Saturday, 12 January 2013

John Lewis Lecture: Professor Paul Hardaker, CEO of the IoP. ASE conference blog post 2

This blog post is an edited version of the things I noted during the John Lewis lecture. They make not make sense as I was gripped by what Paul Hardaker had to say so didn't always have time to type what he was saying.

This lecture and the lecture by Michael Reiss in the previous blog post as ones that have most been useful during the last week at school, which I didn't expect when I went to them!

The first thing I noted was I that John Lewis (who passed away in autumn 2012) sounded like a truly inspiring man, influencing a lot of positive reforms and changes and I was proud to be in a lecture in his name.

Professor Hardaker started with an image that captivated him. It is below. The photo doesn't do it justice as his version was animated and showed the general weather patterns on the Earth.

At the moment in my lessons and curriculum development plans I am looking to develop the idea that science develops and changes. So I quickly noted the names Fitzroy who Paul Hardaker described as being responsible for bringing science into predicting the weather, and LF Richardson - took the globe and put a grid around the globe to help track the weather, now a days they still use grids, but the grid goes up into the atmosphere and down into ocean too.

Professor Hardaker also explained that collaboration important in weather and climate as 97% of the UK information comes from other countries. I thought that this was a very useful point to make to students about the nature of science in the modern world.

Prof Hardaker describe his perfect Christmas gift: a toaster that connects to the weather forecast and burns the most appropriate symbol to your morning slice of toast.

Weather scientists use models. What you can do is limited by computing resources. Climate models are very large scale, not good resolution. However the local weather does have good resolution so that localised weather issues can be identified.

We were snow an example of requiring good resolution. Each arrow represents a section on the grid. Hurricane Catharina would not have been predictable if the was not the same level of detail/resolution.

The computer models are also run a number of times to take into account as many possible variables as possible. When Michael Fish failed to predict the Hurricane to hit southern England in the 80s, the computer models were not as accurate as they are now. The top image shows what they were able to do then and the bottom one is what we can do now with the same information. Again showing real development of science and technology.

Professor Hardaker then went on to describe the hard work that goes into displaying weather information for the public.

It occurred to me at this point that the weather is the science that the general public interact with every day. And we don't teach it in science!

He showed us the image below as asked which way of displaying weather we like the best. In a room of scientists version 2 was preferred. Professor Hardaker explained that each version got 25% preference in public surveys.

This section of the lecture gave me a sense of purpose for when I am teaching young people to interpret data.

Paul Hardaker then went onto talk about students studying meteorology.

Meteorology is 50/50 male/female. But a lot of these students come from social science, not from science, which causes a problem as the students need maths and physics to access meteorology. Most of the meteorology is taught in geography, so the students don't realise the maths and physics necessary. University students often have to go back and do a masters after their geography degrees to improve their subject knowledge.

Being CEO of the IoP it was inevitable that Paul Hardaker would talk about the recent IoP report into girls studying physics.

We need more female public role models.

Paul Hardaker then finished his lecture by talking about the Greenhouse effect and Global Warming. I took the first image because I liked it. A lot of people don't understand the greenhouse effect and I think this image does a good job.

Professor Hardaker displayed a lot of data about climate change:

The image below shows the temperatures we have had and the lower graph has the computer model for the temperatures without the effect of global warming.

If we double CO2 then temp goes up 1 degree, but the atmopshere can hold more water at this temperature, which causes another 3 derees of change in temperature, and aerosols in the air, ice, snow will also affect temp another 0.5-5.5 degrees.

Professor Hardaker said that storm surges are more worrying than sea level rises in shorter term.

After to using data to prove to a room of scientists that climate change is real he went on to look at the complicated nature of tackling it.

Paul Hardaker asked "Why do we disagree about climate change?" He explained that is was related to how we frame the argument.
-Economic problem,
-Technology problem,
-Global injustice,
-Over consumption (population/prosperity),
-Natural variability and we should just adapt to climate change,
-Perhaps we are at a tipping point so need to geo-engineer with giant mirrors and ships in the Atlantic pumping areosols into atmosphere.

He said that we need to reduce emissions by 80%, but we need to start the journey, and think about how we use energy, even if we don't know the exact solution yet.

The most disturbing slide was the last one.

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