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Research Fellows Directory

Ken Carslaw

Professor Ken Carslaw BSc PhD

Research Fellow

Organisation

University of Leeds

Research summary

My research concerns the behaviour and environmental effects of atmospheric aerosol particles. Aerosol particles, derived from natural processes and human activities, have a profound effect on our environment. Aerosols affect Earth’s climate as strongly as greenhouse gases, acting to cool the planet. Aerosols are also air pollutants that cause the premature death of tens of thousands of people every year in the UK alone. They also interact with clouds, causing changes in weather and extreme precipitation events. My group has developed advanced models of atmospheric aerosols to understand how aerosol is formed an the impact it has on clouds and climate.

During my time as a Wolfson Merit Award holder my group has made some significant advances in understanding why the effect of aerosols on climate is so uncertain. This uncertainty bedevils efforts to reliably simulate climate over the industrial period, leading to low confidence in how sensitive the climate is to future radiative forcing due to greenhouse gases and aerosols. We have been tackling this problem by developing new statistical methods that enable full uncertainty distributions of model predictions to be made. This has been a major step because highly complex climate models can be run only a few times, which makes it very hard to understand how a large number of uncertainties combine to affect the predictions. We have also made breakthroughs in our understanding of how particles are formed in the atmosphere, and how these particles affect climate.

Our research has an impact on society by enabling more reliable climate predictions to be made. Our models also enable us to assess the effects on air quality and climate of pollution control legislation. For example, recent research shows that European legislation since the 1970s could have save 80,000 premature deaths per year.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Atmospheric Aerosols, Weather and Climate

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Aug 2011 - Jul 2016

Value: £75,000