Oral history of British science

Woodworth, Philip (Part 8 of 9) An Oral History of British Science

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  • Recording locations

    British Library studio, London and Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, Liverpool

  • Interviewees

    Woodworth, Philip 1949- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: [2:07:27] [Session four: 4th December 2012] Comments on meaning of ‘mean sea level’. Description of methods for calculation of SL from TG measurements, involving subtraction of tide signals using mathematical ‘filters’. Further comments of different understandings of what ‘mean sea level’ means. Comments on use in UK of ODN; differences between TG and satellite altimeter measurements of mean SL; significance of mean SL in studies of response of SL to CC. Positive comments on role of SA in generation of tide and SL data. Comments on use of ‘tide models’ to subtract tide signal from SA data. Mentions DC. [6:29] Detailed comments on methods of interpreting past/historical measurements of tides, with particular reference to own study of eighteenth century measurements at Liverpool docks [LD] of William Hutchinson [WH]. [13:35] Comments on approach to ‘data archaeology’ in CC research. Mentions sites [other than LD] of historical measurements of tides; relative reliability of historical measurements of tides compared to historical measurements of temperature, including those used by Climatic Research Unit [CRU], Norwich, UK. Mentions wish to produce catalogue of UK archives/libraries containing tidal data. Comments on own discovery of volumes of WH’s tidal measurements in Liverpool Library [LL]. Description of process of copying and examining WH’s data. Comments on content of WH’s data, with related story. [21:23] Further comments on discovery of WH’s data. Comments on possible missing first volume of WH’s measurements; own impression of character/status of WH, with related stories. [27:31] Description of fieldwork involved in interpretation of WH’s measurements, including surveying of significant benchmarks in and around LD. [30:13] Comments on use of GPS [Global Positioning System] and computer models to determine change in relative level of land surface; geological/archaeological evidence for historical positions of land in relation to sea. [34:18] Description of use of absolute gravity meter [AGM] to determine distance of land surface at any point from centre of Earth. Comments on current [2012] disuse of two National Oceanography Centre [NOC] [note that POL merged with National Oceanography Centre, Southampton in 2010 to form the National Oceanography Centre] AGMs, due to reductions in funding; future effect of resulting gap in AGM measurements. [39:05] Comments on effect of current spending cuts on SL research of NOC; cost of fuel for research ships of NOC and BAS; UK expertise in SL research; importance of SL research in relation to coastal defence. [42:34] Comments on importance of relations with ‘the public’ in attempts to demonstrate the value of SL research in relation to CC, including story of recent Planet Under Pressure conference; exaggerated predictions of/contemplations of SL rise in internet documents; own perception of unrealistically high public expectations of scientific predictions concerning CC. [46:43] Comments on funding for own SL work since early 1980s: mostly NERC but also European Union [EU] and MAFF/DEFRA/Environment Agency. Comments on recent change in funding arrangements, away from ‘core’ grants distributed to scientists by Directors of research laboratories, to individual scientists/groups of scientists applying for funding; effect of these changes in narrowing differences between funding of scientific work in universities and research laboratories. [51:40] Track 8 [cont. from 51:40] Comments on funding of PSMSL. [53:14] Comments on value of WH’s SL measurements for estimating of effects of CC on SL, including comments on rarity of eighteenth century SL data; significance of WH’s measurements in development tin nineteenth century of non-harmonic method of tidal prediction. [55:39] Brief comments on significance of WH’s measurements in informing own contributions to IPPC assessments in context of comments on use of palaeoclimatic data. [57:29] Comments on own relations with scientists involved in predicting SL change using computer based General Circulation Models [GCMs] (mentions Jonathon Gregory [JG] Jason Lowe [JL], University of Reading); relatively low status of SL prediction in work of Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research [HC], UK Meteorological Office [MO]. Mentions GCMs of scientists working in other countries. Brief comments on quality of HC GCM. [1:01:04] Comments on ‘semi-empirical’/ ‘simple’ models [SEMs] of SL change; differences in magnitude of SL rise predictions generated by GCMs and SEMs; current [2012] work of IPCC assessment in reconciling these differences; different causes of SL change through time; newspaper reporting of scientific predictions of SL rise. [1:05:55] Description of current [2012] work as Review Editor for IPCC assessment; range of comments on draft chapters, including those submitted by long-standing critics of IPCC/CC science. Detailed comments on particular CC sceptic who denies SL rise. [1:11:49] Detailed comments on perceived problem with process of peer-review. [1:15:08] Further comments received by Review Editors in IPCC assessment drafting process. [1:17:04] Description of practice of collaboration between self and JG/JL, linking SL data to GCMs, including work for ‘UK Climate Projections’ (2009) and ‘Thames Estuary 2100’project. [1:24:33] Mentions approach to giving of public talks on SL variability. Comments on scepticism concerning CC predictions. [1:27:19] Story of involvement in response to article in newspaper ‘The Australian’ reporting on academic papers on SL variability. [1:32:52] Comments on lack of Freedom of Information requests affecting self/SL work at POL/NOC; free availability of NOC SL data on internet. [1:35:17] Story of decision to launch TP satellite in spite of concerns about its batteries. [1:37:34] Further comments on contribution of ES to PSMSL, including extent of ES’s interest in content/meaning of SL data. Mentions ES’s husband, Bob Spencer, including his role in construction of bottom-pressure sensors for recording of tides, in work led by DC. [1:41:12] Story of origin/early history of PSMSL, including role of Joseph Proudman, Jack Rossiter [JR]. Mentions JR’s appearance in [1960s] BBC films [on tides]; SL ‘jargon’ originated by JR. [1:46:18] Story of recent discovery of BBC films in former POL (now NOC) basement, including three BBC films. Brief description of content of films. Discussion of analogue model of North Sea made by former NIO scientist Shizuo Ishiguro. Brief comments on physical models used in oceanography before digital computing. [1:49:58] Further comments on work of/working relations with ES. Mentions ES’s work for nature conservation in Cheshire. Comments on tendency for junior co-workers in science not to be recognised/rewarded, with related story. [1:55:16]

  • Description

    Interview with oceanographer Philip Woodworth

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    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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