UKESM at the NERC Into the Blue Exhibition: 25 – 29 Oct 2016, Manchester

Alberto Muñoz, National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS).

A total of 5250 attendees across 5 days had the opportunity to visit our UKESM stand in the ‘NERC Into The Blue Exhibition’ at the Runway Visitor Park in Manchester last October. Around 40 exhibitors including scientists and volunteers from all NERC Institutes, plus some UK Research Centres and Universities, showcased and engaged with adults and children on numerous aspects of environmental and natural sciences; from marine DNA and biodiversity to climate change and atmospheric research. The quality of all of the exhibits and enthusiasm of people running them was humbling as was the professionalism and ever-helpful attitude of the organization team. Members of the NCAS central office in Leeds were particularly helpful to us in providing IT equipment and support during the event.

What’s happening to our climate? – Modelling the future‘ was the title of our UKESM stand. The public, lots of children among them, interacted avidly with our projecting globe, games and quizzes. The PufferSphere globe borrowed for this particular event from the University of Reading (special thanks to Andy Heaps at the Meteorology Dept) was a really engaging and educational attraction. Visitors could see and learn from a series of short movies projected inside the globe showing different aspects of the Earth system, including how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere moves across the planet, oceans currents distribute heat and nutrients along oceans, ice on land and sea-level changes occur, and the future temperature rise that our models can predict. Every visitor had the opportunity to interact with the globe, learn and ask any question to the UKESM team members present there.

In addition, our stand had learning materials and information displayed in the form of three posters about (1) What is an ESM and its components, (2) How to model the climate, and (3) What do climate models tell us about the future; together with leaflets for the UKESM and the CRESCENDO projects, and climate change quizzes for all audiences. The children’s favourite though was our games. We had a simple and educative online ‘Drag and drop puzzle game on ESM components’ (you can play the game online here) in a flat screen connected to a laptop, which was extremely popular among children ranged 7-12 years old. We also developed for this event a game named Climate spinner, to help explain uncertainty and the likelihood to increase global mean temperature from present day and its relationship to the different scenarios (socioeconomic pathways). After having a good number of visitors to our stand “spinning the climate” we could build up a chart representing the overall distribution for the temperature change in degree Celsius (numbers) and the pathways the Earth will follow to end up with the numbers. The actual plots from AR5 were used to work out the distribution and visitors were able to see the results showing how that to achieve 0 or 1 degrees (“safe levels”), then we need aggressive emission reductions. However, if we don’t control emissions at all (red dots), then it is impossible to get 2 deg or lower (likely to be 4 to 5 C warming).

Photos from Into the blue exhibition

Overall, our participation was considered a success by all team members who enthusiastically came along to Manchester to participate in this event. It was very rewarding and exciting to have this great opportunity to educate the public on our research field, although it sometimes could be quite surprising to discover how little people knew about climate change and Earth system modelling and how misinformed some people were! We plan to continue participating in science exhibitions and outreach activities over the project’s lifetime. Our next challenge has already been confirmed: The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, 3-9 July 2017, in London.

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