“Quo Vadis Nubibus?” Prof Bjorn Stevens (Physics Colloquia Series)

Date: 
15 Feb 2019 - 3:30pm
Venue: 
Martin Wood Complex, Department of Physics, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PU
Audience: 
General public (Age 14+)

“Quo Vadis Nubibus?”

Prof Bjorn Stevens
(Max Plank Institute for Meteorology)

Clouds are funny things: ephemeral dispersions to which we attach great meaning and provide a wealth of interpretation. In climate science we are often forced to confront the question as to why clouds form, how they affect the climate system, and whether these effects can be constrained by some greater principle. Such questions are at the heart of many of climate science's great unknowns, but also addressed to a sense of wonder that comes from looking to the sky. In entertaining these questions, I will explain why clouds on Earth are not special, but perhaps peculiar, how they interact with Earth’s climate system in unexpected ways, and strategies that are being developed — at great expense — to read reason from their randomness.

About the speaker: Bjorn Stevens is a director at the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology where he leads the Atmosphere in the Earth System Department and is a professor at the University of Hamburg. Prior to moving to Hamburg he was a full professor of Dynamic Meteorology at the University of California of Los Angeles. His research blends modelling, theory and field work to help articulate the role of aerosols, clouds and atmospheric convection in the climate system. He has made pioneering contributions to both understanding and modelling of mixing and microphysical processes and their impact on the structure and organization of clouds. Likewise his contribution to an understanding of how clouds respond to warming, and how radiative forcing responds to aerosol perturbations, has proven fundamental to our present comprehension of the susceptibility of Earth's climate to perturbations. In lay terms, his research has helped understand, and seeks to further understand, how clouds have changed, and will change, due to the presence of humans.

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