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SMC: 2017 another scorcher year

2017 another scorcher year
2017 is set to be in the top three hottest years on record, with record-breaking extreme weather, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO’s) provisional statement on the state of the climate.

Released to coincide with the start of the United Nations climate change conference in Bonn, the statement said 2017 was set to be the warmest year on record without an El Niño influence. The two hottest years on record, 2015 and 2016, were both boosted by an exceptionally strong El Niño.

Victoria University of Wellington's Professor James Renwick said"recently, the rate of change of warming globally has been really remarkable". "We now appear to be well and truly through the 1 degree of warming (compared to pre-industrial) barrier, heading for 2 degrees."

"The fact that we have such warmth this year without an El Niño, and in fact with a slightly cooling La Niña developing in the Tropical Pacific, tells me that the background warming trend (from greenhouse gas increase) is really becoming apparent."

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The WMO's statement highlighted the impact of extreme weather already seen this year, including 50°C temperatures in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes and devastating monsoon flooding in Bangladesh and India.

Professor Renwick said extreme events were "the main way we experience climate change".

"Here in New Zealand, we have seen several major flood events, including Edgecumbe in April and the eastern South Island from Dunedin to Christchurch in July. While the analysis has yet to be done, it is very likely that these events have a climate change ‘fingerprint’, as a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, making heavy rain events more frequent."

University of Otago honorary research fellow Dr Jim Salinger said the latest ice volume calculations from the South Island's glaciers showed a further decline by March 2016 to 32 cubic kilometres, 60 per cent lower than in 1977.

"Dave Cull head of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is quite correct in pushing for action by central government, given the diverse state of individual responses by district, city and regional councils to flooding," Dr Salinger said.

"This, and efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, will be one of the first tasks that the new parliament will need to address urgently so we can adapt and reduce the impacts of climate change. They will be busy!"

The SMC gathered expert reaction to the climate statement.

Quoted: The Spinoff
"The word 'resilient', originally applied to people, is now applied to everything from pipelines that don’t break, or can be repaired quickly, to communities who support each other through a crisis.

"A little action on resilience planning and spending now results in less money spent in disaster recovery and, more importantly, happier humans."

GNS Science earthquake geologist Dr Ursula Cochran on
why it's important to mark the anniversaries of earthquakes.

Inaugural CRI science awards
Science New Zealand, the body that represents the country’s seven Crown Research Institutes (CRIs), hosted its inaugural national awards at Parliament last night.
It’s been a week of celebration for the research institutes, which have been celebrating 25 years since the inception of the CRIs. Its conference on Thursday included addresses by new Minister for Research, Science and Innovation Dr Megan Woods, and new Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton.

Listen to recordings of Dr Woods' and Upton's speeches, plus a summary, on
The inaugural awards included categories for early career, lifetime achievement and team research. Some of the winners include:
Lifetime Achievement: Dr Ken Gledhill from GNS Science, who designed and built the first digital seismographs in New Zealand. He was a key player in setting up the geological hazard monitoring system GeoNet, which started in 2001 and is now a household name. Since 2005, Dr Gledhill has been involved in the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System.
Dr Maren Wellenreuther from Plant & Food Research received an Early Career Science award for her work using genomics to revolutionise the fishing industry, breed new species and rebuild fish stocks. She is leading New Zealand’s first native inshore fish breeding programme using genomic tools to identify hardiness and growth potential in snapper.
Team Award: Niwa’s Pacific Hydroclimate Team: Mark Crump, Stuart Escott, Marty Flanagan, Andrew Harper, Jeremy Rutherford and Barry Waugh. They have transformed the monitoring and human capacity across some of the most climate-vulnerable developing countries in the world. Their work has enabled data and information to be delivered to underpin preparedness and resilience to weather hazards, climate variability and change in almost every economic sector across the region.

Te Papa is holding public talks over the weekend featuring CRI scientists. The schedule is available on Science NZ's website.

Policy news & developments

No new mines on conservation land: Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has said the new Government will strengthen the protection for public conservation land by making it off-limits for new mining.

Rabbit virus application: The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has received an application to allow a strain of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Virus Disease to be released in Canterbury.

Extended parental leave: The Government has moved to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks, under urgency, which the previous Government blocked with a financial veto last year.

Two more farms monitored: MPI has placed two more farms under movement controls following suspicious test results for the bacterial cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

Water conservation hearing: Stage one of the Water Conservation Order hearing for the Ngaruroro and Clive Rivers will begin next week.

Shingles vaccine funded: PHARMAC has approved the funding of a shingles vaccine for people over 65 years. The vaccine will be available from April 2018 from GPs.

No glyphosate decision: The European Commission has again failed to reach a decision on extending the license for glyphosate - the main chemical in Roundup weedkiller. It will now go to an EU appeal committee; the current licence expires on December 15.

Supplement bill pulled: The Natural Health and Supplementary Products Bill has been quietly withdrawn from Parliament before its third reading, according to Newsroom.

Parkinson's trial disappointment: A NZ-led clinical trial of transplants to treat Parkinson's disease has not found a difference between the transplant and a placebo control.

Apply now for video training
Applications close next week for the SMC's popular science video making workshops in Christchurch and Dunedin this month.
These Science Media SAVVY workshops focus on giving scientists the tools and skills to communicate their research in 90-second videos aimed at an online audience — leveraging off platforms like Youtube and Vimeo and news websites like Stuff and Herald Online.

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