What will happen to penguins? Researchers answer climate-related questions online

In a new service, anyone can ask anything about the climate and researchers will provide answers in accessible language.

As the climate gets warmer, what will happen to penguins? How much will environmental migration increase in the next 100 years? These are the kinds of questions which the recently introduced Kysyilmastosta.fi service (‘Ask about the climate’) answers.

“On the website, anyone can ask anything about the climate. It doesn’t have to involve climate change. The questions are answered by Finnish researchers representing various fields of science and by specialists from institutions of higher education, research institutes or, say, ministries,” explains Risto Makkonen, the project’s coordinator and a researcher at the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research INAR, University of Helsinki.

Makkonen also works as a research professor at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Makkonen envisions that the service will receive hundreds of questions annually.

Not every single one of them will be answered, but rather the site’s editorial staff will choose the most interesting and frequently asked questions. In addition, especially questions to which current research does not provide answers may end up being considered by experts.

Service users can also vote for what they think are the most interesting questions, with the winners to be forwarded to researchers for consideration.

Climate knowledge in plain language

Makkonen promises that answers by specialists will be easy to understand and relatively brief.

“However, the aim is also for researchers to shed some light on the research process. How were the answers to research questions sought and found? They can also include links and graphs to clarify their comments,” he adds.

Makkonen explains that he had already been planning a service along the lines of Kysyilmastosta.fi for several years.

“I got the original idea when I noticed, by following online discussions, that ordinary people have plenty of very good climate-related questions. Questions that researchers may not even necessarily think of. People have a thirst for knowledge, which creates demand for a service such as this,” he explains.

The service will increase people’s knowledge of the climate, and at the same time provide researchers with an opportunity to present their scientific work.

The website also serves to counter opinions, expressed particularly on social media, that challenge science without any basis in scientifically conducted research.

“I believe new perspectives for further research will be gained from the questions. For example, a thesis or dissertation could be written on a question yet to be answered by current scientific knowledge,” muses Makkonen.

The service is primarily in Finnish, but the website will also contain some material in English. In the future, Swedish will be added to the language selection.

The service is a partnership between the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, and the project has received funding from the Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation.

Visit the Kysyilmastosta.fi service