PICTURES: National Climate Change Week

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AS politicians debate the true effects of our climate, the world around us changes. Throughout this week – National Climate Week – thousands of people across the UK will do their bit to highlight these changes and how they affect us.

In Sunderland, the city’s university is leading the way, organising a series of talks, events and exhibitions to highlight the ongoing campaigning.

Sunderland artist and photographer Chris Blade will discuss his expedition to the high Arctic, and the photography he has created over the years in some of the world’s most remote and unspoilt places.

Chris is head of commissioning at the National Glass Centre, and is giving the talk to celebrate a new exhibition of his work, Arctic Vignettes, which is at the venue from March 8 to April 27.

This talk, The A-Z of travel: from the Arctic to Zimbabwe, takes place at the University’s Murray Library Lecture Theatre on Chester Road, on Thursday March 13 from 7pm.

During the first half of the talk Chris will show photographs taken in many of the more remote countries he visited while working as a photographer for an adventure travel company.

The second half of his talk will focus on the residency programme he was invited participate in by New York-based charity The Arctic

Circle in October 2013.

“I travelled extensively as a travel photographer, usually by converted truck, camping or staying in simple accommodation en route,” says Chris. “I have travelled through the East of Africa including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa; in Central Asia through Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan; through much of China from the North to the South, also Tibet, Mongolia, Siberia, Russia – and most recently the Arctic.”

Arctic Vignettes was inspired by the artist’s residency in Svalbard, a mountainous Arctic archipelago, just 10 degrees from the North Pole.

The exhibition at National Glass Centre explores the artist’s response to the scale and remoteness of the landscape.

As well as the beautiful, and largely uninhabited, landscape of Antarctica, Chris will talk about some of his more hair-raising experiences as a photographer.

“I was in a truck charged by a bull elephant,” says Chris. “I was also travelling on a bus descending from the Tibetan plateau into Nepal when we were briefly held captive by rebels.

“We negotiated for about two hours and after paying a small bribe per person we were released – and given a receipt.”

AS part of the week’s events, A Wearside weather expert will discuss his long history of work in predicting the weather of the future.

Dr Dennis Wheeler, Emeritus Professor of Climatology, will give a free talk about how the University of Sunderland has taken a lead role in climatology research – and how ship’s logs dating back over 300 years may give us insight into our future weather.

Dr Wheeler will present the talk Jolly Jack Tars and Jet Streams: Our Climate Past, Present and Future, on Monday, March 10 from 7pm.

The talk, part of the University’s Discover series, is also free.

“We’ve been researching climate change at the University of Sunderland for over 20 years using ship’s logbooks,” explains Dr Wheeler. “We have reconstructed atmospheric circulations and weather patterns over the past 300 years.

“I’ll be looking at what is happening today, and has anything like this happened in the past.”

Dr Wheeler and his team have been using documentary sources for studying global climate change over the past three centuries. The research team has made extensive use of Royal Navy and other ship’s logbooks, including the logs of Lord Nelson, Captain Cook and Captain Blyth, which he will discuss and show examples of in his talk.

These historical resources relate to many current concerns about climate change and, especially, the highly topical question of the jet stream.

“We have some very strange weather at the moment, but what’s interesting is that some of the research we’ve done shows that there have been times in the past when the jetsteam has been as far south as it is now,” says Dr Wheeler.

“In the 1680s and 1690s the jet stream was as far south as it is today, but all that really does is demonstrate how incredibly complicated predicting weather is. Our climate in the 1690s and 1690s wasn’t as it is now, that period is known as The Little Ice Age.

“The jet stream is what’s known as a non-linear system – so the same input can have a very different output – which makes it very, very difficult to make any confident predictions about our climate 10 or 15 years in our future.”

But, despite the complexities of predicting our future climate, Dr Wheeler does believe that our climate is undergoing a drastic change – a change that we need to be ready for.

“We need to prepare for the sort of weather we’ve had this winter to come back on a more regular basis.

“You can’t put any one event down to climate change or global warming, but there are weather phenomenon going on now that have not happened in the recorded past, even in the long-term records of ice cores.

“We are living in very unusual times, and we have to be prepared for that fact. Our unpredictable climate has huge implications for government policy.

“If you talk to most scientists they will tell you we must expect more extreme weather.”

l Dr Wheeler’s talk, Jolly Jack Tars and Jet Streams: Our Climate Past, Present and Future, takes place on Monday, March 10, at 7pm, at the Murray Library Lecture Theatre on Chester Road.

Tickets are free but must be booked via the University’s online store: