If you’re a frequent reader of Nature’s Career section, you’ll have seen a lot of content on various aspects of non-traditional scientific careers (for example, conversations with Nobel Laureate Eric Betzig, a Q&A on transitioning from academia to industry, an editorial on life after academia, and a feature on why top academic prospects might pursue other opportunities). Continue reading →
Running a small business
Robin Bell and her colleagues found a volcano under the Antarctic Ice Sheet and water freezing onto the bottom of kms-thick ice. She championed the idea that glaciology needed instrumentation capable of observing the full ice sheet — from surface to base — all at the same time. To this end, she bolted ship-based gear on a small plane and … tried it out. And it worked! And continues to work, all in support of the massive question of trying to figure out how the ice sheets will behave in warming world, and what sea levels will be in the coming decades to centuries.
In love with Maxwell
Bjorn Stevens has a lot going on: scientific member of the Max Planck Society, director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, head of the department Atmosphere and the Earth System, professor at the University of Hamburg, lead author of an IPCC AR 5 Chapter 7, co-lead of a WCRP Grand Challenge on Clouds, Circulation and Climate Sensitivity. All of these roles don’t come as much of a surprise, once you get your head around the degree to which Bjorn manages to combine a deep scientific enthusiasm with big vision, an in-the-trenches grasp of details, a willingness to take risks, and an inspirational leadership style.
Obsessed by El Niño
Corals and speleothems are some of our most useful recorders of past climate variability. The spectacular speleothem records from eastern China, for example, have been instrumental in building our understanding of past variations in the East Asian Monsoon. But as is the case for most any paleoclimate proxy, corals and speleothems do not record a direct record of … well, anything.
Understanding climate models
If you’ve heard about any climate cycle, it’s probably the El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. 2015/2016 is looking like it might bring a record El Niño, and media coverage is, for climate, pretty remarkable.
The coverage is understandable, as weird things happen during big El Niños. The eastern tropical Pacific Ocean is anomalously warm during boreal winter. Deep convection moves away from the Western Pacific Warm Pool, and other bits of the climate system tend to shift to unusual states.
The highs and lows of Antarctic science
For my first interview, I met with Martin Siegert, who I’ve known for a few years from meetings and a visit to the University of Edinburgh. Martin is the co-director of the Grantham Institute, a well-known climate institute based at Imperial College London, with a goal to, at least in part, bring climate science into a broader societal discussion.