Friday, December 15, 2023

COP28. United Nations Climate Change Conference.

 COP28. By Prof. John Sweeney, Day 1.

Holding COP28 in a major oil and gas producing country was always going to be fraught with controversy. This is particularly so since the host President, Sultan al Jaber, is also the CEO of the United Arab Emirates national Oil Company, a company which is responsible for more emissions that Exon Mobil or BP. However, at the end of the first week, the events have not played out according to plan for either the hosts or most of the 197 countries hoping for a breakthrough to tackle the dire climate situation laid out by the scientists of the IPCC or the Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres.

The Presidency needed an early win to provide some momentum. And so it seemed this had occurred with the surprising announcement that the long running dispute on Loss and Damage was settled on day 1. This took everyone by surprise and was swiftly followed by the pledging of $100M by the host country and several substantial commitments to the Loss and Damage Fund by other countries, including €25M from Ireland (claimed to be the second highest per capita contribution after the UAE). While the figures adding up to date to around €720M sound impressive, in reality, the expressed need is measured in trillions. Of course the likely beneficiaries are not the primary drivers of global heating. That responsibilities falls to the developed countries. G20 countries emit 7.9 tonnes of greenhouse gases per capita while the corresponding figure for the least developed countries is 2.2t per capita. Ireland’s figure is 11.9t per capita, so maybe it should be among the highest contributors to the Loss and Damage fund.

Shortly after day 1, however, the drip feed of information questioning the real intentions of the President began to emerge. First was the publication of leaked documents by the BBC indicating that the President was intending to do ‘side deals’ with various countries to facilitate the expansion of their fossil fuel infrastructure. This was generally condemned as not something the COP President should be doing during a COP and could be interpreted as a misuse of his position as well as demonstrating a serious conflict of interest. His defence was rather unconvincing to this author.

A few days later, a recording emerged of a feisty interchange between Sultan Al Jaber and former Irish President Mary Robinson. In the heat of this debate Al Jaber stated there is ‘no science’ behind calls for a fossil fuel phase out’. Although this was recorded from an event that predated COP28, its revelation was devastating. Here was someone tasked with achieving the one thing that could save the planet from what Guterres had described as ‘opening the gates to hell’ denying that fossil fuel cessation would provide a way of avoiding the catastrophic tipping points being breached.

Both the Tanaiste and Minister Ryan have been generous with their time and have met with the Irish civil society group to provide updates. For the most part the negotiating position of the Irish government is progressive and Minister Ryan in particular is heading up, together with France, the EU negotiations on climate finance. But the world outside Europe is a very different collection of countries with often widely differing priorities. President Putin has been visiting those countries in the region over the past few days which do not risk his arrest for war crimes. These countries, like Russia, are major fossil fuel producers and one can imagine that ceasing fossil fuel production was not a priority in their meetings. Indeed one of the young Ukrainian climate activists condemned the way energy production has become weaponized as a result of the war.

What is now emerging as the sticking point for the wording of the final communique is the extent to which it will embody a commitment to phase out all fossil fuels: coal, gas and oil, before 2050. A new global plan with strict milestones is necessary for this. At this stage in a COP the President assumes

control over deadlocked negotiating committees and seeks to drum out compromise texts. How successful he will be in doing this is not at all clear given the misgivings in his neutrality emerging over recent days. Various draft texts already in circulation repeat the mantra of previous COPS: “phasing down”, “phasing out unabated fossil fuel emissions”, or even omitting any reference to fossil fuel reductions entirely! We won’t know until the final gavel comes down if India, China, Saudi Arabia or Russia will veto the final wording as happened in Glasgow. On this rests the verdict as to whether this will be a COP for change or not.

Fossils and Fossil Fuels. By Prof. John Sweeney, Day 2.

It is customary for civil society groups to nominate a country that they feel has done least to tackle climate change as ‘Fossil of the Day’. These nominated are subsequently entered into ‘Fossil of the Week’ etc. to hopefully embarrass countries into upping their game. It’s a bit of a stunt, but has been a feature of COPs for many years. Friday was Youth and Children’s day and the nominated country was Israel, narrowly pipping Russia and Australia. The nomination of Israel was emphasising that there can be no climate justice without social justice, and reflected on the tragic loss of young life presently occurring in the region. In the case of Russia, the fact that Mr. Putin landed in the UAE the day before and didn’t even come to COP was pointed out, together with the long standing opposition of Russia to emissions reductions. His potential motive in going from one petrostate, the UAE to another, Saudi Arabia, was also commented on by the nominators. The contribution of fossil fuels to the Russian economy is as high as 40% and new markets are needed following the EU boycott. This of course raises doubt as to what Russia will agree to in the final communique.

