Natural hazards expert joins School of Geosciences

22 August 2013

With a research career studying natural hazards such as tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tropical cyclones, heatwaves, bushfires, coastal floods and storms, Associate Professor Dale Dominey-Howes is in demand as an expert from governments, policy makers, risk assessors, corporations and media.

Associate Professor Dale Dominey-Howes has now joined the School of Geosciences in the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney, bringing with him a team of staff and students to conduct his wide ranging research.

Most widely known internationally for his work on tsunamis, Associate Professor Dominey-Howes worked as an expert witness in the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council Working Group to explore the hazard, risk and threat of tsunamis following the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami disaster in 2004.

Following this tsunami, the federal government instructed Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology to jointly establish the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre and system - a 24/7 live detection, monitoring and early warning system providing forewarning of tsunami threats to Australia's coastlines. Associate Professor Dominey-Howes was commissioned to provide technical expertise and help with various elements of building and deploying the system.

"For the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre and system I helped in a number of ways, including assisting in the decision of where to locate deep ocean detector buoys around the continent to maximise early warning, and helping to establish benchmark timings for issuing early warning messages to the public," said Associate Professor Dominey-Howes.

"I'm not currently engaged directly with the system as it is now fully operational. However, a senior Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dr Filippo Dall'Osso, and I are coordinating a NSW State level disaster project in partnership with various local and state government departments that continues to explore the risk to the coast of NSW from tsunamis and how we might manage and reduce that risk."

Associate Professor Dominey's Howes team's research also extends to all natural hazards, with his recent work having a strong focus on extreme climate and weather events - perhaps indicative of the types of events we will experience in a world of climate change.

"The natural hazards work I've done and the team is doing now is in countries as widespread as Australia to Iceland, Bangladesh to Tonga, Thailand to New Zealand and the United States to the Philippines."

"Certain natural hazards, like bushfires, floods and storms, may be expected to become more frequent or more intense in the future. Without study and intervention they will result in increased future disaster losses. As disaster researchers we have much to do," said Associate Professor Dominey-Howes.

"While we have a range of ongoing research projects, joining the University of Sydney has opened up a whole new set of opportunities, both with new colleagues in the School of Geosciences and also with staff and experts right across the university.

"In the most recent Australian Research Council Excellence in Research Assessments and World University rankings, the School of Geosciences achieved noteworthy success. Its current crop of experienced and young capable researchers make the School an exciting place to be."

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