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Science Deadline: Temperatures reach extremes

Science DeadlineTemperatures reach extremes

Parts of New Zealand have reached official heatwave status this week.

NIWA said the warmest temperature so far this summer was 38.4C yesterday in Hanmer Forest, with Hamilton and Wellington breaking maximum temperature records on Tuesday (32.9C and 30.3C respectively).

University of Otago senior lecturer Dr Alex Macmillan urged people to take care as the heat rose, "especially if you’re elderly, pregnant, or already have a medical condition".

"Even short duration heat waves can increase deaths and hospital admissions from heat stroke, heart and lung disease, placing a heavy burden on families, communities, and the health system," she said.

"While New Zealand’s high temperatures are not like those being seen in Australia, it’s what our bodies are used to and our buildings are designed for that matters most".

AgResearch senior scientist Dr Karin Schütz said animal welfare was a major concern for farmers during hot summer months.

"If you want to keep up production, you need to keep your animals cool. That can mean providing shelter (such as trees), increasing access to drinking water, reducing walking distances, and preventing stress.

"Given a choice, however, we have found the cows will seek shade over the sprinklers, and from our research we know the cows can tell the difference between different degrees of shade and will choose shade that protects them more from solar radiation."

Dr Jim Salinger said last year's marine heatwave lasted about five months with temperatures 2C above normal at its peak. By 2080-2100, such conditions could be the norm for New Zealand summers.

University of Waikato's Professor Iain White told the NZ Heraldthat knowing the future climate will be different - and that buildings have a long lifetime - "the decisions we make now will help create the future built environment".

He said maladaptive behaviours, like using more energy for air conditioning or staying inside, could make the issue worse. "The key is to create buildings and environments that can better maintain an acceptable range of temperature and avoid maladaptive behaviour."

Across the ditch, Australia has been experiencing extreme weather with temperatures over 40C in some places, making it the hottest month in more than 100 years of records.

But while Australasia breaks records for warm weather, in the North, parts of the United States have been breaking records for the lowest temperatures, driven by a polar vortex, with some Midwest areas getting below -30C. At least seven deaths have been linked to the extreme cold weather.

The SMC gathered expert reaction to the heatwave.

Quoted: NZ Herald
"We need an older John Kirwan, another great All Black, an older well-respected person to raise awareness, to come out and say it's okay to talk to your GP about your emotions."
University of Auckland psychiatrist Dr Gary Cheung
on research looking at self harm among older adults.

Local govt's climate warning
Local Government New Zealand has warned that as much as $14 billion of infrastructure is at risk from sea level rise.

In a report released on Thursday, LGNZ noted that many councils were already experiencing the impact of sea level rise, "most notably in Bay of Plenty, the West Coast, South Dunedin and Hawke's Bay".

The analysis by Tonkin & Taylor suggested at 1 metre of sea level rise, $5.1 billion of local government infrastructure was at risk, with the value rising sharply at each increment of sea level rise, up to $14.1 billion at 3m.

Among the report's key recommendations was the suggestion that central and local government jointly establish a National Climate Change Adaptation Fund to share the costs of adaptation equally.

LGNZ President Dave Cull said New Zealand, "cannot continue to respond to climate change-related events on a piecemeal basis".

"We need to put a robust policy framework in place to ensure we minimise the disruption and harm to communities, and we only have a relatively narrow timeframe in which to do it before the scenarios in our report become a reality."

The report came at a time the West Coast Regional Council was in the media spotlight for being the only council to refuse support for the Government's Zero Carbon Bill.

In its submission, the council said the Bill's proposals would impact the region, particularly due to its reliance on dairy farming and coal extraction, lack of public transport and limited ability to plant more exotic forest.

It also claimed "the evidence proving anthropogenic climate change must be presented and proven beyond reasonable doubt."

University of Canterbury political scientist Associate Professor Bronwyn Hayward told Radio NZ New Zealand needed to understand what was hurting smaller communities.

"It's thinking about how these communities can be really supported in innovative ways, rather than just writing it off as a kind of redneck response.

"It's really important that we think carefully about this because we don't want to end up like America or France with these complete cultural divisions between communities."

2019 Science Media SAVVY
Applications are now open for our two-day media training workshop in Auckland.

These highly-acclaimed workshops offer researchers first-hand insight into the workings of news and social media, as well as hands-on, practical exercises to improve communication.
Auckland, University of Auckland
17-18 June -
applications open now
Our experienced facilitators provide a supportive environment for researchers to consider their work from different perspectives and find new ways to describe the value of their research to the public.

Ideally suited for researchers with previous media experience seeking further development of their skills, as well as beginners anticipating media interest in their work.

Our Māori media SAVVY workshop will be held 7-8 June in Auckland at Waipapa Marae. Applications will be open later in the year, or you can express interest now.

Policy news & developments

Beetle to tackle weed: The EPA is considering an application to introduce a root-feeding beetle to control the weed moth plant.

Blue cod regulations: Consultation is open on proposed changes to blue cod regulations, including a 'traffic light' system for recreational daily bag limits in the South Island based on the health of cod populations.

Water Conservation Order: Stage two of the hearing for the Water Conservation Order (WCO) for the Ngaruroro and Clive Rivers is scheduled to start on February 26 in Napier.

Accessible buildings: MBIE has released a guide to designing accessible public buildings.


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