In the case of Australia, the fact that they have made no contribution as yet to the Loss and Damage Fund despite being one of the world’s leading exporters of fossil fuel was pointed out. The very limited contribution they have made to ameliorating climate change impacts in their neighbouring countries was also a factor. Of course the awards are purely symbolic, but do tend to show up the real ‘laggards’ in the negotiations.

Also produced at each COP is the country ‘league table’ which positions 59 countries and the EU in terms of their climate performance. Rankings are decided by a panel of experts with inputs also provided at a national level. After improving briefly in 2022 to reach 37th place, largely as a result of the passage of climate legislation, Ireland has now slipped to 43rd place in 2023. Not quite in the relegation zone yet, but clearly being overtaken by other countries. The reasons given primarily relate to implementation failure, namely Ireland’s failure to convince the evaluators that the carbon budget agreed for 2021-2025 will be achieved. Indeed the EPA have also projected recently that the subsequent budget period 2026-2030 will also not be achieved. So despite ‘talking the talk’, Ireland is not ‘walking the walk’!

There is a striking presence of ‘Big Agriculture’ lobbyists at this COP. While the omni present oil lobbyists tend to get the greatest attention, industrial agriculture lobbyists are very active. Emissions associated with food production amount to about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions with over half of this due to livestock farming. Methane is particularly problematic, trapping 80 times more heat than the same amount of CO2 over a 20 year period. Yet the focus in this COP seems to be largely restricted to reducing methane from oil and gas flaring, rather than from livestock. Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture has arrived and will meet civil society groups tomorrow where the COP theme focus will be on agriculture and food. It should be interesting given that Ireland emits 3.7 times as much methane per capita as the average EU citizen.

Today there was a lot more activism inside the COP venue with noisy marches and demonstrations to rightly remind negotiators what is at stake. However there are growing concerns that the final decision will not signal an end to fossil fuels. Presently the negotiators have a number of alternative texts to argue over. These range from ‘an orderly and just phase-out of fossil fuels’ to no text at all being offered. Somewhere between the two there will be compromises suggested involving ‘unabated emissions’ and ‘phase down’ of fossil fuel emissions. The planet however can’t wait for compromises in this area. Nonetheless the requirement for unanimity which has bedevilled progress in this area for 28 years means that it will only take one country to veto what over 190 countries want to do. The next few days will tell the tale.

COP28; See Through the Spin. By Prof. John Sweeney, Day 3.

As a veteran of 13 COPs I can confirm that I left disillusioned from 12,with only Paris being different. The pattern is ominously similar here in Dubai. The first week is dominated by world leaders arriving with their entourage and making lovely noises about how this particular COP is crucial, how the window for avoiding the tipping points is rapidly closing, and how much we should listen to the science. In the three minutes allocated to each world leader in the Plenary Hall, we hear noble statements of how much a particular country is doing to tackle the problem. Seldom do we hear figures of how much their emissions have increased since their last appearance or how structural changes in their economies and societies are underway to achieve a sustainable world for the next generation. Of course there are exceptions, but the first week is mainly designed for domestic consumption back home. If you can’t say our emissions are increasing, instead say we are reducing emissions intensity, or we are a rich country and are contributing finances to ease the plight of climate victims in poor countries or those facing submergence.

The second week is very different. The delegates are given a brief from their bosses and tortuous negotiations commence. Draft agreement texts are prepared, riddled with square brackets to be accepted or rejected in lengthy sometimes overnight negotiations. Around the conference venue activists march and young people demonstrate to keep the pressure up on negotiators to deliver. It makes for a colourful and noisy COP, especially with reference to the indigenous peoples groups. Amazonian indigenous people in full costume protesting their loss of habitat, Canadian First Nation people protesting their mistreatment by big oil etc. For most countries however their minorities are silent, protests by them would not be countenanced by their national governments. All the while, the men and women in dark suits ply their trade. 2,500 oil and gas lobbyists are active behind the scenes. Taking a lesson from the big oil playbook, Big Agriculture presents a greenwashed perspective loosely draped in what they believe passes for ’food security’.

And then the Saudis send in their lawyers.

Having seen these individuals in action in previous COPs I can only marvel at their skills. Often Harvard or Yale educated, they are expert at dismembering sentences. A comma here, a semi colon there and the whole meaning of a sentence is changed. Of course taking up speaking time with lengthy statements also is a good tactic, especially late at night.

