Paper summary: historical extreme rainfall events in southeastern Australia

Most instrumental weather data that we use to study rainfall in Australia only extend back to 1900, which makes it hard to capture the full range of our highly variable climate.

In a new study we have used historical rainfall observations in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney to add an extra 60 years of information to our climate record.

Continue reading “Paper summary: historical extreme rainfall events in southeastern Australia”

Visualising climate change

Recently I was invited to talk to the computer science students at John Monash Science School by their wonderful teacher and all round superstar, Dr Linda McIver. The students had been working on different ways to show climate change data, Linda told me. Could we talk about that?

A chance to look at visualisations of climate data? How exciting! In five minutes I had a page full of examples to think of to share with the students. The presentation pretty much made itself.Continue reading “Visualising climate change”

When helpful is unhelpful

Question.

Tell me what you think about me.

No, I’m serious! Please, tell me what you think about this scenario.

A while ago I spoke at a small research meeting. I gave a 20 minute talk on my science. I engaged with my audience, answered general and specific questions, and hopefully came across as knowledgable and measured.

I also arrived early on the day of the meeting as the organisers had mentioned they would like some support. I carried piles of papers to the meeting room, helped to fill up water jugs, and dispensed snacks. When the meeting was over, I helped clean up.

None of the other meeting attendees did this. They’re all nice guys who work hard, respect their colleagues, and have all been in the team much longer than I.

Continue reading “When helpful is unhelpful”

The thing about wind

I’ve written before about my frustration/hatred of wind in daily life, but today I wanted to raise another complaint: using wind data in past climate research.

Wind direction is easy and cheap to monitor. All you really need is a damp finger and a decent sense of which way is north.

The strength of wind has also been observed for a long time, for its vital role in turning windmills and pushing ships.

But the thing about local wind information, is that it’s just not great for climate research.

Continue reading “The thing about wind”

How’s about that weather then? 26 and 28 March 1844

People love talking about the weather. Whether it’s on Twitter in 2017, or in letters to the Editor in 1841, we are never short of a meteorological-based conversation starter, particularly in Australia.

The aim of these posts is to share some of the events that piqued people’s interest back in the day. Not always the hottest, driest, coldest or wettest day, but some days that got people whinging.

During this week in 1844, Sydney experienced a swing of temperatures which was echoed across the colony of New South Wales.

Continue reading “How’s about that weather then? 26 and 28 March 1844”

It’s the little things

It’s been over four months since we said goodbye to the sunshine and summer of Catalonia and returned to the changeable grey of Melbourne. It’s incredible how fast things disappear into the past, and already our flat in Tortosa seems like years ago.

We will always have a home in Catalonia, as it will always sit in my heart. At the same time, it’s nice to be back among the wide streets and wide accent under the big Australian sky.

As H and I have plowed on with work and friend reconnecting and getting married (!), it’s hard to find time to miss the big life things that we had in Spain. The freedom, the castles, the late nights and the history. It’s more the little things, the subtle ways that I have changed since we flew out of Tullamarine on the first day of summer in 2014.

Seeing as its 12 days until Christmas, here are the 12 little things I’ve noticed since coming back home:

The Accent

I now pronounce my Rs. You can’t help Catalans with their English if you speak with an Australian drawl (e.g. “ya English is geddin heaps bedda” helps no one), so I have learnt to deliveR my Rs.

The Bathroom

Almost all public bathrooms in Spain have sensor lights that automatically turn on when you walk in (more for economic reasons than environmental ones I think). This is surprisingly easy to get use to. After a few incidences of dancing in the dark trying to turn on a sensor light that didn’t exist, I now have to turn the light switch on when I go. I don’t like it.

The Cost

I have to pay $8 for a pot of beer now (rather that €1), and I don’t like that either.

The Dinnertime

This has been easy to get used to actually, and 7pm no longer seems like an offensively early time for tea. However I do miss the relaxing feeling of knowing that the shops are open until late, and there is no rush for dinner.

The Eating of Bread

Last Friday night I ate a hamburger and unconsciously turned it upside down, to avoid stabbing the roof of my mouth with hard baguette crust. This life hack had become second nature after 20 months of eating jamon bocadillos! Not really necessary for a hipster-friendly brioche roll.

The Fresh Food Aisle

On our first weekend back in Australia we went to a supermarket to get some vegetables. Apart from the heartbreak of seeing artichokes for $2.50 each (EACH!), I felt an extreme sense of guilt about not weighing and bagging my own vegetables and obtaining a sticker for the check-out guy to scan. Standard practise in Europe, I had forgotten that we don’t do it like that here.

The Gratis Water

It’s from the tap and it’s free at restaurants in Australia! I still find myself sculling all of the free water before we leave a table, just out of habit.

The Hourly Updates

In Tortosa we lived down the street from the town cathedral, which chimed every 15 minutes from 7am until midnight. It was sort of annoying at the time (particularly because the song on the hour went for about a minute) but now I really miss knowing the time without having to look at anything.

The Impromptu Celebrations

Last month I was in the city (as a free range researcher is wont to do) and I heard a big noise. Did I jump, or hide in fear? No! I automatically assumed it was a parade of some sort, and found myself looking for the marching band which would show up on the streets of Tortosa for celebrations large or small. In the end it was actually just a trolley.

The Joyful Disregard for Safety

There is a reason I don’t know the Spanish (or Catalan) words for ‘safety rail’, and there’s a reason why we loved visiting towers on our weekend. The freedom to clamber all over high, dangerous places is a wonderful treat that is hard to find in Oz. But that doesn’t mean we won’t keep looking.

