out of this world

Out of this world

Our mathematicians have shown how crucial oceans are for sustaining life on distant planets, bringing us one step closer to finding somewhere aliens could call home.

The number of planets being discovered outside our solar system is rapidly increasing but many might not sustain life because they are either too close or too far from their sun.

Scientists determine a planet’s habitable zone based on its distance from the sun and temperatures at which it is possible for the planet to have liquid water.

Oceans have an immense capacity to control climate and help the surface temperature of a planet to respond slowly to seasonal changes. This helps to ensure that temperature variations across a planet are tolerable.

Traditional research into habitability of planets has simplified the role oceans have to play however UEA mathematics research is showing just how vital they are to climate stability and habitability of these distant worlds.

Postgraduate research student Jodie Cullum, working with Prof. David Stevens and Dr. Manoj Joshi, created computer simulation patterns of ocean circulations on hypothetical ocean-covered Earth-like planets with different rotation periods. The simulations showed that a greater number of planets could potentially be habitable than was previously thought.

Jodie’s research, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, takes an important step in the race to discover whether planets can develop and sustain life.


What will take you out of this world?

The Expert

Jodie Cullum

Research student and UEA Graduate
School of Mathematics

My research focuses on investigating the effects of changing different oceanic and planetary parameters on ocean circulation and climate.

The Expert


School of Mathematics

My main research interest is large scale ocean modelling. The motivation is to understand the role of the ocean in the climate system.

The Expert


School of Environmental Sciences

My research is about using numerical (computer) modelling and simpler theories to understand the Earth's climate, as well as the dynamical and physical processes underpinning climate change.