The first draft text that emerged could have been written by OPEC. It contained little of substance and was crammed with aspirational language that promised little implementation certainty. The so-called North Star that the President emphasised as his compass to keep the planet heating up beyond the Paris 1.5oC threshold was certainly not in evidence. The phrase ‘rapidly phasing down unabated coal’ was especially scorned by the delegates. No mention of other fossil fuels being ‘phased down’ far less ‘phased out’. This immediately led to threats of a walkout from the EU. The final text that was agreed after a day of wrangling, was not that much better. When Sultan Al Jaber finally brought down the gavel on Wednesday morning the delegates hugged and cheered as usual. But in reality the concrete achievements of COP28 are not likely to avoid the planet warming above the 1.5oC threshold.

The key phrase in the final agreement called on countries to contribute to global efforts to ‘transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science’. But this contains

no timescale or quantification of what transition actually means. It is purely voluntary, reflecting the watering down of intentions that occurs in a system where unanimity is required. Unsurprisingly, after the deal was reached, an oil representative reportedly said the deal ‘does not affect our exports, does not affect our ability to sell’.

Maybe expectations were too high. Maybe the tactics of having an especially poor first draft made any improvement seem good. Maybe the COP did for the first time signal a transition to a fossil free world. But the question hanging over the event is will countries live up to their commitments this time, or will global climate change wait long enough for a sustainable future for the next generation? On both counts the prognosis is poor.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Circus continues…


The “Circus of Climate Horrors” is Ireland’s newest Climate Change outreach project. Our unique experience of fun games also provides a chance to chat with real climate scientists. Built and run by researchers at the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units (ICARUS) Institute within the Geography Department, the Circus engages audiences with relevant, contemporary issues surrounding rising greenhouse gases, sustainability, and future climate action through a series of interactive games and activities for all ages. Within weeks of debuting at Glastonbury in June 2023 (which was a resounding success!) the Circus had invitations from Science Foundation Ireland to attend the Mind Fields area at Electric Picnic 2023, and the International Geographical Conference in 2024.


To ensure the longevity of the Circus and to give postgraduate students hands on experience of participating in climate outreach, we ran a workshop for the Climate Change Masters class and PhD students from ICARUS. The students then expertly ran the exhibit during Research Week 2023. The ‘Great Wall of Atmospheres’, proved to be a particular draw with many returning to either get on the leader board, or trying to beat their previous time! On a more serious note, by highlighting some of the impacts of climate change, the circus provided our postgraduate students with an opportunity to engage with hundreds of Maynooth University students and staff over the busy four day period. Many of whom might rarely get to talk about climate change with scientists. It was fascinating to hear their understanding and awareness about these important issues. These insights were highlighted by their written contributions to our climate wishes/pledges board which contains hundreds of inspiring individual and collective actions to deal with climate change.

Circus of Climate horrors at Research week in Maynooth University

The circus is taking a break for the rest of the year so we can update the stall… keep an eye out on socials @climate_circus , Circus for Climate Horrors for new and innovative designs coming soon!


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

ICARUS scientist represents the Organization of African Academic Doctors at UN Ocean Decade meeting in China

Dr Emmanuel Eresanya is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Irish Climate Analysis and Research UnitS (ICARUS), Department of Geography, Maynooth University. Emmanuel is also the Project lead in the Climate Research Group (CRG) of the Organization of African Academic Doctors (OAAD) . Recently, as the Project Lead of OAAD CRG, Emmanuel was selected as a Co-PI in the Ocean to Climate Seamless Forecasting in Africa (OSFiA)  a UN Decade Collaborative Centre on Ocean Climate Nexus and Coordination among Decade implementing Partners in P. R of China (DCC-OCC), hosted by the First Institute of Oceanography, Qingdao, China. He attended the 1st General Assembly of the Ocean to Climate Seamless Forecasting System (OSF) Programme that was held on 27-28th, September 2023 in Qingdao, China. 

Emmanuel was among the 300 Researchers from 100 UN Institutions chosen from 30 Countries across the globe present at Steigenberger Hotel Qingdao for the Ocean to Climate Seamless Forecasting System (OSF) Programme. As a Co-PI, he will be working with others to deploy and monitor the OSF's new technologically driven buoy to archive Ocean data across the Gulf of Guinea and the Mediterranean Sea in the next 10 years.

Emmanuel was also featured in the  Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPs) plenary meeting during the general assembly where he joined other early career Ocean Professionals in a discussion about the safety of the Ocean and bridging the gap between Ocean data and the end users.


