ulster, Glasgow, Liverpool and St Andrews universities, two NERC Facilities (Radiocarbon, Cosmogenic Isotopes), the British Antarctic Survey, the British Geological Survey, and collaboration with the Geological Survey of Ireland and the University of Bergen, Norway.

The C3W involvement includes the Centre for Glaciology (Mike Hambrey, Neil Glasser) and the Luminescence Dating Laboratory (Geoff Duller) in Aberystwyth, the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor (James Scourse, Anna Pieńkowski, Katrien Van Landeghem) and the Department of Geography in Swansea (Danny McCarroll, Siwan Davies, Ian Rutt).

The funding of BRITICE-CHRONO is a major success for C3W and complements modelling research on present-day and future ice sheet-ocean interaction already underway in both Swansea and Bangor. The C3W Outreach Team will play a central role in delivering the project Impact Plan.

Large-Scale, Long-Term Trends in British River Macroinvertebrates

Ian Vaughan and Steve Ormerod  (Catchment Research Group, Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University) recently published a paper in Global Change Biology that evaluates the river macro-invertebrate fauna of England and Wales, in relation to water quality, physical habitat and climate over almost two decades. Rivers are among the world’s most modified ecosystems, and a decline in water quality has led to a variety of impacts for over 200 years, especially in urban areas.

Interestingly, factors such as industrial decline, tighter regulation and improved wastewater treatment have contributed to improving biological conditions in rivers. However, not all of the sites in the paper followed this positive trend, with localized deterioration still evident in some streams draining upland areas and in the lowland south east.

The study is consistent with large-scale ecological recovery of English and Welsh rivers since 1990. Based on their results, the authors suggest that:

(i) Freshwater communities are resilient to long-term anthropogenic pressures,
(ii) Biodiversity benefits can arise from investment and long-term restoration intended largely to enhance ecosystem services such as drinking water and sanitary concerns, and
(iii) Long-term monitoring data collected for statutory purposes – based in this case on nearly 50 000 samples – can address scientific questions at spatial and temporal extents seldom achieved in research programmes.

The publication can be accessed from:

MATLAB Training “MATLAB® Recipes for Earth Sciences”.

3rd – 5th October 2012

C3W are organising a training workshop for students and researchers using MATLAB. This highly successful course is designed and delivered by Martin Trauth,  author of the acclaimed text: Matlab® Recipes for Earth Sciences.

“You can apply advanced mathematical methods very easily with MATLAB. I frequently show students who are struggling with a problem in a spreadsheet, how easily it can be solved in MATLAB, which can be used for many different types of data analysis.” Dr Martin Trauth, University of Potsdam.

The course will be held in the University of Wales, Gregynog and will cost £200.00 (residential fees not included). There are a limited number of bursaries available for C3W researchers and students.

Contact Dr Saskia Pagella:
Tel: 01248 382600/382440
Email: s.l.pagella@bangor.ac.uk

Swansea Scientists’ Work Featured in Marine Climate Change Review

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) recently invited researchers at Swansea University to review the potential effects of climate change on aquaculture in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

The results from these studies were launched by the MCCIP this week at the 6th World Fisheries Congress, held in Edinburgh on Wednesday, May 8th.

Professor Andrew Rowley from the University’s Department of Biosciences attended the launch in Edinburgh on behalf of the Swansea authors.

He said: “The review, which has been published in the Annual Marine Climate Change Report Card and in the journal, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, is an excellent example of how aquaculture research in Swansea University informs governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Dr Ruth Callaway was the lead author for the review and coordinated the team of scientists from several universities in the UK and Ireland. She said: “Disentangling effects of climate change from other natural or anthropogenic changes is a tremendous challenge for scientists.

For more information see:

Callaway R. et al (2012). Review of climate change impacts on marine aquaculture in the UK and Ireland. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystemswww.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aqc.2247/abstract

Feedback Loops in the Arctic

The High Arctic is recognized as being one of the places on Earth where the effects of climate change are being most strongly felt. This rapid warming is predicted to cause large shifts in vegetation community structure which will produce knock on effects on grazer communities (e.g. geese, reindeer) and soil carbon storage.

Man Sampling carbon storage and microbial communities in stone polygons in Geopol, Svalbard

Sampling carbon storage and microbial communities in stone polygons in Geopol, Svalbard

Predicting the long-term effects of climate change on arctic ecosystem functioning, however, is still very challenging. One of the main problems is that treatments applied in small plot experiments rarely have the correct spatial scale to enable feedbacks to occur (e.g. from grazers) and they can therefore generate very misleading results.

A collaboration between Bangor University (Prof. Davey Jones) and the University of Western Australia (Prof. Daniel Murphy) has just completed its third field season at Ny-Ålesund in Svalbard where they were investigating the impacts of large scale (1 km2) changes to nutrient inputs on plant-soil functioning.

