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Department of Geography

 

Climate and Environmental Dynamics

Climate and Environmental Dynamics

The CED group conducts research on past, present and future climate and environmental variability. Understanding the mechanisms, evolution and impacts of global climate and environmental systems is central to the research of members of the Climate and Environment Dynamics Research Group. Their research explores how different components of the Earth's system respond to, and modulate, climatic changes at various spatiotemporal scales. A wide range of local to global proxy data, as well as physical and biological models, is employed to illuminate processes acting within and between the earth's atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere and cryosphere.

Among others, sedimentary and volcanic archives, tree-rings, historical sources and palaeoclimate models, are compiled and analysed to enhance our understanding of how past natural and anthropogenic climate variability has shaped our planet, and human history. Modern day environments, ecosystems and atmospheric processes are studied using both observational and modelling techniques, which allow us to understand the implications of long-term human-environment interactions and improve predictions of future climate change.

Atmospheric processes

Atmospheric processes

Improving our quantitative understanding of dynamical, surface, cloud and aerosol microphysical processes in the atmosphere not only for meteorological clouds but also for volcanic and biomass burning plumes. In current climate and numerical weather prediction models cloud processes are often crudely represented and do not interact. A better description of individual processes and their interaction is the focus of this research. The ultimate goal is to achieve a better representation of processes in models to improve the predictability of weather and climate.

Past climate dynamics

Past climate dynamics

By studying past climate dynamics, researchers in the Department of Geography are contributing to debates over the driving mechanisms and spatial complexity of climate change, including climate change impacts on global environments and human populations. Understanding the pacing and propagation of past climate change, through geochronological approaches, is central to our research. The Department is home to state-of-the-art tephrochronology and dendrochronology research laboratories, with active research projects investigating past climate and environmental dynamics all over the world.

Quaternary Palaeoenvironments

Quaternary Palaeoenvironments

Knowledge of the palaeoenvironment and palaeogeography of the recent geological past is fundamental to our understanding of modern physical, biological and human environments. Understanding the Quaternary period, which spans the last 2.58 million years, is the central focus of the Quaternary Palaeoenvironments theme. We use multi-proxy approaches, combining both floral and faunal fossil analyses, together with sedimentary, magnetic and geochemical evidence, to reconstruct past environmental history from a range of environments across Britain, Europe, the surrounding seas, and beyond.

Volcanology

Volcanology

Volcanological research in Cambridge flourishes across the University and is networked through Cambridge Volcanology. The Department of Geography is one of the discipline's main hubs along with the Department of Earth Sciences. Research interests range from magmatic evolution, degassing and eruption to impacts of volcanism on the Earth system and society, and to the role of scientific expertise in risk management. Many of the studies underway sit at the interface between volcanology and other disciplines, including atmospheric science, archaeology, environmental history, engineering, and science and technology studies. Methodologies include field observation using a variety of thermal imaging, spectroscopic and radar equipment; numerical simulation; physical volcanology; sediment coring and tephrastratigraphy; dendrochronology; petrology and geochemistry.

Terrestrial ecology, carbon, and climate

Terrestrial ecology, carbon, and climate

Terrestrial ecosystems are currently absorbing about 30% of fossil fuel plus land use CO2 emissions, greatly reducing the rate of increase in atmospheric carbon and hence climate change. However, the mechanisms behind this sink are poorly understood, as are the potential impacts of rising CO2 and climate change on global ecosystems. Research within this theme uses observations from field experiments on how plants and soils respond to their environment, and insights from plant physiology, to build models of vegetation and ecosystems processes in order to test hypotheses and make predictions of the future behaviour of terrestrial ecosystems, including managed croplands, and their feedbacks on the global climate system.

