Dr Andy Ridgwell
University Research Fellow
School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol
Understanding climate change and the controls on atmospheric CO2
"Earth’s history is characterised by an extraordinary richness of climatic behaviour, and the geological record of the past billion years reveals stable periods punctuated by episodic ice-ages and short-lived warming events. We already have good reason to suspect that the global carbon cycle and changes in the atmospheric concentration of heat trapping 'greenhouse' gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) play a pivotal role in past climatic changes. This is only the tip of the investigative iceberg however, and the key task for scientists is to find out what causes atmospheric CO2 concentration to change in the first place.
My research examines the relationship between climate and the carbon cycle, and the means by which atmospheric CO2 levels are controlled. My key research tool is a computer model of the Earth system which accounts for ocean circulation, sea-ice and greenhouse warming, as well as the cycling of carbon and nutrients within the ocean and exchanges with the underlying deep-sea sediments. Computer modelling allows me to piece together all the different types of evidence available and develop explanations for past climatic changes.
Is the past the key to the future? An essential confidence building step for our complex models of future climate change is to be able to understand the causes of past warm climates. The geological record also provides us with information on the sensitivity of marine life to ocean acidification - the lowering of the pH of the ocean as a result excessive CO2 uptake - a phenomenon that will progressively intensify as we continue to burn fossil fuels."
Read more about Dr Andy Ridgwell's work at the University of Bristol.