Oceans and Climate Distinguished Lecture

Author: Thomas Davidson 
The Panel Seats
The Panel Seats

Fresh from a summer of fun, globe-trotting, sunning myself on countless beaches…or maybe just working, I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the latest public lecture in the University’s series. This took place at the Insitution of Mechanical Engineers, in Westminister. Contrary to what the venue suggested, this lecture was on Oceans and Climates, and not especially focused on engineering, mechanical or otherwise. After a chartered coach to the door (a pleasant change from the U1C to campus, which definitely does NOT go to the door of any of my lecture theatres) I was into my live-tweeting role as the room started to fill.

The venue itself was a real treat. The lecture theatre was adorned with paintings and ornate decoration, whilst providing a modern and comfortable setting. Turning back to the talk itself (I wasn’t distracted I promise, merely there very early!), we were given a brief bio of exactly why the oceans, the climate and the way we as a people treat and respond to these respectively, is so important. This was provided by the Dean of Environmental and Ocean Sciences. After this introduction, we were informed of our 3 speakers, and Dr Eleanor Frajka-Williams took to the stage.

Her talk was focused on the data capture of her research. It was in the area of ocean current monitoring, and the impact of climate change on these currents, or vicea versa. After a whistlestop introduction to the Great Ocean Conveyor belt, Eleanor talked about the work of everyone’s favourite submersible, Boaty McBoatface, and showed a short animation to that affect. She rounded out by praising the dedication of those who work so hard support a huge range of data capture across our oceans and by reflecting on what still needs to be researched. She mused that technology could help.

The second talk was from Professor Stephen Belcher, the Chief Scientist at the Met Office. He spoke about how monitoring surface temperatures of the ocean can aid with climate prediction in extreme cases such as Hurricane Irma, and in telling if the UK will have a frosty or a rainy winter. He also spoke about how Ocean currents can symbolise or predict global temperature changes, and believe that this is coming.

The final talk from Professor Dr Martin Visbeck was a more humanistic and less data heavy one. He spoke about the importance of the ocean in relation to the UN’s sustainability and development goals. In his opinion the only way to understand the ocean, and to help it, is to understand first how and why we treat it the way we do. One of the most interesting points about the ocean is how it impacts on other development goals, and the interdependency this creates. Examining the ocean simply as “goal number 14” isn’t sustainable or the best course of action he argued. Closing by posing the question to the University as to how we could help, it was clear Martin was up for the challenge.

Rounding off with a pleasantly peaceful and remarkably concise question and answer session (from my experience) marked the end of this, the middle of three public environmental lectures organised by the University. With food safety and oceans tackled, we turn to look towards the next lecture on the 6th December, which deals with meeting those UN development goals.

However, before we do move on, it is important to thank the speakers, the organisational team and you, the audience. Without you there would be no lecture series. Not only because there would be no one to talk to, but because there would be no one to listen and take forth the message. So go and, in the words of Martin, take the challenge!

The video of the lecture in full will be available on the environmental public lecture series page, and you can view my Storify of the event now: https://storify.com/tomjdavidson/oceans-and-climate-public-lecture

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