by Charuni Pathmeswaran
(An edited extract from her blog, ClimateChai)

The Annual CLEX Winter School was held at the University of Melbourne from June 24 – 28 and I got to be a part of it.

Prior to travelling I had been warned of Melbourne’s fickle weather and was told to carry a rain jacket with me. I generally dislike rainy and gloomy weather, so I don’t have to tell you how pleased I was to find the sun shining every day 😊.

On Day 1, we all went to McCoy Building, to start our week of lectures and lab work. The day opened with a lecture on climate modelling. It was then followed by an introduction to the Young Earth Systems Scientists (YESS) Community, which is an international and multidisciplinary network of early career researchers in earth system sciences.

Clex Winter School swag.

For lab work, we were divided into groups and each group was given a task to work on. Our group had to melt Greenland and Antarctica and determine what impact that would have on the climate. After what seemed like a long day (for most of us, this was the first time we had three hours of lectures followed by three hours of lab work, since our undergrad years!), we all moved the university bar for drinks, pizza and pool.

During the course of the week we heard from different academics and researchers on the fundamentals, model evaluation, Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator (ACCESS) weather models, Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP), computing for climate modelling and data assimilation. It was interesting to hear about CMIP6 as the analyses done using these models will provide the premise for climate model information in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC’s) sixth assessment report (AR6), which is expected to be published in 2021. There’s a good write up about it here and another about CMIP6 and the issue with ‘equilibrium climate sensitivity’ (ECS) here.

On day 4 we heard from all the groups about their projects and got to see a range of interesting plots. Trivia night was starting at 6.30pm that evening, so we had a little over an hour to explore the city. My friend and I immediately jumped into a tram that took us to Federation Square and we walked on Princess Bridge over the River Yarra where we were able to see beautiful marshmallow sky at dusk. We then walked to the State Library of Victoria (a must-see for anyone who travels to Melbourne, in my opinion). It’s the oldest (established in 1854) public library in Australia and one of the first free public libraries in the world. We then walked back just in time for Trivia night.

Our team didn’t do too well in the general science, food and beverages, and geography rounds but thanks to a few avid fans of Friends and The Big Bang Theory among us, we did okay in culture. We were also asked to come up with songs whose titles or choruses had any words related to ‘weather’. I was quite proud of the 26 songs we’d listed down but soon felt disappointed when they announced that the winning team had 76 songs!

The State Library of Victoria
Dusk over the Yarra
Royal Park in the morning, before lectures

On the last day, we had a communication workshop, which I absolutely loved.

Attending the winter school was really useful for me because it provided a good introduction to climate modelling.  The hands-on lab work supplemented the lectures and helped me understand concepts of climate modelling better. It was also nice to have the computational modelling systems (CMS) team around, for additional support. Not having a background in numerical analysis did make it slightly challenging for me to understand certain concepts discussed during some of the lectures, but it was a good place for me to start thinking about fundamentals of modelling.

I have come back from this Winter School feeling motivated and I am looking forward to using the skills I gained and the connections I made with other PhDs and resource persons, to carry out more impactful research 😊