Professor Martin Manning

Victoria University of Wellington

Professor Martin Manning, has worked across several areas of science including: theoretical nuclear physics, the carbon cycle, atmospheric chemistry, and climate change science more broadly. From 2002 to 2007, Martin was Director of the Working Group I Technical Support Unit for the Fourth Assessment Report on Climate Change by the IPCC that won the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. He has been author of more than seventy peer reviewed publications, two this year, and more than twenty chapters in books on climate change, four of which were major IPCC reports to governments. As the inaugural Director of Victoria University of Wellington’s Climate Change Research Institute, he led the first interdisciplinary study of New Zealand’s capacity to adapt to climate change. His current work includes: analysis of 30 years of 14CO data to determine changes in atmospheric oxidation rates, and being on an experts panel, led by Jim Bolger, ONZ, to establish a community-led coastal adaptation plan for Kapiti.

Hydrology, or living with water in Times They are A-Changin’

Thursday 2 Dec | 8:30 am

Talking of climate change in degrees celsius is the devil’s way to make it sound simple. And as the impacts of change emerge more clearly, its hydrological aspects are becoming dominant. Extremes in rainfall are now going beyond what is seen in climate models and show that a Clausius-Clapeyron link between temperature and water vapour is not the full story. Recognising atmospheric rivers, and new challenges for predicting them, are part of a steep learning curve.

Vulnerability to drought is well recognised, but the extent of fires across Australia, Siberia and North America, etc is now breaking records every year and raising concerns for sustainability at a biome level. The fact that some major decreases in groundwater were first identified from satellite gravitational data also shows large gaps in the way that we are tracking changes, and so our ability to anticipate.

Then there is sea level rise. This year’s IPCC Working Group I report has a reasonable match between observations and climate models together with projections out to 2150 and a first look at where the sea can be in 2300. This shows it’s not just about keeping warming below 2°C. It’s whether we can keep sea level rise below 3 m and avoid crossing thresholds that mean 7 m or more.

Hydrology sits in the middle of all this. There is more water coming down from above, more coming up from the beach, and growing disparities between where it actually is versus where it is needed. Urgency in dealing with these changes is becoming recognised. For example, Jim Bolger is leading a Takutai Kāpiti Community Assessment Panel that has to develop and recommend medium to long term coastal adaptation options to the council.

I’ve been pulled in to be part of this, so I have a list of questions for experts in hydrology, such as: What happens to groundwater levels and flood extent on coastal land when we get to a 1 m sea level rise? To what extent are hydrological models already covering 2 m or 3 m rises in sea level? Can restoring wetlands to what they were 150 years ago set up buffer zones to reduce salinisation of groundwater? And then there are the tricky ones like: how do we use science to get the timing right for carefully relocating a steadily increasing number of families and their homes?