World Federation of Science Journalists

Amundsen - Catherine Brahic

Catherine Brahic
New Scientist Online Environment Reporter
United Kingdom'

New Scientist Blog on Environment
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Amundsen Posts
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Why should I win the trip?

I cannot guarantee you coverage - no honest journalist could, in return for a paid-for trip. But I can guarantee that what I do write will be discerning, engaging, accurate and widely read. I have 5 years of experience writing about the environment and the climate for some of the world's most respected science magazines. On-board the Amundsen, I would hope to write for New Scientist online, magazine and produce video footage as well.

Why would I like to participate in the expedition? Aside from the opportunity of visiting the region of the planet which is feeling global warming most, because I believe such trips are key to keeping the coverage of climate science fresh and engaging for the general public.

Over the past two years climate change has come to the fore of science journalism. The general message - that the vast majority of scientists agree our climate is changing due to human activities - has become commonplace. Unfortunately, it no longer makes a strong headline. In order to continue captivating the attention and minds of readers, climate journalists have two options: to hit readers with increasingly dramatic "doom and gloom" stories, packed with statistics on the extent of change and probabilistic futures, or to seek out the details and stories that captivate the public's imagination.

The first option carries the risk of sensationalising and inevitably, the public will become insensitive to the topic. To some degree this is already happening. Climate research, on the other hand, is a mine of inspiring stories. In my view, uncovering these stories is a much more desirable and long-term way of keeping climate reporting "fresh".

Reporting on research, especially from the field, requires skill, a discerning attention to detail and a solid understanding of the science that precedes the research at hand, for the simple reason that it has not been peer-reviewed.

My attention to detail and understanding of climate science comes from having a research background, from having worked for the UK Natural Environment Research Council, and from 5 years of reporting on environmental science for Science, New Scientist and SciDev.Net.

I am also extremely aware of the controversies surrounding climate science, and know how to distinguish between good science and misunderstood science. In April 2007, I helped put together New Scientist's special issue on Climate Myths. We assembled the 26 most common myths about climate change, many of which are often quoted by "climate skeptics", and looked at the science behind them. Often, the science was not behind them.

The Climate Myths special ( was run jointly in New Scientist magazine and on its website and was a huge success: over 600,000 people have read them online. The special has also been referenced on numerous blogs and websites, including

In October 2007, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth was found by a UK judge to contain 9 scientific inaccuracies. I reviewed the alleged errors on our environment blog (
). Again, the item was widely viewed. It also triggered a lively debate on our site. Both these pieces were rich with scientific detail - in my view, the best way of dealing with controversy. Their success demonstrates that there is an audience for reporting on the intricacies of climate science, not just the gloomy bigger picture.

Finally, I would like to be part of this trip because a similar (yet also very different) trip I made in 2006 to find out about climate experiments in the African Sahel was an eye-opener for me. It allowed me to truly understand the problems with predicting one of the world's biggest weather events - the West African monsoon. I have since maintained a keen interest in following progress in the region and have on numerous occasions used the research contacts I made there. I would hope to make similar contacts on the Amundsen.

The following is a sample of recent articles I have written about the Arctic for New Scientist.

Arctic ice shrinks to record low, 2 October 2007
The warm summer produced the lowest ice coverage since satellite measurements began - global warming is thought largely responsible

How the Arctic Ocean was born, 21 June 2007
The widening of the entrance straits to a large lake, some 20 million years ago, was the first stage in the formation of a new ocean, Swedish sediments reveal

What's behind the big polar melt-down? 23 March 2007
Ice in Antarctica and Greenland holds enough water to raise sea levels by 70 metres, so understanding how it is being lost is a matter of urgency

Saltier North Atlantic should give currents a boost, 23 August 2007
A salinity increase in the ocean's surface waters might aid the stability of important ocean currents threatened by climate change

Early springs show Siberia is warming fast, 1 August 2007
Earlier snow melts in the region, probably linked to global warming, are in turn triggering more forest fires, say researchers

Polar bears deserting unstable ice to give birth, 13 July 2007
Diminishing sea ice caused by global warming is driving mother polar bears onto land to give birth, research in northern Alaska finds

Oldest frozen DNA reveals a greener Greenland, 5 July 2007
DNA samples from deep under the ice reveal the island was forested half a million years ago and suggests the ice sheet is more stable than thought

Arctic spring arriving weeks earlier, 19 June 2007
Flowers bloom sooner and insects emerge earlier than a decade ago, with consequences for the ecosystem and species' survival in the far north

Canada boosts military presence in the Arctic - Blog

Who on Earth owns the North Pole? - Blog