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Irish climate scientists from Maynooth University present the ‘Circus of Climate Horrors’ at Glastonbury!


This year a group of climate scientists from ICARUS, Maynooth University were thrilled to present a new climate change outreach stall in the Science Futures field at Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts, becoming the first Irish University to exhibit at the event! The aim of Science Futures is to bring the ‘science behind the headlines’ to almost 250,000 festival goers. Our brand new climate change outreach stall, called the ‘Circus of Climate Horrors’ highlights some of the impacts of climate change, including the increased likelihood of enhanced precipitation, sea-level rise and flooding events within a warming world, and provided us with an opportunity to engage with hundreds of people over the busy five day festival.

After months of preparation, planning and building we arrived at the festival, and set up our striking ‘Circus of Climate Horrors’ tent, decked out in the climate stripes, in anticipation of people arriving. Our interactive exhibits included the ‘Wheel of Global Warming’ aimed at informing people about different climate change scenarios, the ‘Great Wall of Atmospheres’, an interactive and competitive ball game that demonstrates how increased CO2 creates a warmer world, and a flood map of the UK and Ireland under a 2°C warming scenario. People absolutely loved the Climate Circus! Children and adults alike enjoyed the interactive games while learning about climate science, which gave festival-goers the chance to engage with concepts they may not have thought about before. It was a huge success!

Glastonbury attracts an incredibly varied demographic (background, age, lifestyle, location (UK and international), career level and sector), which provided a unique opportunity for us to chat and engage with numerous, diverse audiences, many of whom might rarely get to talk about climate change research with scientists. It was fascinating to hear their insights and thoughts too. This diversity and insight was highlighted by their written contributions to our climate wishes/pledges board which contains hundreds of inspiring individual and collective actions to deal with climate change. We plan in the future to present the Circus of Climate Horrors at more events that provide opportunities for effective and meaningful engagement with a broad group of people about the importance of climate change and its impact!  

Monday, November 21, 2022

Recovering German and Irish moorings Southwest of Ireland. A campaign on the new Irish Research Vessel (RV) Tom Crean.

Originally published at

The one-week long Aimsir/EirOOS survey ended a couple of weeks ago and was the first physical oceanography campaign of the new Irish Research Vessel (RV) Tom Crean. Our primary goal was to recover three moorings located southwest of Ireland, on an offshore underwater plateau known as Goban Spur. This campaign was carried out as a collaboration between three different ocean research institutions: 1) Maynooth University with scientists from the A4 project; 2) the Marine Institute; and 3) the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency of Germany (in German, Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie, or BSH).


Image credit: Sam T. Diabaté

Moorings are instrument arrays anchored on the sea floor which sample the water column for an extended amount of time (from months to years). In recent years, a network of moorings has been measuring water properties at the Goban Spur (13°E, 49°N). In 2016, German scientists of BSH (the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency of Germany) deployed three EB moorings on the deeper part of the Goban Spur, while in 2020, the Marine Institute filled in the gap between the German moorings and the Irish coastline with additional EBS moorings. The mooring geographical locations, reminding of the ‘OMEX’ mooring array deployed in the mid-90s, were chosen to close the eastern boundary of the NOAC line, a basinwide mooring array measuring the North Atlantic conveyor belt circulation.

(a) General bathymetry map of the region Southwest of Ireland, showing also the mooring locations as colour filled circle) as well as the planned and effective CTD stations displayed as light and dark crosses. The mobilisation and demobilisation ports, respectfully Cork and Galway, are also indicated. Despite being indicated here, EBS5 was not recovered. (b) Zoom in on the Goban Spur, where most of the action took place. Markers are the same as on (a), only planned CTD stations are not shown.  **Image credit: Gerard D. McCarthy**.
(a) General bathymetry map of the region Southwest of Ireland, showing also the mooring locations as colour filled circle) as well as the planned and effective CTD stations displayed as light and dark crosses. The mobilisation and demobilisation ports, respectfully Cork and Galway, are also indicated. Despite being indicated here, EBS5 was not recovered. (b) Zoom in on the Goban Spur, where most of the action took place. Markers are the same as on (a), only planned CTD stations are not shown. Image credit: Gerard D. McCarthy.

While moorings EB2 and EBS3 were lost, possibly due to trawling activity, three Goban Spur moorings (EB3, EB1 and EBS1) and one shallow mooring (EBS5) sampled the ocean for an extended period. Recovery of these moorings was the primary goal of our cruise. These mooring locations are shown on the map above. The campaign was conducted on the RV Tom Crean between September 24th and 30th, and the principal investigator was Dr. Gerard McCarthy, my PhD supervisor.

