MM 2001: Environment - Research

December 21, 2000

Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
How to weather the storm, drought and floods

Persuading a politician to look beyond the next few elections is never easy. Our changing climate is blissfully ignorant of such short-term priorities.

The opening of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia's school of Environmental Sciences, in Norwich, is an attempt to bridge this gap. It aims to bring together an unprecedented array of expertise that will consider social, economic and technological aspects - as well as the natural science - of climate change.

Led by Mike Hulme, an expert in climate scenario analysis, and backed by three of the UK's research councils, the centre will develop methods to project the future climate. It will also devise socially acceptable ways to temper mankind's impact on the climate as well as how we could cope with its possible effects.

How will British agriculture fare amid shifting rainfall patterns, droughts and storms? How should flood defences be strengthened? How can we design homes to withstand hotter summers and wetter winters? What policies could shape our relationship with the environment without producing protests and opposition?

The Tyndall Centre takes a holistic view of how society should respond to these challenges, packaging cutting-edge science for those who can take the necessary actions - individuals, businesses and, yes, politicians.

Integrated Ocean Drilling Program
A global effort to plumb ocean depths

Buried at the bottom of the oceans is a vast, unknown realm. The surface of the moon is more familiar to mankind, and has had more money spent on its exploration than this great subterranean swath. Yet herein lie vital clues to some of the great questions of science.

In 2003, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program will put to sea. This ambitious project will use two high-tech ships, monitoring platforms and seabed observatories to enable multinational teams to wrestle answers from the deep.

The IODP will draw great cores from rocks that are deeper, harder and in more hazardous terrains than the 2,000 holes already drilled in the past 40 years. From geo-chemical analysis of these streamers of crust will tumble new insights into the earth's untouched interior and the movement of its solid plates.

The project's ability to probe previously inaccessible environments will enable fundamental processes governing life on earth to be studied. It might even shed light on dramatic shifts in climate that may be triggered by the release of entombed greenhouse gases after underwater landslides.

Other expeditions will focus on the life forms known to dwell below the ocean bed. The IODP could reveal that life on earth is a mere sideshow compared with life in earth.

 

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