Atmmosphere

Research: Carbon cycle

The dependence on fossil fuel energy sources since the industrial revolution has undoubtedly shaped economic prosperity for the developed world. However, an unfortunate by-product of fossil fuel combustion is the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), an important greenhouse gas that is known to influence long-term climatic variations through its ability to absorb infra-red radiation.

Human emissions of CO2 have resulted in atmospheric levels higher than any period over the last 20 million years. The continued emission of CO2 will lead to widespread climate change related impacts.

Researchers within the Climate Policy and Carbon Cycle sub-program aim to quantify and understand both the human sources and natural sinks of carbon dioxide with the goal to examine international policies required to bring about mitigation of future climate change.

A particular emphasis is made on understanding Australia's CO2 emissions and its role in the Kyoto Protocol and the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP6), which has recently been developed as an alternative.

Direct oceanic effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 and biogeochemistry (for example ocean acidification or coral reef calcification) are also examined through the use of both observations and mathematical modelling techniques.

Researchers at the CCRC also study climate-carbon cycle interactions on millennial timescales. A particular emphasis is made on past changes in deep and bottom water mass transport and their impact on the marine carbon cycle and atmospheric CO2. A model of ocean plankton interaction with the global carbon cycle is currently under development, in order to explore cycle sensitivity to the combined effects of ocean warming, acidification, and deoxygenation.

CCRC academic staff currently active in this area of research

CCRC research staff currently active in this area of research

Latest news

Dr Michael Molitor Public lecture - De-carbonising for growth: why everyone is wrong about the costs of addressing climate change
20 April 2014
We will rapidly de-carbonize the global energy system not because we care sufficiently about the enormous risks flowing from a climate system profoundly modified by human activity but because, in the absence of this gigantic infrastructure investment opportunity, we will never generate sufficient economic growth between now and 2050. This inevitable outcome has dramatic implications for Australia's future energy supply and prosperity.

Plastic bottle caps found in the ocean (source: NOAA PIFSC) Ocean debris leads the way for castaway fisherman
05 February 2014
The fisherman who washed up on the Marshall Islands last weekend was very lucky to have stranded on a remote beach there. The currents in the Pacific Ocean would have inevitably taken him into the great garbage patch of the North Pacific, where he could then have been floating for centuries to come.

Man in heat wave Get used to heat waves: extreme El Niņo events to double
20 January 2014
Extreme weather events fuelled by unusually strong El Niņos, such as the 1983 heatwave that led to the Ash Wednesday bushfires in Australia, are likely to double in number as our planet warms.

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The Copenhagen Diagnosis

On 25th November 2009 members of The Climate Change Research Centre, as part of a group of 26 international climate scientists, were part of a major international release of a new report synthesizing the latest climate research to emerge since the last IPCC Assessment Report of 2007.

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World map

There are no time-travelling climatologists: why we use climate models

In the absence of time-travelling climatologists, models are unrivalled tools for understanding our changing climate system. That is, climate models are scientific tools. We should recognise them as such and consider them with rigorous scientific, not political, scepticism.

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Antarctica

The Big Engine 2: oceans and weather

Federation Fellow and 2008 Eureka Prize winner, Professor Matthew England of CCRC, on the latest research into the role oceans play on weather.

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Smoke stack

The Science of Climate Change: Questions and Answers

Co-authored by Professor Steven Sherwood and Professor Matt England of CCRC, this Academy of Science report aims to summarise and clarify the current understanding of the science of climate change for non-specialist readers.

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Ocean weather

The Big Engine 1: oceans and weather

Federation Fellow and 2008 Eureka Prize winner, Professor Matthew England of CCRC, on the latest research into the role oceans play on weather.

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Tree rings

New insights into the climate of the past 2,000 years

A comprehensive new scientific study has revealed fresh insights into the climate of the past 2,000 years, providing further evidence that the 20th century warming was not a natural phenomenon. After 1900, increasing temperatures reversed a previous long-term cooling trend. This 20th Century warming has occurred simultaneously in all regions except Antarctica.

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Ocean

The dynamics of the global ocean circulation

The ocean is far from a stagnant body of water. Instead, it is constantly in motion, at speeds from a few centimetres per second to two metres per second in the most vigorous currents.

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Plastic rubbish

Leave the ocean garbage alone: we need to stop polluting first

Recent plans to clean plastics from the five massive ocean garbage patches could do more damage to the environment than leaving the plastic right where it is.

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Plastic rubbish

Charting the garbage patches of the sea

Just how much plastic is there floating around in our oceans? Dr Erik van Sebille from UNSW's Climate Change Research Centre has completed a study of ocean "garbage patches", and has found that in some regions the amount of plastic outweighs that of marine life.

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