The Maynooth University team, which was composed of Dr. Gerard McCarthy, Dr. Levke Caesar, Dr. André Düsterhus, Dr. Samantha Hallam, Dr. Stephen Ogungbenro and myself, met up with Dr. Manuela Köllner and Tobias Svensson from BSH on the Friday 23/09. We embarked the RV Tom Crean on the following day, joining Dr. Eoghan Daly, Alan Berry and Conall O' Malley from the Marine Institute as well as the ship’s crew. We set sail on that day. Mooring EB3 was recovered on Monday 26/09. Rougher weather hindered mooring recovery until the Thursday 29/09, and the elapsed time was used as best as possible to conduct CTD profiles (Don’t know what CTD stations are? Find out more info here).

Dr. Gerard McCarthy and Dr. Eoghan Daly on a coffee break. **Image credit: Sam T. Diabaté.**
Dr. Gerard McCarthy and Dr. Eoghan Daly on a coffee break. Image credit: Sam T. Diabaté.

Mooring EBS1 and EB1 were recovered on the Thursday 29/09, and it was decided to sail towards land immediately after because of the sea condition worsening. We fled ahead of the storm and reached — not without trouble — Galway Bay on the evening of Friday 29/09. We disembarked on the following morning.

Together with Dr. Samantha Hallam, I cleaned up the moored instruments recovered from the mooring lines, downloaded the data from the MicroCATs, set up the instruments for calibration dips, and more broadly facilitated the smooth running of the mooring operations headed by Dr. Manuela Köllner (for EB1 and EB3) and Conall O' Malley (for EBS1).

I was also in charge of the Vessel Mounted Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (VmADCP), which is an instrument designed to measure the water velocity (currents) of the water column below the ship keel. The VmADCP aboard the RV Tom Crean is a Pinnacle 45 from Teledyne RDI, a particularly modern instrument which allows to perform a novel acquisition method referred to as ‘interleaved’. This new method comes with new processing challenges, which I was able to circumvent with help of Pr. Jules Hummon of University of Hawaii who was contacted by mail. Next month, Gerard and I will be taking part in a workshop organised by Dr. Eoghan Daly on VmADCP acquisition and data processing.

The RV Tom Crean in Galway harbour on demobilisation day. **Image credit: Sam T. Diabaté.**
The RV Tom Crean in Galway harbour on demobilisation day. Image credit: Sam T. Diabaté.

The RV Tom Crean is a very modern ship, with a range of new assets to help scientists conduct research at sea. I was in particular impressed by the features of the dry laboratory. Scientists can now operate the CTD winch from a designated desk in the dry lab, provided the bridge has granted us control. The different screens in the lab are all connected to a central PC unit, and everything is accessible from a server, allowing researchers to quickly work on different ongoing measurements at a time (VmADC Profiling, but also swath bathymetry measurements, underway systems, CTD monitoring, etc.). The ship design makes life aboard comfortable and easy, with a gym, a TV space, a very comfortable dining room facing the galley, and plenty of room to work.

As on previous cruises I took part in, pods of common dolphins and pilot whales were common encounters. A camera was installed on the hull and allowed to see dolphins having great fun right beneath us. Colleagues Dr. Samantha Hallam and Alan Berry shared some wonderful footages on their social media, some of which can be seen below. Dr. Eoghan Daly also put together a video of our campaign which was shown during the RV Tom Crean commissioning ceremony, and it can be found below too.


Sam Tiéfolo Diabaté
Sam Tiéfolo Diabaté
Doctoral researcher in Physical Oceanography

My research focuses on ocean currents and sea level.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

International Women's Day 2022

The A4 and ROADMAP teams are proud to support International Women’s Day 2022. Our Group is 50% female, each with diverse backgrounds and a variety of interests including ocean sciences, coding, modelling and statistics. Below, we present the range of different research topics that inspire us to discover more in these areas and outline the paths that we have taken into the field. 


Modelling Sea Level Change

Dr Niamh Cahill


Niamh Cahill is an applied statistician with interests in developing statistical models for the analysis of time dependent, compositional and/or spatial data. She uses a Bayesian approach to statistical modelling, which is suitable for developing complex hierarchical models, accounts of uncertainties related to model parameters, incorporates prior knowledge, and shares information across data sites. Her research covers a range of statistical disciplines including: stochastic processes; time series analysis; computation and simulation; and multivariate analysis.


