Using historical weather extremes to improve future climate change risk assessment

When it comes to climate change, Australia is the most vulnerable nation in the developed world. Weather and climate related hazards have major impacts on our communities, economy, infrastructure and ecosystems, with individual events often resulting in multi-million-dollar damages. Despite our nation’s very high exposure to climate risk, currently our estimation and modelling of climate extremes and their societal impacts is primarily based on instrumental weather observations that begin as early as 1900, but more typically the mid to late 20th century.

An opportunity exists at The Australian National University for a highly motivated PhD candidate to extend our current understanding of Australia’s pre-20th century weather and climate extremes such as heatwaves, droughts, and extreme rainfall events using a range of pre-20th century scientific and historical sources. Datasets compiled during this project will help extend the longest running instrumental climate records in Australia, providing a stronger foundation for assessing recently observed variability and extremes. Significantly, this will help improve climate risk assessment needed for future climate change planning and adaption.

The project is based in the ANU Fenner School of Environment & Society, a world-leading centre for cross-disciplinary environmental and sustainability research, education and policy. A recently awarded ANU Futures Scheme project, Using historical weather extremes to improve future climate change risk assessment, aims to foster leaders in multi-disciplinary climate change research. As such, the PhD candidate will have a rare opportunitiy to work with climate scientists, climate adaption specialists, historians, as well as industry professionals from the insurance industry and government planning sectors to deliver nationally-significant climate change research.

The successful candidate also has the opportunity to apply for affiliation with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes (CLEX), an international research consortium of five Australian universities (The Australian National University, University of New South Wales, Monash University, University of Melbourne, and University of Tasmania) and a suite of outstanding national and international partner organisations. The Centre provides excellent support for travel and professional development opportunities such as scientific programming and research publication writing workshops.

To be considered for this position you should have:

  • First class honours science degree (e.g. meteorology, atmospheric science, physical geography)
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience using climate data
  • Ability (or clear potential) to collaborate with a range of scientists and industry professionals
  • Capacity to work independently while contributing to the success of broader team objectives
  • Outstanding written and oral communication skills
  • Skills using a range of computer software eg. Office, specialised scientific programs, statistical packages, databases and online content management systems