The Banksia Environmental Foundation has named Professor Matthew England the 2008 Mercedes-Benz Australian Research Award winner.

He was presented with the $30,000 award on Friday 18 July at the Banksia Awards ceremony held at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Co-director of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC), Professor England was recognised for research revealing the link between variations in sea surface temperature and drought cycles for Australia and other Indian and Pacific Ocean rim nations.

Led by Professors Matthew England and Andy Pitman, the CCRC researches the physics of climate variability and climate change, and the ways oceans and terrestrial systems affect climate and rainfall patterns. Understanding the changes in the oceans and the impact they have on rainfall is core to the centre's research agenda.

Professor England's recent projects include measuring rainfall extremes over southwest Western Australia linked to climate variability in the Indian Ocean, and separating natural fluctuations from long-term change in the Southern Ocean.

He points to warming sea temperatures as an unambiguous consequence of climate change. Increasing greenhouse gas emissions means that a greater fraction of outgoing longwave radiation is trapped by the atmosphere, causing ocean warming, melting ice-caps and rising seas.

The CCRC's study of sea temperature variations is yielding significant benefits, according to Professor England. "In the south-west of Western Australia seasonal rain predictions have improved due to our research linking local rainfall variations to changes in heat circulating in the Indian Ocean. Farmers have taken advantage of the projections, resulting in better cropping outcomes worth hundreds of millions of dollars."

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