This year’s annual workshop, held in Hobart, brought together complex science, explainers, breakout meetings and poster sessions in a way that was perhaps the most accessible yet.
Impressively, this was the first workshop where, aside from the opening icebreaker that featured a range of indigenous foods, all the meals were vegetarian. While this may have been brought about as an effort to reduce our carbon footprint, it also seemed to go down well with all the participants.
But, as always, the heart of the workshop was the science itself. The annual workshops give us an opportunity to see what all the research programs are doing and find those spaces where the programs connect. The Variability and Teleconnections research program made a very good case with a simple hand-drawn diagram that their work intersected and even underpinned every single research program.
The guests and keynote speakers presented some fascinating insights from the space where climate research meets impacts. Jaci Brown’s keynote where she described her interactions with the agricultural sector and the different kind of communication required to explore the issues of climate change was extremely useful. The second keynote by Eun-Pa Lim on the recent stratospheric polar vortex weakening and its impact on Australian climate was particularly timely with hot and cold extremes being experienced across the country. While technically she said this was not a stratospheric warming event, there was some good discussion about whether or not the sudden warming was connected to Australia’s unusual weather.
James Risbey’s talk on day two that described the synoptic and large-scale processes that led to extra-tropical rainfall extremes, with a particular focus on a Hobart event, was a thorough explainer of the processes. His specially fashioned pointer also turned out to be very useful.
One after another we were treated to high-calibre talks that revealed improvements in our predictions of extreme heat; peeled back the layers of the multitude of processes in the Southern Ocean; described with great clarity where Murray Darling Basin rainfall originates; showed new interactions between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans; examined difficulties surrounding the relationship between drought and climate change; explored our changing heatwaves and hot days; and clarified the relationship between atmospheric rivers in Australia and rainfall extremes.
The breakout sessions also seemed to work well and the idea of having two separate sessions, so that researchers could move between them produced some very useful results that will help focus the future direction of the Centre of Excellence.
The poster sessions gave an opportunity for almost 100 CLEX researchers to showcase their latest work. The buzz in the room was palpable as colleagues engaged with each other to discuss those finding and to make new connections.
And of course, there is the annual conference dinner where prizes were announced. The best, published paper by an honours, masters or PhD student went to Sonja Neske. The prize for best, published paper by an early career researcher was won by Navid Constantinou and the CLEX Director’s Prize was awarded to Amelie Meyer. Annette Hirsch was also publicly acknowledged as the recipient of the inaugural CLEX career development award for women and other under-represented groups. Altogether, this was an outstanding workshop with much of its success coming from the planning and behind the scenes work of this year’s workshop committee – Christine Fury, Stephen Gray, Melissa Hart, Ian Macadam, Andy Pitman, Gabriela Semolina Pilo and Peter Strutton. It’s set a very high bar for next year’s annual workshop.