Research into the roles of the atmosphere and the oceans in the Earth's functioning Research into the roles of the atmosphere and the oceans in the Earth's functioning

The importance of the atmosphere-ocean system for many current environmental issues has been increasingly recognised in the last few years, especially in the areas of climate change and air pollution.

Researchers in the School are at the forefront of scientific research to understand better the vital role which the atmosphere and oceans play in the earth's functioning.

The atmospheric scientists in the School are at the cutting edge of research in tropical, mid-latitude and polar meteorology, in climate and climate change on timescales of decades to millennia, and in the measurement of atmospheric composition. Our work is a major contributor to international scientific assessments such as the WMO/UNEP Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and to national and European government policy making.

We study dynamical and physical processes within the coupled climate system, from planetary scale variability in the tropics and mid-latitudes through to mesoscale dynamical meteorology and boundary-layer meteorology in the polar regions. Climate model simulations carried out using UEA's state-of-the-art computing facilities are used to improve our understanding of climate change and its causes, including the coupling between the lower and upper atmosphere.

Photo of ENV group standing in front of a planeMarine science at UEA crosses the disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology, geology and mathematics, and these synergies inform our teaching and our research. The oceans interact with the atmosphere, with the cryosphere (the water locked up in ice), and with the global carbon cycle. The melting of ice in the polar regions may have global impacts, not only for climate but also for wildlife, shipping and the exploitation of natural resources. The marine carbon cycle is a major aspect of the Earth's biogeochemical cycles, influencing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and thus global climate change. Oceanic carbon dioxide uptake is driven by the 'solubility pump' and the 'biological pump', and understanding the relative importance of them is an important part of our research. We have a network of instruments on commercial trading vessels to examine the transfer of carbon between the atmosphere and the North Atlantic Ocean.

Our atmospheric and marine scientists also study the sea-to-air transfer of a wide range of trace gases (such as dimethylslufide, ammonia and the organohalogens), which affect climate through the formation of particles in the atmosphere, as well as altering its oxidizing (cleansing) capacity. We have an atmospheric observatory at Weybourne on the North Norfolk coast, and also utilize a range of observation platforms most strikingly the NERC BAe146 Research Aircraft, the Russian Geophysika high altitude aircraft and various unmanned stratospheric balloons. We study atmospheric composition with an extensive suite of mass spectrometers, including an ultra-high sensitivity triple-sector instrument for studying gases at extremely small concentrations. Our work has also determined the air-sea transport of ocean nutrients particularly iron, nitrogen and phosphorus. In the case of iron the key issues are the variations in solubility while for nitrogen it is about the chemical form (nitrate, ammonium or organic principally) and deposition rate.

In the past, changes in ocean circulation and productivity contributed to dramatic changes in climate such as the last ice age. The coastal seas are valuable resources under considerable environmental pressure from climate change and sea level rise. Our research in this area includes the effects of increased inputs from land, for example of fertilisers, and the transport and deposition of sediments around the coast. These influence coastal erosion and the management of sensitive habitats such as salt marshes.

We have strong collaborations at UEA with the Schools of Mathematics and Chemistry, and with highly regarded institutions worldwide. Much of our work involves coupled climate models and observations of atmosphere-ocean-ice interaction. In both cases the distinction between marine and atmospheric sciences is (rightly) becoming blurred as researchers pull together to understand the variations in our past and current climate, and the likely future climate.

The results of our work are internationally recognised and often feed directly into the policy process or are disseminated to a wider range of research users as part of the School's Knowledge Transfer activities. For example, WeatherQuest Ltd, a short to medium term weather forecast company, is embedded within the School and enriches both our research and teaching.

Much of our science is funded by NERC and the EU. We enjoy excellent facilities such as the Stable Isotope Laboratory, trace chemical analysis facilities as part of the Laboratory for Global Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry LGMAC, and a supercomputing cluster. Members of faculty serve on numerous marine science panels and international committees, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the School hosts the SOLAS (Surface Ocean Lower Atmosphere Study) international project office. Members of faculty contribute to editing many international scientific journals including Atmospheric Environment, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, Continental Shelf Research, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Ocean Science, Marine Chemistry and Biogeosciences, Aquatic Sciences, Tellus B, Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry, Environmental Research letters, Journal of the Ocean University of China, Environmental Chemistry, Chemosphere, and the Journal of Solution Chemistry.

We have a large and active body of graduate students and researchers in marine and atmospheric science, and welcome visitors and those wishing to work and study with us. In addition we have a strong commitment to our taught MSc programme in atmospheric sciences. We welcome applications to all these courses.


The University of East Anglia (UEA) is the top research institution in the UK and sixth in the world for Oceanography, according to figures provided by Thomson Reuters from its Essential Science Indicators, January 2000 to December 2010. Only one other UK institution featured in the top 30. UEA's Oceanographers are based in the world-leading School of Environmental Sciences.


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