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TESS Seminar - Expansion of the Tropics: Revisiting Frontiers of Geographical Knowledge

When Apr 05, 2017
from 04:00 PM to 05:00 PM
Where D3.054 Cairns Institute, 145.030 Townsville ATSIP
Contact Name
Contact Phone 07 4232 1427
Attendees All welcome
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Prof. Stephen Turton 
Central Queensland University 

AbstractProf Steve Turton

The tropics are expanding poleward at an alarming rate—with massive implications for societies, economies, and natural environments. This expansion appears to be determined largely by anthropogenic drivers—notably rises in greenhouse gases. Of greatest concern is the poleward shift of the dry sub-tropical zone into highly populated regions that have generally enjoyed a more temperate climate. While the effects of latitudinal shifts of climate zones will be most severe in temperate regions outside the tropics, there will also be significant changes in climate within the tropics—notably unprecedented thermal conditions for hundreds of millions of people, along with projections for more extreme weather events. Australia’ s geographical location makes it particularly vulnerable to an expanding tropics. As the tropics expand poleward, more of southern Australia will be influenced by the dry sub-tropical zone and associated reductions in winter rainfall. These drying trends are projected to continue over most southern parts of Australia this century, accompanied by rising temperatures and more hot days. Future rainfall trends for northern Australia remain uncertain, but there is an expected significant increase in the number of hot days, together with more extreme weather events. Future climate change in northern Australia has been ignored by the White Paper for the Development of Northern Australia (2015), bringing into serious question the feasibility and affordability of many of the development policies, plans, and projects promulgated in the White Paper. Even without climate change, the north faces many significant environmental and economic challenges for its future development.


Steve is now retired and works as a casual environmental consultant. He is also an Adjunct Professor in Environmental Geography at CQUniversity in Cairns. Steve has recently been appointed as a Director of Terrain Natural Resource Management Limited. From 2005-2016, he engaged in a number of senior roles as both Director and Professor at James Cook University in Cairns. From 2003-2005, he was an Associate Professor in Geography and Director of Research for the Rainforest Cooperative Research Centre. Steve is a former Councillor of the Institute of Australian Geographers (2004-2007 and 2011-2012) and former member of the Wet Tropics Management Authority’s Scientific Advisory Committee (2004-2011). He was also Honorary Treasurer of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), Asia-Pacific Chapter (2010-15). In 2009, he was appointed to the ATBC Council for a 2-year term. In 2010 he was a member of the Engineering & Environmental Sciences Panel for the Australian Government’s Excellence in Research Australia initiative. Steve is a Past President of the Australian Council of Environmental Deans and Directors, Past-President of the Institute of Australian Geographers and Chair of the National Committee for Geographical Sciences, Australian Academy of Science. Steve was also an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, Working Group 2 (Impacts and Adaptation). Steve is a Distinguished Fellow of the Institute of Australian Geographers, recognised for his distinguished service to Australian geography.  Steve is the 2017 recipient of the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland’s J.P. Thomson Medal, recognised for his outstanding contributions to Australian geography over an extended period of time.  

Centre for Tropical Environmental & Sustainability Sciences

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