The focus is on regional phenomena - storms, sea ice changes and changes in rainfall in the tropics.

Exeter researchers to lead two major projects on past and future climate change

Scientists at the University of Exeter will be leading two major multi-million pound world-class research projects after winning funding to investigate climate change.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has awarded two prestigious grants to multi-disciplinary teams of researchers headed by Professor Mat Collins, a Climate Modeller and Joint Met Office Chair in Climate Change and Professor Steve Hesselbo, Professor of Geology at the Camborne School of Mines, based at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

Geo-scientists, mathematicians, statisticians and geographers from the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences and department of Geography will work with researchers from a range of other institutions to significantly advance understanding of environmental change in two different projects – one predicting the future and the other exploring the past.

Professor Collins and his team, which includes scientists from Exeter, the universities of Reading, Oxford, Leeds, East Anglia, the British Antarctic Survey, the British Geological Survey and the Met Office will use £3.7m funding to develop methods to predict how the climate will change over the next 100 years. The focus is on regional phenomena - storms, sea ice changes and changes in rainfall in the tropics.

The proposal, led by Exeter researchers, was hailed by the NERC funding panel for its excellence and its world-class standard in terms of quality, significance and scientific impact and will bring together acclaimed UK climate change researchers. Findings are expected to make significant contributions to the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report and UK Climate Projections 2018.

Professor Hesselbo will lead a five year £4.7M international project involving 50 international scientists to advance our fundamental understanding of the Earth’s environmental systems in the Jurassic by means of a 2km-deep borehole on the edge of Cardigan Bay in West Wales. NERC’s grant of £3.7m will add to the £1m already invested in the project by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Programme.

Professor Collins’ team will include Professor David Stephenson, Chair in the Statistical Modelling of Weather and Climate and Professor Geoffrey Vallis, and senior lecturers in Mathematics Dr Hugo Lambert, Dr James Screen, Dr Daniel Williamson and Dr Paul Halloran, senior lecturer in Geography.

“We know a lot about the global impact of climate change but not about regional impacts,” said Professor Collins. “We are currently experiencing a period of unprecedented global warmth. This research is intended to enhance our ability to make predictions at the regional scales required for adaptation to climate change.”

Drilling on the Cardigan Bay project, which is called JET, and which also involves Exeter scientists Professor Tim Lenton, Chair in Climate Change/Earth System Science and Dr Claire Belcher, Associate Professor in Earth System Science, is likely to take place in the autumn and winter this year.

Professor Hesselbo said: “This site gives us a unique record of deep-time climate change, and will allow us to tackle fundamental questions about how the planet’s environmental systems work, such as how planetary orbits and volcanic events combine to change atmosphere and ocean chemistry over very long timescales. For the first time this project brings together observations, analyses, and modelling, to provide a truly integrated view of the planet at the birth of the modern world. I’m delighted to receive this grant and to be involved with a project that will unlock a lot of very exciting science.”

Date: 25 May 2016

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