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Top 12 facts about UEA's School of Environmental Sciences

Following the School of Environmental Sciences receiving a Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, the team have put together '12 things you need to know' about the school:

1/ We helped discover global warming. Have you heard of it?
It is now widely accepted that climate change is happening. But there was a time not so long ago when few would even have considered this idea, let alone the possibility that much of the change is being caused by human activity.

Prof Hubert Lamb was the founding director of UEA’s Climatic Research Unit back in 1972 – at a time when very little was known about climate change.

He went on to do more than any other scientist of his generation to make the academic community aware of climate change. He initially believed the world was gradually cooling but we now know that it is warming rapidly.

2/ We keep the measure of weather around the world. Noticed anything?
Researchers at the Climatic Research Unit compile temperature records from more than 5,500 weather stations around the world. These data are used to see how climates are changing.

Their latest findings reveal that 2017 is likely to be the third warmest on record. https://www.uea.ac.uk/about/-/2017-likely-to-be-third-warmest-year-on-record

3/ Our past is an indicator of our future
Our scientists have researched what the climate was like hundreds, thousands and even millions of years ago – measuring changes in everything from fossil shells to tree rings and ice cores.

They have also trawled ships’ logs, people’s diaries dating back 750 years, and other evidence dating back as far as AD 800 to find out what climates were like before widespread temperature records began in 1856.

These long-term data sets and their analytical strengths have been used to calibrate widely-used climate models.

4/ The headquarters of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research are based here
Now that we know global warming is here and why, the Tyndall Centre builds on the work of the Climatic Research Unit to work out what to do about it, raise awareness and talk with policy makers so that decisions are well informed.

UEA is the Tyndall Centre headquarters for a network of nearly 200 researchers across eight UK universities, and one in China.

5/ We monitor the world’s carbon emissions. What was it the year you were born?
Our Tyndall Centre scientists each year add up the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by different countries into the atmosphere.

This year emissions are projected to go up, when they really need to be going down. The research revealed that global emissions from all human activities will reach 41 billion tonnes in 2017, following a projected 2% rise in burning fossil fuels. https://www.uea.ac.uk/about/-/record-high-co2-emissions-delay-global-peak

We also closely monitor the rise of other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

6/ We helped save the ozone layer
Over the past thirty years, our research into ozone-depleting substances has underpinned the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer. We recently identified a further seven new CFCs and HCFCs, as well as an unexpected growing danger to the ozone layer from chemicals not regulated by the treaty.

We were also the first to identify some of the replacement substances, HFCs, in the atmosphere. Although HFCs are “ozone-friendly”, they are unacceptably strong greenhouse gases and so have now been added to the treaty.

7/ Our research looks deep underground
As well as looking up to the stratosphere, our research delves deep underground to work out exactly what’s flowing under the Earth’s surface, helping us to better understand earthquakes, volcanoes and the complex engine at the heart of our dynamic planet.

8/ And underwater
UEA research has advanced the understanding of how marine ecosystems contribute to the carbon cycle. In particular, we demonstrated the importance of iron for life in the ocean, and the feedbacks to the atmosphere from potentially weakening carbon sinks in the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic.

9/ We’re understanding the Amazon
Rainforests are a long way from here but our field trips into the Amazon have revealed everything from which tree species are threatened  to how wildlife extinctions are threatening forest carbon storage.

10/ We work locally too
Sometimes we cycle to our field work. We highlighted Breckland as a nationally important biodiversity hotspot after recording every plant and animal species in the area. . We work with Norfolk’s farmers for better rivers too. www.wensumalliance.org.uk.

11/ We were part of a Nobel Peace Prize-winning team
In 2007, UEA celebrated the award of the Nobel Peace Prize jointly to US politician Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to which UEA, more extensively than any other university in the world, has made the most substantial and sustained contribution.

12/ Finally, and most importantly, our students are going on to do great things
The School of Environmental Sciences has graduated approximately 10,000 students over 50 years. Among them are: Susan Owens, Professor of Environment and Policy at the University of Cambridge; the explorer Benedict Allen; Robert Varley, Chief Executive of the UK Met Office; and Penny Tranter, former BBC weather forecaster.