World experts converge in Wellington for the Extreme Weather Conference


Over the past decade, predicting the weather, and understanding the changes in climate, has emerged as one of the most important and topical areas of scientific endeavour.

An international community of over 200 scientists will converge on Te Papa in Wellington this week for the Extreme Weather Conference, from 9 –11 February. The scientists will share information, and work to better understand extreme weather events such as recent damaging storms in New Zealand, and Cyclone Yasi, which hit northern Queensland last week with destructive winds reaching 290 kilometres per hour.

Cyclone Yasi demonstrated the importance of forecasting, and how, when combined with good preparation, this can dramatically reduce the impact of a cyclone.

Tropical cyclones occur almost twice as often in La Niña years as they do in El Niño years in eastern Australia. Scott Power, an Australian scientist who is a plenary speaker at the conference is using a new database with one of the world’s longest reliable records of tropical cyclone activity dating back to the late 19th century to analyse patterns of cyclone activity. Land-falls of cyclones have occurred almost twice as often in La Niña years as in El Niño years, and multiple land-falls have only occurred during La Niña years.

Power’s research paper is just one of 120 papers to be presented at the conference. The recent cyclones and floods in Australia, and storms in New Zealand, have emphasised the importance of the science being developed and presented at this conference. The topics cover many aspects of meteorological and oceanographic research in the Australasian region. NIWA’s Chief Scientist, Climate, Dr David Wratt will be speaking on recent developments in climate science.

Extreme weather resulting in emergency situations can be expected to become more frequent as a result of expanding settlements, combined with higher temperatures and climate change.

NIWA’s Dr Mike Revell, who chairs the conference organising committee, says, “The conference offers us the opportunity to share findings on recent research with the Australians, and to learn more about climate, oceanography, and extreme weather in Australasia.”

The cost of climate change

One of the key issues that will be discussed at the conference is the influence of climate change on the cost of weather-related disasters. 

Neville Nicholls, from Monash University, Australia, will look at a time-series of the economic costs of weather-related disasters: bushfires, floods, tropical cyclones, which typically exhibit a strong increase over, for instance, the 20th century.  Nicholls will explore the lessons that have been learnt from the devastating Queensland floods. Those floods give a clear indication of the need for improved planning for our settlements and infrastructure.

NIWA natural hazards scientist Dr Stefan Reese, who recently took part in the damage assessment of the floods in Brisbane, will chair a session on the impacts of extreme weather events on buildings and geographic areas. That session will also look at guidance on where people should build to avoid impacts from these events.

Conference presentations will cover six key areas:
* extreme weather in the Australasian region – from floods to droughts

* impact and meteorology of the main climate drivers (ENSO e.g. El Niño and La Niña,)

* using high-resolution models to understand local meteorology

* oceanography of the Australasian region

* climate change in the Australasian region

* impacts of natural catastrophes in the Australasian region.

Award winner acknowledgedAt the conference, NIWA’s Dr Andrew (Drew) Lorrey will be presented with the 2010 Kidson Medal by the Meteorological Society of New Zealand for his scientific paper “Regional climate regime classification as a qualitative tool for interpreting multi-proxy paleoclimate data spatial patterns: a New Zealand perspective”

This is a joint conference being held by the Meteorological Society of New Zealand and the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.


Start: Wednesday 09  February 2011 8:00 AM
Finish: Friday 11  February  2011 5:00 PM

Where : Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Cable Street, Wellington, New Zealand

To download the programme visit:

Impacts of extreme weather: A land slip in Aro valley


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