Climatology

Earth watchers

UNSW Australia’s Climate Change Research Centre offers just the right atmosphere in which to understand our planet’s climate.

Climate change isn’t new. Twelve thousand years ago, ice age mammoths and early humans wandered across a frozen world 5–10 °C colder than today. Ice ages came along many times in the past, and will happen many times again in the future in a never-ending global cycle of warming and cooling.

So why are we so concerned about climate change now? Because this time humans have sped up the process, potentially causing violent and damaging effects on all living things that call Earth ‘home’.

Dr Willem Huiskamp recently completed a PhD in paleoclimatology at UNSW Australia’s Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC).

Paleoclimatology, he says, has one simple aim: “To piece together how the Earth’s climate has varied in the past so that we can better understand how it may change in the future.”

Willem makes and runs computer simulations that mimic how wind has affected carbon stored in the oceans over time. He says it’s a fascinating field.

“Subtle changes in wind fields in the Southern Hemisphere, over tens of thousands of years, can result in a complete change in the ocean’s circulation.”

His climatology research adds to the big picture of climate change being built up at the CCRC, where world-leading experts are looking at various important processes that affect Earth’s climate.

“We have excellent facilities and a unique team of researchers spanning all aspects of the climate sciences: oceans, atmosphere, land surface, extremes and paleoclimate,” says Willem.

All of this means the CCRC attracts very talented researchers and students.
“You’re constantly exposed to new ideas and methods from countless different fields,” says Willem.

But you don’t have to take on a PhD to study at the CCRC. BSc (and Advanced Science) students can major in climate science, do their Honours project in a climatology topic, take individual courses at the CCRC, or tackle a climatology project through one of many undergraduate summer research scholarships.

When Willem took a BSc in Advanced Science at UNSW, it was a third-year oceanography course by Associate Professor Katrin Meissner that really changed the path of his career.

“She was a particularly excellent lecturer who suggested I could apply to do my fourth-year Honours research with her – I jumped at the chance,” he says.

His studies have taken Willem aboard a Russian research ship to the Antarctic – and to an ocean science conference in Hawaii. Yet it’s the problem solving involved in ocean science that captivates him most.

“Writing a long piece of code, watching it execute and having some results emerge at the other end is immensely satisfying.”

– Ben Skuse

TO GET THERE: www.science.unsw.edu.au
Willem Huiskamp, Climate change researcher

“Writing a long piece of code, watching it execute and having some results emerge at the other end is immensely satisfying.”

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