Tag archives: weather modelling
By Tushna Commissariat
In case you have ever wondered why so many theoretical physicists study climate change, physicist Tim Palmer from the University of Oxford in the UK has a simple answer: “because climate change is a problem in theoretical physics”. Indeed, Palmer, who won the Institute of Physics’ 2014 Dirac medal, studies the predictability and dynamics of weather and climate, in the hopes of developing accurate predictions of long-term climate change. The answer, according to Palmer, lies at the intersection between chaos theory and inexact computing – which requires us to stop thinking of computers as deterministic calculating machines and to instead “embrace inexactness” in computing. Palmer talked about all this and more in the latest public lecture from the Perimeter Institute in Canada – you can watch his full talk above.
When someone says the word “physicist”, what image or persona comes to mind? That is the question the Institute of Physics (which publishes Physics World) was hoping to answer with its recent member survey based on diversity, titled “What Does a Physicist Look Like?” The Institute’s main aim with this diversity survey, which about 13% of its members responded to, was “to understand the profile of our members and gain some insights into who they are – diverse people with different ages, ethnicities, beliefs and much more”. You can read its entire results here.
By Hamish Johnston
How much energy could be generated worldwide using wind turbines? That’s the sort of back-of-the-envelope calculation that physicists love.
Estimates by scientists had put the generation rate at somewhere between 56 and 400 TW. To put that into perspective, a typical nuclear or fossil-fuel power plant churns out about 1 GW.
However, these calculations don’t tend to consider the impact of huge wind farms on the wind itself. Now, David Keith of Harvard University and Amanda Adams of the University of North Carolina have used a “mesoscale” weather model to do just that.
Their conclusion is that previous estimates of global wind capacity could be as much as 10 times too high.