Niamh completed her PhD in University College Dublin in 2015. Following this she spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher in UMASS Amherst. Niamh joined the Mathematics and Statistics department at Maynooth University in 2018. One aspect of her research focuses on the development of statistical models to assess and interpret indicators of climate change, specially sea-level change. 


Rising seas increase the vulnerability of cities and associated infrastructure that line the coastline of Ireland because of higher extreme sea levels (and flooding), coastal erosion, salinization of surface and ground waters, and degradation of coastal habitats. Armed with statistical knowledge of how sea levels have been changing in the 20th and 21st century, future links between mean sea-level and sea level extremes due to storm surges and wave climate can be established, which are vital to inform decision making related to flood risks. Dr Cahill has recently been awarded funding from Science Foundation Ireland/ Frontiers for the Future Project. This project will focus on predicting Sea Levels and Sea Level Extremes for Ireland

Statistical Models for sea level change

Maeve Upton



In 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their AR6 report which stated with “high confidence” that the “global mean sea level has increased by 0.2 m between 1901 and 2018”. However, understanding how sea level has varied globally and local, and the main drivers of this change is crucial for predicting future rise. The influence of different sea level drivers, for example thermal expansion, ocean dynamics and glacial – isostatic adjustment (GIA), has changed throughout time and space. Therefore, a useful statistical model requires both flexibility in time and space and have the capability to examine these separate drivers, whilst taking account of uncertainty.


That being said, Maeve Upton is a third year PhD candidate in Maynooth University, developing a series of statistical models to analyse historical sea level and the main drivers of this sea level change. Along with her supervisors Prof Andrew Parnell and Dr Niamh Cahill, Maeve investigates sea level change along the east coast of North America using tide gauge data and proxy records from salt marshes. Her statistical models use Bayesian Hierarchical spatial temporal techniques which can identify changes in sea level in time and across space. Also, the statistical approach uses extensions of Generalised Additive Models (GAMs), which allow separate components of sea level to be modelled individually. The Bayesian framework allows for the inclusion of other physical models to constrain the evolution of sea level change over space and time.


Upton’s models have demonstrated that GIA was the main driver of relative sea level change along North America’s Atlantic coast, until the 20th century when a sharp rise in rates of sea level change can be seen.


In the future work, Upton plans to extended her models to incorporate other drivers of sea level change . Finally, Maeve will collaborate with Earth Scientists in Trinity College Dublin, to produce Ireland’s first historic sea level record from Irish salt marshes and statistical models. 

It’s all about air-sea interaction

Dr Samantha Hallam


As a sailor, windsurfer, and diver I have been interested in air-sea interactions for many years. Following a BSC in Environmental Science at UEA, an MRes in Ocean Science, I undertook a PhD at the University of Southampton, looking at the impact of Atlantic Ocean variability on tropical cyclones and the northern hemisphere jet stream. Part of the research highlighted that on interannual timescales a slowdown in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) can cause active hurricane seasons in the Atlantic (Hallam et al. 2019)

During 2019, as part of my PhD, I was fortunate to undertake an internship at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences looking at how tropical cyclone intensity predictions can be improved using ocean heat content (Hallam et al. 2021). During my first week Hurricane Humberto brought winds over 100mph to Bermuda, causing significant damage and power outage to over 80% of the island. The first-hand experience of a major hurricane emphasised the importance of the research. 


Satellite image of Hurricane Humberto, west of Bermuda, U.S., September 17th, 2019. Photo courtesy: NOAA/Handout via Reuters 


In February 2021 it was a delight to join the ICARUS team at Maynooth University as post-doctoral researcher, working on the EU funded ROADMAP project investigating the impact of ocean circulation variability (western boundary currents and AMOC) on atmospheric and climate dynamics in the North 


North Atlantic – Winter jet latitude (upper) and winter jet speed (lower)  1871-2011 (Hallam et al. 2022)



Atlantic and North Pacific. Initial results indicate that the jet latitude meridional range is at a minimum in winter along the western boundary of the North Pacific and North Atlantic, where the SST gradients are strongest.  Also, during the period 1871-2011, the winter jet latitude in the North Atlantic has migrated 3 degrees poleward and an increase in jet speed of 10mph is observed, both have implications for European Weather (Hallam et al. 2022).




Hallam, S., M. Guishard, S. A. Josey, P. Hyder & J. Hirschi (2021) Increasing tropical cyclone intensity and potential intensity in the subtropical Atlantic around Bermuda from an ocean heat content perspective 1955–2019. Environmental Research Letters, 16, 034052.

Hallam, S., S. A. Josey, G. D. McCarthy & J. J. M. Hirschi (2022) A regional (land–ocean) comparison of the seasonal to decadal variability of the Northern Hemisphere jet stream 1871–2011. Climate Dynamics.

