Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Guest blog: TELLUS move to open access welcomed

In a guest blog,  CEH Climate Modeller, Dr Chris Huntingford, welcomes the ‘open access’ move by TELLUS

CEH research is published in many science journals, some of which are now available via Open Access. News, this month, that the TELLUS journal series has moved over to Open Access is a development to be welcomed – even more so, that the entire TELLUS archive of existing publications is now freely available. Why? Because this means that our research is now more accessible, by freely downloading the papers from the internet.

In welcoming this move, here are three recent pieces of work from the TELLUS archive involving CEH, Exeter University and the Met Office. This work all relates to climate change and its impacts, which might be of interest to others. Please feel free to click on the links below, which should return the research papers.

Lina Mercado (Exeter University/CEH) and co-authors published in 2007: “Improving the representation of radiation interception and photosynthesis for climate model applications”, (Tellus Series B-Chemical And Physical Meteorology, 59). This paper moved the well-used JULES land surface model on from the existing “big-leaf” averaging methodology, and describes in full how light-interception throughout a vegetation canopy should be modelled. Representing light radiation at different levels, this paper is the precursor to the subsequent publication by Lina in Nature, demonstrating the initially counter-intuitive result that darkening aerosols in the atmosphere can actually increase photosynthesis. This is because raised levels of diffuse light can penetrate the vegetation canopies more deeply. 

Peter Stott (Met Office) and co-authors published in 2008: “Observed climate change constrains the likelihood of extreme future global warming”, (Tellus B, 60). They used techniques similar to the standard IPCC detection and attribution algorithms to determine better, from present day spatial and temporal temperature records, the extent to which aerosols are masking the full extent of global warming. Although the greenhouse gas warming offset partially by aerosols is well known, this work aided in quantifying that balance. They conclude the present-day aerosol cooling is suppressing a major portion of current greenhouse warming. This work, including the methodology, has the potential to refine better future predictions for different simultaneous greenhouse gas and aerosol concentrations.

Chris Huntingford (CEH) and co-authors published in 2009: “Contributions of carbon cycle uncertainty to future climate projection spread”, (Tellus B, 61). In this paper, the complete set of combined climate-carbon cycle simulations from the C4MIP intercomparison study were mapped on to a common simple climate model. This involved deriving effective parameters for both the thermal properties (climate sensitivity and oceanic thermal capacity) and for the carbon cycle, capturing features of the C4MIP ensemble. This yielded a direct way to compare the effect of current uncertainty in physical features of the climate system against that of the carbon cycle. For year 2100 and a standard emissions scenario, the headline result is that unknowns in the global carbon cycle can get as high as 40% of current uncertainty in how the more physical parts of climate will change for raised greenhouse gas concentrations.

Chris Huntingford.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.

The 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' may have been talking about salty water but the sentiments in the classic poem by Coleridge could apply equally well to the freshwater situation in some areas of England at the start of 2012.

In the past 12 months the English Midlands and Anglian regions had their second driest years since 1921. This lack of rainfall led our latest monthly Hydrological Summary of the UK, which is issued to the water industry and regulators, to conclude that in some areas “Substantially above average rainfall is needed over the next 10 - 12 weeks to improve the water resources outlook for the rest of 2012.”

Statements of this type are often seized upon by journalists and water industry stakeholders to back up other ‘anecdotal’ evidence of water supply issues in the UK such as photos of empty reservoirs or dried up soil.

CEH's Jamie Hannaford talks to BBC TV about drought


CEH’s hydrological scientists often spend hours agonising over each word of the summary, always making sure that conclusions are backed up by strong, quantitative, evidence. In this respect they are helped greatly by the presence at our Wallingford site of the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme (NHMP).

One of the NHMP’s aims is to provide an authoritative voice on hydrological conditions throughout the UK, placing major events, for example the 2007 summer floods, in a historical context, and identifying emerging hydrological trends, perhaps linked to land use or climate changes.

The NHMP draws upon the data resources in the National Water Archive, jointly managed by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the British Geological Survey, which collates hydrological data from measuring authorities in all parts of the UK on rainfall, river flows, groundwater and reservoir levels. The archive is a veritable treasure trove of information for those interested in the UK’s hydrology, and includes the National River Flow Archive and National Groundwater Level Archive.

Over the last decade staff in the archive have worked hard on making the historical information easily accessible to the general public via the web. Here’s a few examples:
  • In April 2011 the archive launched a set of new webpages to allow easier access to river flow data
  • The new webpages included a great new search facility to find river flow gauging stations in your local area.
  • Efforts are continuing to make the majority of daily flow data available as simple downloads,  and recently full, quality assured, river flow data for 2010 has been released.
In the world of hydrology data is ‘King’ so next time you see a ‘Drought’ headline please spare a thought for our staff who are working hard behind the scenes to ensure such stories are based on a sound evidence base and not just one photo of a half-empty reservoir!

Posted by Barnaby

Friday, 6 January 2012

Butterfly ecology on camera

Two of our colleagues, Gary Powney and Dr Tom Oliver, have created a short video explaining the background behind their work on assessing functional connectivity of the landscape which was recently published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.


In the study Tom, Gary and colleagues used long-term monitoring data on the Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) from the UK  Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, jointly run by CEH and Butterfly Conservation.

We think this is a great way to get across an important scientific topic! And, as well as some great science, the video includes a catchy end song composed and sung by Tom called 'Butterfly Blues'. Listen out for the ecological references!

More information

Posted by Barnaby



We're the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology's Press & PR team who, amongst many other activities, collate and provide news to the outside world. We'll use this blog to bring you some of the background behind our exciting science stories that regularly hit the mainstream media.

To introduce ourselves he's Barnaby, she's Paulette, and the other one is Ross. On the blog you can also find links to the CEH YouTube channel, Flickr photostream and Twitter account.

We hope you find the material interesting!

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Barnaby, Paulette and Ross