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World leading climate research


World leading climate research

Addressing global climate crisis Addressing global climate crisis

The School of Environmental Sciences is one of the longest established, largest and most fully developed interdisciplinary institutions of its kind in Europe. 

Results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) ranked the School of Environmental Sciences 1st in the UK for research impact with 88% of research ranked “world-leading” or “internationally excellent”.

Case study: World-leading climate research

From calculating global carbon emissions and measuring CFCs in the atmosphere, to studying their impact on world temperatures – our scientists have been delivering world-leading climate research for almost half a century.

The university has been a true pioneer of climate change research since the 1970s – before the scientific community had even recognised that the world was warming.

Now, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change at UEA and the Climatic Research Unit in the School of Environmental Sciences are home to scientists whose research has underpinned both world climate policy and public understanding of climate change.

Prof Philip Gilmartin, Dean of the Faculty of Science, said: “Our climate scientists are at the top of their field. No other university in the world has made such a sustained and substantial contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change across disciplines.”

One of UEA’s most prestigious climate research projects is its leadership of the international Global Carbon Budget published annually.

CO2 emissions created by burning fossil fuels are the main contributor to global warming. The carbon budget is the definitive annual source of information about carbon emissions for international policymakers.

This year, global emissions are set to hit a record 40 billion tonnes – a 2.5 per cent increase on last year.

Lead researcher Prof Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre at UEA, said:  “The human influence on climate change is clear. We need substantial and sustained reductions in CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels if we are to limit global climate change.”

Scientists at UEA have also led policy-changing research into a group of gases called halocarbons – the most commonly known of which are CFCs and HCFCs.

These greenhouse gases deplete the ozone layer and contribute to global warming.

Research from UEA played a leading role in the Montreal Protocol – an international agreement to reduce and phase out the use of CFCs. This has had a profound beneficial effect on the environment and on human health globally.

But recent research this year revealed seven new CFCs and HCFCs in the atmosphere – despite a world ban.

Lead researcher Dr Johannes Laube said: “CFCs are the main cause of the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Laws to reduce and phase out CFCs came into force in 1989 and resulted in successfully reducing the production on a global scale.

“The identification of seven new man-made gases is very worrying.”

Growing carbon emissions and the release of other greenhouse gases mean that the world is warming – as shown by the Global Temperature Record.

This world data, produced jointly by the Climatic Research Unit and the Met Office, has been central to all five IPCC reports and underpins international climate negotiations including those that led to the world policy to limit global warming to 2 degrees.

Earlier this year, scientists at UEA made the dataset available via Google Earth. The new format allows users to scroll around the world, zoom in on 6,000 weather stations and view more monthly, seasonal and annual temperature data than ever before.

The dataset this year revealed that 2014 is on course to be the warmest year since records began – more than 150 years ago. And that extreme weather events are becoming more common.

Prof Phil Jones, research director at the Climatic Research Unit, said: “Average temperatures don’t tell us everything we need to know about climate change. Trends in extreme heat and cold are particularly important because they have a large impact on water supplies, agricultural productivity and other factors related to human health and wellbeing.”

Research was funded by DEFRA, Environment Agency and Welsh Assembly Government, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and the European Commission.

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Key academics Key academics

Professor Corinne Le Quere
Director, Tyndall Centre

Research interests

My research focuses on the interactions between climate change, carbon emissions, the natural environment and humans.

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Dr Johannes Laube
NERC Fellow, School of Environmental Sciences

Research interests

Detection, quantification, distribution long-term trends, sources and sinks of the large variety of halogenated and related trace gases in the atmosphere with a focus on molecules relevant for stratospheric ozone depletion and Global Warming.

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Professor Phil Jones
Research director, Climatic Research Unit, UEA

Research interests

My main research interests are in the field of instrumental climate change, the development of long precipitation and riverflow records from the UK and using datasets for climate impact assessment, principally in the UK.

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Professor Claire Reeves
Professor of Atmospheric Science, School of Environmental Sciences

Research interests

My key research interests are in tropospheric ozone chemistry and in halogenated gases that are stratospheric ozone depleting and greenhouse gases.

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Prof Bill Sturges
Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry, School of Environmental Sciences

Research interests

My principal interests are in the occurrence, origins and chemical transformations of trace gases in the atmosphere; notably those that are important to stratospheric ozone depletion, global warming, and are components of regional and long-range air pollution.

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Dr Dave Oram
NCAS Research Fellow,School of Environmental Sciences

Research interests

Atmospheric composition and chemistry; global distribution, sources and temporal trends of ozone-depleting chemicals and greenhouse gases; role of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oxygenated VOCs in tropospheric chemistry; analytical techniques for atmospheric measurements including GC, GC-MS and PTR-MS.

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Professor Stuart Penkett
Emeritus Professor, School of Environmental Sciences

Research interests

Atmospheric composition and chemistry; influence of human activities on the natural system.

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