Hallam, S., R. Marsh, S. A. Josey, P. Hyder, B. Moat & J. J. M. Hirschi (2019) Ocean precursors to the extreme Atlantic 2017 hurricane season. Nature Communications, 10, 896.



Applications of Decadal Predictions

Catherine O’Beirne

Fishery sector is of vast importance to the Irish economy. In 2019 it has generated €577 million and employed 16 thousand. The ability to predict changes in the future stock will support adaptation and fish stock management. In decadal climate prediction, initialized predictions have demonstrated improved prediction skill for the North Atlantic. The different stages of fish development are dependent on oceanic variables like temperature and variability and investigating decadal prediction skill for those variables will allow me to make statements on potential changes in fish stock. 


After completing a B.A. in Environmental Science at Trinity College Dublin in 2016 and an M.Sc. in Climate Change at Maynooth University in 2018. I am currently a 3rd year PhD candidate at Maynooth University. The area of focus is on understanding Atlantic variability and its connection to the Irish shelf advancing knowledge of Irish sea-level change in an Atlantic context; development of predictive capacity on decadal timescales for the North Atlantic; and how these predictions be applied for stakeholder needs


With the aim being to improve decadal prediction skill in the Northeast Atlantic. For this we apply ensemble subsampling, a process that selects those ensemble members for creating a subsampled ensemble mean, which perform best under evaluation by physically based statistical predictors. Climate modes, like Subpolar Gyre (SPG) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Variability (AMV), interact with our region of interest and therefore we will use those to inform us about our subsampling decisions. Applying this methodology on seasonal scales has demonstrated improved prediction skill for other climate modes.


Historic Sea Level Change and Outreach

Dr Zoe Roseby


I am postdoctoral researcher at Trinity College Dublin, interested in reconstructing past environmental change using sediment cores and microfossils found within them. My current research focuses on producing sea level reconstructions from Ireland, as part of the A4 project. 


In addition to my research, I participate in outreach activities on the topics of climate change and sea level rise. I am the lead applicant on Línte na Farraige, a project funded by the Creative Ireland Programme, ‘Creative Climate Action’, which seeks to meaningfully connect people with profound changes happening in our environment, society and economy arising from climate change. Línte na Farraige is a collaborative project including a team of artists, scientists, the Climate Action Regional Offices, local authorities, community groups among others. The project consists of a set of visual light installations by artists Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta, that will be placed across Irish coastal sites in the coming months. Check out the website

Prior to my appointment at Trinity College Dublin, I carried out a bachelors and integrated master’s degree in Geological Oceanography at Bangor University and a PhD with British Antarctic Survey (BAS), University of Southampton and Durham University. My PhD project reconstructed the deglacial history of the Anvers Trough, western Antarctic Peninsula shelf. 

My research interests stem from my childhood on the Cornish coast and curiosity about the sea. I am passionate about supporting equality and diversity in STEM and sit on the Athena SWAN self-assessment team in the School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin.

Predicting “Dancing water”

Ashly Uthaman


Waves, the dancing water, are both impressive and frightening. Ocean waves, primarily, generated by surface winds, travel thousands of kilometre from their place of origin. On reaching the shore they dissipate energy by breaking at the surf zone thus making it the most dynamic part. Extreme wave events threaten life, livestock and livelihoods and takes away large part of coast every year. Globally, melting glaciers and ice sheets are causing increase in sea-level rise and coastal extreme events are becoming more severe. Wave predictions can help to save lives and limit the damage caused by severe storms.

After completing my Master’s in Physical Oceanography from Cochin University of Science And Technology (2018), India, I worked as Project Associate (2018 -2020)  in National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, India. I was part of project aided by Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad, India. I developed an automated Rip current prediction system for the Goa (West coast of India) using numerical modelling. I am 1st year Phd student at Maynooth University and my work focusses on the decadal wave prediction of Irish coast.


The ocean waves influence the atmosphere above and the ocean below, so it is important to include their effects in wave predictions.  Coupled atmospheric and wave model will be used to get complete idea of swells from North Atlantic and the waves near the Irish coast will be simulated by surf zone model.


The AMOC and Climate Change

Dr Levke Caesar



Dr Levke Caesar on a ship expedition in the North Atlantic.

