Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards
Organisation: University of Bristol
Dates: Apr 2007-Mar 2012
Summary: My research focusses on understanding the causes of past changes in climate, and using this information to test the climate models used for future climate change prediction. Climate model predictions of the future have considerable uncertainty. These models are only tested against the last 150 years of climate change which is not sufficient to fully test whether the models can be trusted for future predictions. The past does not have a direct analogue for future climate change but we can use evidence from past changes (particularly during warm time intervals in the past) to evaluate whether the mechanisms of climate change are correctly represented in the models. My recent work has suggested that the models are able to represent many of the key changes observed in the past, but there are some occasions when the models are unable to simulate key and robust aspects of past climates. This includes failure to simulate the very warm climates of the Eocene (55 million years ago), or the very rapid changes seen during the last deglaciation (21,000 years ago to present). In all cases of disagreement, the models underestimate change and we are currently working on trying to understand the causes of these problems. Such work has potentially very important implications for all aspects of future climate change.