Contrary to expectations, they have concluded that changes in seabird populations are one of the central forces, which will ultimately drive climate change alterations in soil and vegetation community development. This research highlights the importance of key feedback loops between the marine and terrestrial arctic ecosystems.

Congratulations to Prof. Geoff Duller (Aberystwyth University) who has been awarded the prestigious Bigsby Medal of  the Geological Society of London, in recognition of his work in the development and application of luminescence dating in key geological, geomorphological and archaeological sites.

River Deep, Mountain High

Neil Glasser (Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University) and colleagues at the University of Manchester and Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) have recently published a new paper in Journal of Quaternary Science that sheds new light on the thickness of the former Welsh Ice Cap. They used surface exposure dating (paired cosmogenic isotopes 10Be and 26Al) to date the last time the high mountain summits on the Aran ridge, at Aran Fawddwy (905 ma.s.l.) and Aran Benllyn (885 m a.s.l.), were covered by glacier ice.

This new technique is able to provide age estimates for the time when a bedrock surface first became exposed after the glaciers receded.

They concluded that the last Welsh Ice Cap was thick enough to completely cover the Aran ridge and achieve glacial erosion at the Last Glacial Maximum. However, between around 20,000 and 17,000 years ago the ridge summits were exposed as nunataks at a time when glacial erosion at lower elevations (below 750–800 m a.s.l.) was achieved by large outlet glaciers in the valleys surrounding the mountains. The publication can be accessed from:

More information from Neil Glasser (nfg@aber.ac.uk)

Thinking Outside the Climate Envelope

On Tuesday July 3rd 2012, the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Cardiff University hosted a Climate Change Consortium networking day for early career scientists.  The aim of the day, encapsulated by the title “Thinking outside the climate envelope”, was to provide an opportunity for young climate scientists to showcase their work, but also to meet other scientists and to find links between different aspects of climate research in both academic and non-academic settings.

There were nearly 50 attendees from around Wales and the rest of the UK, specializing in a wide range of topics, from social sciences through to climate modelling and palaeoclimate data analysis, and many presented their work as a talk or a poster.  It was also fantastic to welcome representatives from the Environment Agency, CCW, UK Climate Change Committee and other bodies.
Paul Halloran, from the Met Office, gave the first keynote talk about his work on climate and biogeochemical modelling.

After lunch in the VJ Gallery, Tim Kruger from Oxford University gave the second keynote talk about his work with the Oxford Geoengineering Program. This was followed by a talk by Kirsty Edgar of Cardiff University on the history of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and a “deep time” perspective of climate science.

Throughout sessions there were lively discussions that ranged from uncertainty to network modelling and this carried on into an evening reception and meal.  We would like to thank those who attended and contributed to presentations and discussions, and thanks to the Natural Environment Research Council for funding.

For further information, please contact Dr Kate Hendry via HendryKR@cardiff.ac.uk

Longest-lived animals reveal secrets of past climate

Researchers at Bangor University have used some of the world’s longest-lived animals to look at how the North Atlantic Ocean has affected our climate over the past 1,000 years.

By looking in great detail at the shell of a species of clam that can live for at least 500 years, they have shown that a weakening of the Gulf Stream – the current that brings warm water from the Caribbean to northwest Europe – may have contributed to exceptionally cold conditions in Europe from the 15th to the 19th centuries.   This is the period known as the Little Ice Age, and it was a time of bitter cold, poor harvests, famines and revolutions, but also of spectacular ice fairs on the frozen River Thames.

Urdd Eisteddfod 2012: visitors interact with scientists to learn how the growth rings of the shells of Arctica islandica can unlock the secrets of past climate.

“If the Gulf Stream is weaker, then less heat is being transported north, so that temperatures in northwest Europe became more like temperatures at the same latitude in Canada”, said Dr Paul Butler of School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University.The research, published in the leading journal Nature Communications, uses radiocarbon analysis of the shells – which come from animals that lived north of Iceland – to work out the source of the water in which the clams were living.  “The radiocarbon tells us how long it has been since the last time the water was at the surface,” said Dr Butler. “If the water is ‘old’, we know that it originated deep within the Arctic Ocean. On the other hand, Atlantic sourced water, like the Gulf Stream, was at the surface more recently, so it is expressed in the shells as ‘young’. During the Little Ice Age, the older Arctic water seems to have been dominant north of Iceland, and there was less Atlantic-sourced water. We interpret this as meaning that the Gulf Stream was weaker. Before the 15th century – in what we call the Medieval Warm Period – the situation was reversed.”

The announcement by Bangor scientists in October 2007 of the remarkable lifespan of these clams generated worldwide interest and achieved a place in Time magazine’s ten most significant scientific discoveries of the year.  The latest results show how this field of research can be used in the study of the marine environment of the past.

