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Predicting global climate change and severe weather

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Curtin University meteorologists have developed sophisticated modelling techniques able to aid the prediction of extreme weather events as a result of natural and human-induced climate change on the Earth.

The research by Curtin geofluid flow experts, Professor Lance Leslie and Associate Professor Diandong Ren, of the Australian Sustainability Development Institute, focuses on climate change and its impact through interpretation of observations and output from sophisticated climate and weather models.

Professor Leslie said the research would help to better predict severe weather around the world, including droughts, sea level changes, ice sheet and glacier melting, tsunamis and landslides.

“Depending on the research area, improved predictions reside in the level of sophistication of the models, the applications of the models to mudslides, ice sheet and glacier melting, the use of advanced computational intelligence, as well as pattern recognition approaches to understanding the impacts of climate change,” Professor Leslie said.

“For example, from our research we can predict landslide and mudslide probabilities by establishing rainstorm threshold totals for any area on the globe.

“This means that if we can predict at least several days in advance how much rain there will be and if the rainfall exceeds the threshold, it will help governments and communities to be better prepared in the event of an evacuation for minimisation of casualties and damage.”

Professor Leslie said his research was also aimed at providing more accurate estimates of how fast and to what extent the Greenland ice sheet and glaciers would shrink and therefore the impact upon the rest of the world.

“Sea level rises can seriously affect low-lying, often heavily populated coastal areas which we can estimate more accurately from the predicted melting of the Greenland ice sheet in the expected future warming climate,” he said.

“Our estimates into glacier shrinkage will provide information about whether or not the fresh water supply to one third of the world’s population, from the mid-latitude glaciers in the Indo-China mountain regions, will remain at sustainable levels.”

He said the research aimed to assist global communities to better clarify and assess the impacts of climate change and to help predict future events through analysing the relationship between climate and severe weather.

Professor Leslie has a long history of consultative work with community, government and industry groups around the world. His techniques and results, developed over decades of teaching and research, have been adopted and adapted by numerous research groups, including the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Professor Leslie and Associate Professor Ren’s work is funded by Curtin’s Australian Sustainability Development Institute, US National Science Foundation, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and Naval Research Laboratory.

Their joint research has also featured in a number of international earth-science journals with further published work soon to feature in the Journal of Climate.


Professor Lance Leslie, Australian Sustainability Development Institute, Curtin University
Tel: (405) 317-2700 (Intl), Email:  

Andrea Barnard, Public Relations, Curtin University
Mobile: 0401 103 755, Email:

Kelly Pilgrim-Byrne, Executive Officer, Australian Sustainability Development Institute, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 1792, Email:  


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