Kia ora koutou - and welcome to your latest newsletter.

In the past few days, we’ve observed several climate records. Ocean temperatures off the charts, vanishing sea ice around Antarctica and the hottest global average day since measurements began - a record that was promptly overtaken just a day later.

In the same week, the World Meteorological Organization also declared that El Niño had begun, “setting the stage for a likely surge in global temperatures and disruptive weather and climate patterns”.

As University of Auckland climate scientist Kevin Trenberth writes, we can indeed expect changes.

While carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere continue to climb relentlessly upwards, “the temperature record looks more like a rising staircase, rather than a steady climb”.

The warmest years usually follow major El Niño events, which means 2023 will likely emerge as a record-breaking year. And because sea-surface temperatures during El Niño years tend to peak about December, 2024 is likely to jump up the staircase to the next level, perhaps to 1.4℃ above pre-industrial levels, Trenberth cautions.

You’ll find more to read in this newsletter and on our homepage, including a fascinating tale about the true origins of the pygmy right whale which, it turns out, acts and looks like a right whale but belongs to a rather different group.

Many thanks for reading and your ongoing support. We hope you have a nice, reflective long weekend. Mānawatia a Matariki - and until next week, mā te wā.

Veronika Meduna

Science, Health + Environment New Zealand Editor

Global temperature rises in steps – here’s why we can expect a steep climb this year and next

Kevin Trenberth, University of Auckland

Climate change is relentless and largely predictable, but it is influenced by natural variability. This means the largest temperature rise usually comes at the end of an El Niño event.

NZ music schools under threat: we need a better measure of their worth than money

Dugal McKinnon, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington

The country’s creative and critical music culture will be substantially diminished if the university funding crisis hits any harder.

The true origins of the world’s smallest and weirdest whale

Nic Rawlence, University of Otago; Felix Georg Marx, Te Papa Tongarewa; Ludovic Dutoit, University of Otago

Our new genomic research finally solves a 150 years of scientific mystery about the unusual and ancient pygmy right whale.

NZ’s statistics on deaths and illness at work are sobering – yet, health and safety training courses are under threat

Joanne Crawford, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington

According to international data, almost three times as many people die at work in New Zealand than in the UK, which has a similar risk-management framework for work safety.

The politics of ‘wide purposes’ – how Norman Kirk still speaks to 21st century New Zealand

Richard Shaw, Massey University

A new book about an old political leader asks what New Zealand has lost in the past five decades – and what it might yet regain.

NZ curriculum refresh: the world faces complex challenges and science education must reflect that

Sara Tolbert, University of Canterbury

We know students learn science concepts better when their learning is embedded in real-world issues. But teachers are currently not well prepared to teach science in this way.

With another case of abuse in elite sport, why are we still waiting to protect NZ’s sportswomen from harm?

Holly Thorpe, University of Waikato; Kirsty Forsdike, La Trobe University

Athletics New Zealand joins a long list of sports bodies dealing with abuse of female athletes. But systemic reform is taking far too long.

Not all rent control policies are the same – the Green Party proposal deserves an open-minded debate

Tom Baker, University of Auckland

Despite the claims of landlords and politicians, there is no economic consensus against rent controls. A more nuanced debate would help, given the scale of New Zealand’s housing affordability problem.

From our foreign editions

What El Niño means for the world’s perilous climate tipping points

David Armstrong McKay, Stockholm University

The Pacific Ocean is entering the hot phase of its temperature cycle, an event that will turbo-charge global warming.

How do I stop my mind racing and get some sleep?

Alexander Sweetman, Flinders University

Make it stop! Six ways to stop your racing mind and get the sleep you need.

2001: A Space Odyssey still leaves an indelible mark on our culture 55 years on

Nathan Abrams, Bangor University

If you haven’t seen Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi classic, then it’s likely you will have seen other films influenced by it.

Kenya at 60: six key moments that shaped post-colonial politics

Gabrielle Lynch, University of Warwick

Jomo Kenyatta and his successor Daniel arap Moi set the tone for ethnic and authoritarian politics which Kenya has wrestled to free itself from in recent decades.

Humans set budgets when facing an uncertain future. So do ants 

Daniele Carlesso, Macquarie University

Weaver ants organise themselves into bridges to cross gaps and explore new territory – and new research shows this collective behaviour is governed by a surprisingly simple decision-making rule.

What’s on the agenda as Biden heads to NATO summit: 5 essential reads as Western alliance talks expansion, Ukraine

Matt Williams, The Conversation

Leaders of the Western military alliance meet in Lithuania with the ongoing war in Ukraine as a backdrop.

Tennis and apartheid: how a South African teenager was denied his dream of playing at Wimbledon

Saleem Badat, University of the Free State

A new book delves into the issues faced by a 1971 international tennis tour, and calls for injustice to be recognised.

Meta’s Threads is surging, but mass migration from Twitter is likely to remain an uphill battle

Casey Fiesler, University of Colorado Boulder

The communities that call Twitter home might decide to pack their bags. If they do, they are unlikely to be able to completely reconstitute themselves elsewhere.