Wanamaker Jr. A.D. et al (2012) Surface changes in the North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation during the last millennium. Nature Communications.


A GLIMPSE of Greenland – The Disappearing Ice

The Welsh language version of this visually stunning film showcasing climate science in action was launched at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Glynllifon and the National Eisteddfod in the Vale of Glamorgan this year. The film was shot, edited and produced by PhD student Laurence Dyke and Professor Tavi Murray in association with 196 Productions, Cardiff. The film documents the 2010 and 2011 south-east Greenland field campaigns of scientists from Swansea University’s Glaciology Group. It tracks them in their investigations of how and why Greenland’s ice is changing. Amongst the highlights are dramatic time-lapse footage of a huge iceberg calving event, a wild storm amongst the icebergs, a close encounter with a polar bear, and the stunning mountains and glaciers of the remote fjords. Funding to create the bilingual film was provided by Swansea University, 196 Productions Ltd. and EPSRC. GLIMPSE is a 5-year project supported by the Leverhulme Trust based in the Glaciology Group at the Department of Geography, college of Science, Swansea University.

Viewings in Aberystwyth and Bangor University are to be held in autumn 2012. Catch a glimpse of the film in this clip:

Urdd National Eisteddfod

Ice cores: exploring past climate in the Swansea University/C3W science tent at the Urdd, Glynllifon, 2012

In addition to the film premier, C3W hosted a stand led by Outreach Officer Dr Cynthia Froyd in the science pavilion at the Urdd National Eisteddfod (the youth Eisteddfod). Researchers from Swansea Geography and Bangor’s School of Ocean Sciences ran interactive displays and activities focussing on C3W research activities in glaciology, tephrachronology, and climatic reconstructions utilising shells of Arctica islandica. Over 14,000 visitors visited the exhibit featuring “glacial goo”, an erupting volcano, ice cores, Ceri the Clam and a real live beach (ok, a sand pit) to explore. Many thanks to all of the C3W presenters (15 in total) who braved the traffic queues, torrential rain and mud to help make this event such a success!

Climate Week Outreach March 12th – 18th March 2012

The C3W Outreach team facilitated a wide range of activities during Climate Week, throughout Wales, involving the policy, education and business sectors.

Science into Policy, Cardiff University

Alongside delivering climate change activities in several secondary schools, Dr Jen Reis organised a well attended ‘science into policy’ event at Cardiff University. Here Swansea’s cutting edge film – A Glimpse of Greenland was premiered to policymakers and academics. Following this, there was a paper exchange and academics presented and discussed their latest research with colleagues and policy-makers.

In Bangor, Dr Saskia Pagella taught 50 primary school pupils to design and run their own experiments, looking at the biodegradability of different waste materials. Pupils also learned about recycling options with this potentially potent waste. The teachers realised that they had not understood the climate change science underpinning the statutory changes in waste management and so found the sessions very useful themselves.

In 1990, UK landfill sites were responsible for the largest anthropogenic source of methane gas. By increasing the capture and re-use of landfill gas, alongside stringent targets to increase the diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill, methane emissions had fallen by 59% in 2007. Landfills still produce over 3% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr Clive Walmsley (CCW, C3W Director of Outreach) chaired the Wales Low/Zero Carbon Hub (LZCH) Summit during the week, in Cardiff. The LZCH promote carbon management best practice for the construction industry and its application in buildings across Wales. The Summit sought to showcase the work of the Hub and explore the potential of new initiatives such as the Green Deal to deliver reductions in emissions.

Saskia facilitated a break-out session on retrofitting the old housing stock in Wales, to increase energy efficiency in homes. The Summit was well attended by a diverse range of businesses involved in the construction industry.

Glacial goo experiments, Waterfront Museum, Swansea

At the Eco-Schools Youth Climate Change Conference 2012, some 120 pupils and teachers from 30 schools across Wales heard about the likely impacts of climate change in Wales from Clive and some inspiring examples of school activities developed by Funky Dragon. Subsequent workshop sessions involving Jen Reis sought to motivate and enable pupils to hold a Climate Change Day of Action in their own schools and local communities.

In Swansea, Dr Cindy Froyd delivered ‘Glacial Goo’ sessions – consisting of hands-on demonstration on glacial processes for 60+ secondary school pupils. Building their own glacier to investigate the nature of glacial movement, pupils explored which areas of a glacier move fastest and why. Cindy’s team helped them calculate rates of flow, and gain an understanding of the effects of temperature and topography.

C3W Funding for Proposal-Writing Workshops

If you have a good idea for a workshop that will lead to research proposal submission – especially collaborative proposals – please get in touch with the Director James Scourse (j.scourse.bangor.ac.uk) for funding options & further discussion.