The Kids Everywhere

I now expect children to be at every event and venue we go to, be it a 10am brunch or 10pm concert, because that was standard practise in Spain. There are plenty of kidlets at cafes here, but I see far fewer out for dinner.

The Love

Even after four months I have to stop myself from saying ‘Bon profit’ if I pass people eating their lunch outside. I’m still getting used to not giving ‘dos besos’ when saying hello. And I’m still missing the wonderful people we met on the banks of the Ebro.

More scientific posts will come in 2017 but until then, Bon Nadal!

img_8188
Merry Christmas from these two other little Catalan fellows!

A week in the life of the free range researcher

Since returning to Australia in August, my working life has taken a comfy new shape. Don’t worry, I’m still rescuing data to improve our understanding of European weather and climate. But now I work from home, surrounded by magpies and hot pies, rather than mountains and the hot Mediterranean sun.

As a remote researcher I am free to work wherever I like, keeping my own hours, and maintaining a level of dress sense that would embarrass most of you.

But despite the freedom that working from home provides, I’ve found that the days tend to slip into a weekly cycle. This is good for my sanity, and for my tracksuit pants, that do need a wash every now and again.

Monday: Home day

I dawdle out of bed at 8:30am, safe in the knowledge that it is still Sunday night in Europe and I have the whole day to prepare things for my colleagues’ Monday morning. Also, my commute is four seconds long. Trackies will remain on all day and productivity is high due to a lack of office distractions.

At about 11:30am I remember the pot of tea I brewed at 10am, and realise why tea cosies are such a good idea. Talking to myself and singing along to the radio while working are standard behaviours on a Monday, as well as a little indulgence of daytime television.

Tuesday: Chore day

Time to brave the outside world and buy some food. Might even put a load of washing on, and do the dishes. Tracksuit pants remain the uniform until lunchtime, when I head to the market and run those mail-collecting, appointment-making errands that you can only do from 9am to 5pm. This takes up most of the afternoon, meaning I am working frantically when 6pm comes around, ready to chat to colleagues who have just started their day. Emails are the last thing I see before I go to bed.

Wednesday: Friend day

Emails are the first thing I see when I get up. For all the freedom of being a roving researcher, the time difference does make it hard to switch off from work. To combat that, I have lunch with a friend and her newborn, again relishing the things that you just can’t do if you work in an office. Plus it gets me out of the house. Cut to 7pm and I am attempting to work, bring in clothes and prepare dinner at the same time. So much for no distractions.

Thursday: Outing day

After three days of being home-based, it’s time to go rogue. My home Internet is struggling to upload the data I need to send to Europe, and my tracksuit pants are starting to smell. Off to the city for me!

I start in a café, feeling like one of those stylish people who work on their laptop in a café. I listen to some St Germain while I code and drink too much tea and try in vain to get the free wifi to upload 5GB of data. I leave, hepped up on tea and busting for the loo, and hole up in a university library instead. Here the toilets are free and (if you’re lucky) the eduroam Internet works. I might even organise a work meeting with a local collaborator, to remind myself of the wide and wonderful world of research in which I am still living. How fun to have an outing!

Friday: Friday

After yesterday’s exhausting outing. I’m ready to bring in the weekend with another productive day at home. Might even stay in my PJs for a while and start working early, before my brain wakes up enough to procrastinate.

While working from home means that you can really do it at anytime, I try to keep my weekends for living. I attempt to draw a line under what I have done for the week, and set things up to start well the following Monday. In reality, this means making a long list of things I haven’t quite finished, waiting for me and my pot of tea on Monday morning.

 

This, so far, has been my experience of working remotely. Is it how you work from home? How do you stay motivated when working by yourself? How does one make a good tea cosy? Please, let me know!

 

Pavlova Catalana

Have you been invited to a friend’s Saturday BBQ in Catalonia, and want to bring that most iconic of Australian desserts, the pavlova?

berry-pavlova-22585_l
Pavlova, an Aussie BBQ favourite. Image:taste.com.au.

Never actually cooked pavlova before, not even with the help of your mum? Never fear! Simply follow these easy steps…

Continue reading “Pavlova Catalana”

Meeting your heroes

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to receive a ERASMUS+ Mobility Grant to visit one of the pillars of climate science, The University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit.

CRU is responsible for one of the most widely-used long-term climate datasets in the world, the HadCRUT record. It also has an impressively long history of historical data research. I was therefore really excited, and pretty nervous, when I got off the double decker bus at UEA on Monday morning. I was going to meet my heroes, peoples whose names I only knew from my well-thumbed copies of their papers. Eep!Continue reading “Meeting your heroes”

Holiday! Celebrate! By working?

This week, I have had the unadulterated luxury of being on holiday. And not a travelling holiday either: a plonk yourself next to the pool, sunset drinks, working on your tan, proper vacation. Although it’s been great, these kinds of breaks are not my usual fare. I am much better at seeing and doing than I am at sitting still.

2016-05-18 19.17.28
Not a bad place to sit still really…

Plus, like most scientists, I couldn’t quite shake what Dr Climate refers to as holiday guilt — the idea that I should really be working rather than lounging around. While I know this is common for most people, it seems particularly rampant in academics.

Obviously, too much work and not enough play is bad for your mental health and work productivity. But, if you have to address your gnawing conscience, is there some good that can come out of a little bit of work in between swims?Continue reading “Holiday! Celebrate! By working?”