Every second, billions of litres of warm water flow northward near the surface of the Atlantic, while the same amount of cold water in the deeper ocean flows back southward. In this way, an amount of heat equivalent to the energy production of a million nuclear power plants is brought into the North Atlantic. Since much of this heat is released into the atmosphere, it has a significant impact on Europe's climate. The circulation behind all this is called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or short AMOC. Climate models predict a weakening of the AMOC in response to global warming, and scientist have wondered for years whether this slowdown has already begun. One of these scientists is Dr Levke Caesar.

As a climate physicists Dr Caesar studies climatic changes in and around the North Atlantic with a special focus on the role and the past evolution of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Since direct continuous measurements of the AMOC only started in 2004, she looks at other climate variables, that can be linked to the strength of the AMOC, to learn more about its past. One example are the sea surface temperatures of the North Atlantic: they are highly affected by the northward heat transport associated with AMOC and reach back until the end of the 19th Century. And indeed, a unique region of cooling temperatures south of Greenland suggests that the system has weakened by about 15 percent since the middle of the 20th century (Caesar et al., 2018). This is in line with the trends found in other proxy data like the grain sizes or the composition of coral shells found in ocean sediments, that all indicate that the AMOC in recent decades has been weaker than ever before in at least 1600 years (Caesar et al., 2021).These findings are particularly interesting for Ireland - not just because it profits from the heat brought northward by the AMOC but also because a such a slowdown of the AMOC has been linked to an enhanced sea-level rise at both sides of the North Atlantic as well as increased storminess in north-western Europe. 


Simplified scheme of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and the fingerprint in the sea surface temperatures that is caused by a slowdown in AMOC strength.







Caesar, L., McCarthy, G. D., Thornalley, D. J. R., Cahill, N., & Rahmstorf, S. (2021). Current Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation weakest in last millennium. Nature Geoscience, 14(3), 118-120.

Caesar, L., Rahmstorf, S., Robinson, A., Feulner, G., & Saba, V. (2018). Observed fingerprint of a weakening Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation. Nature, 556(7700), 191-196.



Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Communication Climate Change - Discussion with three Nobel Laureates

As a climate physicist, I consider anthropogenic climate change to be the most serious known challenge of the 21st century – and likely also of the 22nd and the 23rd century. Even though this thread has been known to scientist for several decades, policy makers are still reluctant to take the necessary steps to preserve our climate. Some even openly questions the integrity of climate scientist and the existence of a human made climate change. At the same time, the consequences of climate change become more and more visible: massive coral bleaching, melting polar ice shields and rising sea levels are changing the appearance of our planet; extreme weather events, like heat waves and flooding, endanger millions of people every year.
How can it be that one the one side the basic science of climate change with the emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, as the cause are very clear and other the other side the acceptance among public and politicians about the need to act are so low? Is it a problem of communication?
Together with three Nobel Laureates as well as another scientist I discussed this question during this year’s Lindau Science Days. Normally, the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting assembles once a year Nobel Laureates and young scientists of different science sectors to foster the exchange of ideas, cultures and disciplines. Due to the pandemic this year’s meeting was postponed and replaced with an online event. As a Lindau Alumni and climate scientist I was asked to join this discussion with Nobel Laureates Steven Chu (Nobel Prize in Physics 1997 for the development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light), Mario J. Molina (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1995 for the research on the formation and decomposition of ozone) and Brian P. Schmidt (Nobel Prize in Physics 2011 for the discovery of the acceleration expansion of the Universe) as well as Georg Schuette from the Volkswagen Foundation that promotes the communication of science.

As all three laureates have extend experience in convening their findings to the public as well as policy makers (Steven Chu served as United States Secretary of Energy under the administration of President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013, Brian Schmidt is a laureate of the Australian Research Council and it is due to Marion Molina and his colleague’s efforts of informing policy markers and news media of their findings and the dangers of CFCs, that these were effectively banned from use), the discussion was extremely interesting and divers.

Even though none of us had the key to convince policy makers or the public from the severity of the thread, we certainly all agreed that we have no choice but to keep trying to convince them.

If you are interested in finding out more, you can watch the whole discussion at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings Mediatheque.

Impressium from the discussion (copyright Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings).

About the author: Levke Caesar recently finished her PhD in Climate Physics at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Her research topic was the evolution of the Atlantic Overturning Circulation and its impact on the Earth System. In October 2019 Ms Caesar has joined the Irish Climate Analysis and Research UnitS at Maynooth University. There she works within the A4 project and studies how changes in the Atlantic region, in particular regarding the ocean circulations, will affect Ireland. 
A4 (Grant-Aid Agreement No. PBA/CC/18/01) is carried out with the support of the Marine Institute under the Marine Research Programme funded by the Irish Government, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.