From living at the base of the Victorian Alps to beside the waters of the southeast peninsula, Sonya Fiddes regularly swapped between skis and sails. Both activities are weather dependent and Sonya guesses, perhaps unconsciously, these experiences inspired her to take advanced studies in weather at the University of Melbourne.

Sonya’s academic pursuits, in atmospheric science, focus on wintertime precipitation — that’s rain and snow fall — in Victoria. Researchers from the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research (CAWCR) within the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) were after a scientist to investigate and evaluate the effect of rainfall patterns on Victorian water catchments; APR.Intern facilitated the introduction.

“If you have a smartphone, you probably have a weather app. The forecasts or chance of rain estimates on these apps (and the ones on the news) are generally calculated using models that give you an answer for a 5km by 5km land grid a couple of days ahead. My research provides the opportunity to get the same resolution for climate change projections on century time-scales!

“We can describe rainfall events with a resolution of 5km. So we can see what is going on, weather wise, over a suburb as opposed to over an electorate. This is really important when it comes to the complex terrain surrounding typical catchments in the mountains of Victoria,” Sonya says.

You don’t need to be a scientist to know this will make projections more accurate.

“Sonya’s work is vital for water management plans in Melbourne and Victoria,” says Bertrand Timbal, CAWCR. “And for gaining a greater understanding of how future climate change may affect water availability.”

The results of this research were included in the Victorian Climate Initiative annual report published as a CAWCR technical report in November — Sonya also hopes to publish the findings in a peer-reviewed journal article.
“The internship offers an opportunity to develop as a researcher and to meet and be exposed to a whole range of researchers, their studies, ideas and practices,” concludes Sonya.

— ends —

Intern: Sonya Fiddes, University of Melbourne
Industry Partner: Dr Bertrand Timbal, Principal Research Scientist, Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology
Academic Mentor: Prof. David Karoly, University of Melbourne