Group members

Dr Harriet Allen Vegetation structure, ecosystem responses to environmental change. Palaeoecology of Mediterranean ecosystems
Dr Mike Bithell Computational modelling; geophysical flows both granular and fluid. Agent-based modelling of human-environment interactions, particularly in effecting land use changes
Professor Ulf Büntgen Dendroecologist, compiling and analysing different tree-ring parameters and archives from around the world and throughout the Holocene, to explore the causes and consequences of climatic and environmental changes at various spatiotemporal scales
Dr Andrew Friend Ecologist and Earth system scientist, studying vegetation-environment interactions, plant ecophysiology, and feedbacks between global change and biological processes
Professor Philip Gibbard Quaternary geologist, whose interests include Pleistocene/Neogene geology, sedimentation and stratigraphy
Dr Michael Herzog Atmospheric physicist, specialising in numerical modelling of dynamical and microphysical processes from local to global scales
Professor Christine Lane
Convenor
Quaternary climate dynamics, palaeoenvironments and geochronology. Using tephrochronology to explore climate impacts on hominin populations and to build records of past volcanism in East Africa and Europe
Dr Catherine Martin-Jones Research description to follow.
Dr Yves Moussallam Volcanologist using experimental and analytical petrology, field research and theoretical modelling, to understand the behaviour of volatile elements during magma ascent and degassing.
Professor Clive Oppenheimer Volcanology, studying volcanic and magmatic processes; the chemistry of volcanic plumes in the troposphere; and the human and environmental impacts of volcanic eruptions in the past
Dr Nial Peters Volcanologist; development and deployment of radar instruments for monitoring active lava lakes.
Dr Alma Piermattei Research description to follow.
Dr Gareth Rees Research interests predominantly in the development and application of spaceborne remote sensing techniques to monitoring the dynamics of Arctic glaciated and vegetated terrain
Dr Celine Vidal
Convenor
Volcanologist, studying dynamics and gas emissions of explosive eruptions to explore their impact on climate and civilisations

Graduate students

The following graduate students are also associated with the group:

Jean-Philippe Baudouin Winter rain, summer rain: adaptation, climate change, resilience and the Indus Civilisation (TwoRains)
Annemarie Eckes Improving our understanding of the role of terrestrial ecosystem dynamics in the global carbon cycle
Sebastian Gibson The Pleistocene History of the Birmingham District
Kinne Gueye Assessing the impacts of reducing emissions from deforestation ad forest degradation (REDD+) on carbon stocks at a local scale in Mexico
Anika Nasra Haque Climate change adaptation to flooding in the low income urban settlements of the Least Developed Countries: A case of Dhaka, Bangladesh
Amy McGuire
Convenor
The Quaternary climate of the eastern Mediterranean: insights into changes in climate and environment and their impact on human populations
Della Murton Late Pleistocene palaeoenvironmental change in the Vale of York and Humber gap
Simon Price Geology and geotechnical properties of Quaternary sediments in the English South Midlands
Praveen Teleti Antarctic and Southern Ocean climate change reconstructed from historical records
Rebecca Vignols Understanding future changes in Northern Hemisphere snow

Activities

Cambridge Centre for Climate Science (CCfCS)

Cambridge Centre for Climate Science (CCfCS)

The Cambridge Centre for Climate Science (CCfCS) promotes research in Climate Science in several Departments (Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Geography, Plant Sciences and Scott Polar Research Institute) and at the British Antarctic Survey.

Cambridge Volcanology Group (CVG)

Cambridge Volcanology Group (CVG)

The Cambridge Volcanology Group (CVG) undertakes research into magmatic and volcanic processes and their impacts, through integrated field, remote sensing, laboratory and theoretical approaches; and innterfaces research and advanced volcano surveillance techniques with the volcano observatory community and other end users.

Centre for Atmospheric Science

Centre for Atmospheric Science

The Centre for Atmospheric Science is a joint venture within the University of Cambridge between the University Departments of Chemistry, Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Geography. The Centre is one of the premier research groups in the UK for atmospheric research and attracts funding from a wide range of sources. Post-doctoral researchers and students from the UK and abroad carry out world-leading research with international collaborations.

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Quaternary Discussion Group (QDG)

A series of 50 minute lectures, followed by discussion, on the broad topic of environmental evolution, climate, ecological and human change during the Quaternary (the last ~2.6 million years). The lectures are aimed at a broad audience (including geoscientists, glaciologists, environmental scientists, atmospheric chemists, biologists, anthropologists and archaeologists).

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Geographical Information Science (GISc) Forum

GISc is the science that underpins the management, presentation and analysis of many types of spatial (geographical) data. The forum is open to postgraduates, research staff and academic staff and is of particular interest to those whose research involves working with quantitative spatial data and/or GIS (Geographical Information Systems). There are up to 3 sessions termly, with a brief introduction to a topic of interest, followed by open discussion. Topics could be anything from an introduction to an interesting new technique, or summary of a recent paper, to descriptions of recent research results or work planned or in progress.