COP26 special: extreme heat, cloud mysteries and climate tipping points


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With the UN climate summit COP26 kicking off in Glasgow this weekend, the Physics World Weekly podcast is focused on one thing: climate change. For the next two weeks, I will explore some of the ways that physical scientists are helping to tackle the climate crisis. In episode one I meet researchers who predict what will happen to the climate under different emissions scenarios.

Perhaps the most obvious climate hazard is extreme heat. The Earth’s average temperature is rising, but the heating is far from uniform and some communities are particularly vulnerable. To better understand the global health risks of extreme heat I catch up with Eunice Lo from the University of Bristol in the UK and Michelle Bell from Yale University in the US.

Later, I take a step back and look at the fundamental research that underpins climate models. Steven Sherwood, an atmospheric physicist at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, explains why clouds are notoriously challenging for climate modellers. I also speak with UNSW’s Katrin Meissner who is interested in climate feedback mechanisms and what we can learn from tipping points in Earth’s past climates.

Next week’s episode is focused on technology solutions for climate change, including energy innovations, sustainable buildings and infrastructure, and carbon capture and storage. You can learn much more about the latest climate science at Environmental Research 2021, a free-to-attend virtual conference on 15–19 November hosted by IOP Publishing.

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