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Chris Wendt

BSc (Environmental) (Honours) 2001

Research Focus

My general areas of interest include research in land/atmosphere interactions, boundary layer climatology, micrometeorology, climate modelling and global change. Currently I am particularly interested in vegetation climate interactions, especially in how changes to the underlying land surface can affect climate across various scales. I also have a vested interested in climate/computer modelling and developing skills that will allow me to be able to have a hands on approach from when data is acquired in the field right to when it is output from different climate models.

Current Research

I am currently undertaking field work for my PhD in the Northern Territory as part of the Savanna Fire Experiment (SaFE- ). Fire is probably the greatest natural and anthropogenic environmental disturbance in Australian tropical savannas particularly by pastoralists, Aboriginal landholders and conservation managers. Large tracts of savanna are burnt annually (~250,000 km 2 ) and this area is likely to increase under predicted climate change. These landscape scale fires are likely to have massive impacts on the regional water, energy and carbon dioxide exchanges and as a result may have important feedbacks to the atmosphere and regional to global climate.

This current research uses a combination of techniques to examine the impacts of savanna burning on surface energy fluxes, carbon dioxide, heat and moisture budgets and the subsequent effects on boundary layer development around the Darwin region. Eddy flux measurements are currently being taken using climate towers positioned in burn and unburnt savanna plots. This will be combined with boundary layer data collected using radio-sonde teathered balloon flights over large areas of contrasting land surfaces, to produce a comprehensive burnt and unburnt data set. This data will then be used to drive mesoscale climate models, which will be used to further examine the effect of fires over landscape scales on local to regional scale meteorology. The main focus of this research is to investigate whether these large changes in heating caused by the physical changes to the underlying ground surface after fire, will produce local circulations and possibly enhance convective activity. The seasonal timing, location and subsequent intensity of these fires on larger landscape scales may influence the effectiveness of the monsoon and impact directly on Northern Territory businesses and local residence.

Past Research

I was fortunate enough to be involved in the Artic Transitions In The Land Atmosphere System (ATLAS- ) Project conducted by the Institute of Artic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, during my Honours in 2000. The research involved the investigation of high latitude boreal forests, which are of particular importance in determining local, regional and global climate through their role in energy and moisture exchange with the atmosphere. Future changes in vegetation type and distribution in areas such as the Arctic have the potential to substantially alter water and energy exchanges in these regions, which would in turn have major implications for climate change.

Using a combination of sapflow measurements, together with meteorological and energy flux data, we were able to investigate the relative contribution of boreal white spruce forest transpiration to the total water vapour flux above the forest canopy, and to investigate the factors controlling this, on both diurnal and seasonal scales. This research was aimed at furthering knowledge of vegetation/climate interactions in the Arctic and investigating the partitioning of energy and evapotranspiration within Arctic boreal white spruce forest.


Tutoring: GES2190/ATM2211 Climates of the earth's boundary layer (2002)

Contact Details

Room No: S319 Menzies Building
Telephone : +61-3-99052953