Newsletter Digest: Aussie floods and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships

Aussie floods – the scientific angles

It has been a grim start to the year for Australia, with the state of Queensland facing the biggest natural disaster in its history in the form of devastating floods.

As flood waters recede and Queensland begins counts the toll in loss of life and damage to property and infrastructure, scientists are turning their attention to the cause of the flooding and the potential link between extreme weather events and climate change.

Our colleagues at the AusSMC were at the forefront of scientific discussion this week as they issued rolling releases containing scientific commentary on the disaster. On the cause of the flooding – scientists are in agreement:

“The Queensland floods are caused by what is one of the strongest (if not THE strongest) La Niña events since our records began in the late 19th century,” said Monash University’s Professor Neville Nichols.

Other scientists are pointing to urban planning decisions that exacerbated the impact of the flooding, such as the increasing area of concrete surfacing, resulting in large-scale water run-off.

“The recent flood events in Queensland are a clear indication of the need for improved planning to adapt future development for our settlements and infrastructure,” said Professor Ron Cox of the University of New South Wales.

“With expanding settlements, extreme weather resulting in emergency situations can be expected to become more frequent with higher temperatures and climate change.”

Full science-related coverage of the floods and what to expect in its aftermath is posted on the AusSMC website. Contact us if you need help tracking down an expert to comment.

Knight fellowship apps open now

The prestigious Knight Science Journalism Fellowships are now taking applications for the 2011-12 intake and they are worth a look for any journalists seriously interested in science journalism.

The Fellowships are open to full time journalists, worldwide, who are mid-grade or higher and engaged in science, technology, health or environment reporting, or plan to start covering one of those rounds.

Valued at US$65,000 plus tuition and benefits, a Knight fellowship is in the same league as gaining a Fulbright Scholarship and puts journalists in touch with some of the best journalists and mentors in the field.

Applications close on March 1: check the website for eligibility criteria. Also check out the Knight Science Media Tracker blog, an excellent source of commentary on media coverage of science-related issues.