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Media advisory - Climate research at GNS Science: 05/11/2014

This week’s international report on climate change is a good opportunity to highlight the research GNS Science is doing to support climate science.

GNS Science is actively researching the likely future effects of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by learning how past episodes of high CO2 levels and warmer climate have impacted New Zealand and its life.

The latest climate assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that atmospheric greenhouse gases are at their highest level in at least the past 800,000 years.

The IPCC report says the planet is warming and it’s largely due to human activity. The UN panel concludes that the only way to avoid dangerous global warming is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the end of this century.

Warming ocean temperatures could partly melt the ice caps, change ocean currents, and spark more severe weather events. Research at GNS Science is helping to refine models which are used to predict the consequences of climate change. Photo - Rebecca Roper-Gee, Antarctica NZ

Warming ocean temperatures could partly melt the ice caps, change ocean currents, and spark more severe weather events. Research at GNS Science is helping to refine models which are used to predict the consequences of climate change. Photo - Rebecca Roper-Gee, Antarctica NZ

There have been many occasions in the geological past where atmospheric greenhouse gases spiked and temperatures increased. These periods in Earth’s history offer natural data from which we can gain insight into our planet’s response to atmospheric CO2 levels that were similar to those projected for the next century and beyond.

The difference now is that so much of our global infrastructure depends on a stable climate and is greatly threatened by the prospect of rising sea levels and more extreme weather events.

GNS Science’s two main research programmes in this area, Global Change through Time and Past Antarctic Climate, have strong national and international connections, and aim to improve the understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change in the New Zealand region, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica.

GCT programme leader Chris Hollis said the research had made significant advances in understanding the stability of Antarctic ice sheets and the factors that lead to their collapse.

“It has also shown that for past average warming of the ocean by 2°C, the interplay of ocean currents and landmasses meant that some areas, such as offshore Canterbury, warmed far more than other areas such as the east Tasman Sea,” Dr Hollis said.

Recent outcomes from this research can be seen at these links:

Scientists expect strong ocean warming off NZ coast – 11 December 2013
http://www.gns.cri.nz/Home/News-and-Events/Media-Releases/Scientists-expect-strong-ocean-warming-off-NZ-coast-11-12-2013

Warnings from a warming ocean – 30 September 2014
http://www.victoria.ac.nz/news/2014/warnings-from-a-warming-ocean

For more information contact:
Dr Richard Levy, Programme Leader, Past Antarctic Climate
Dr Chris Hollis, Programme Leader, Global Change through Time