How is our planet changing and what are the implications for life on Earth? How can environmental data help us live more sustainably? With our research spanning the oceans, land, atmosphere, magnetosphere and solar system, we are tackling such questions.
The division’s efforts to better understand our planet are far-reaching and exploit a variety of remote observations, including information sourced from sensors on Earth-orbiting satellites.
Rooted in fundamental physics and advanced mathematics, our work ranges from helping farmers and insurers offset agricultural risks from drought and floods through the monitoring of precipitation across Africa to predicting “space weather” with the aim of avoiding disruptions associated with solar storms.
We have strong links with leading meteorological and observational organisations – including the National Centre for Earth Observation, Met Office and European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) – and work closely with international space agencies such as UKSA, ESA, EUMETSAT and NASA.
Better food security, aid and agricultural planning in Africa
The TAMSAT (Tropical Applications of Meteorology using SATellite data and ground-based observations) programme is directly benefiting the lives of 250 million people across Africa.
The team uses satellite imagery, calibrated against ground observations, for estimating rainfall. This is helping to inform and improve food security, humanitarian aid, and agricultural and economic planning in several African countries. The research project has also helped establish weather-based index insurance schemes which protect farmers against the risks of droughts and floods. Project lead Dr Emily Black was awarded a UoR Research Engagement and Impact Award 2019 for the work (see 'Improved outlook for African Farmers' feature on this page)
Space weather’s effects on satellites
Dr Clare Watt’s research looks at space weather and how that can affect the networks of spaced-based platforms that orbit the Earth upon which we rely, for example for communications or navigation. Space contains a very sparse, but energetic, population of high-energy electrons and protons, the behaviour of which is controlled by the sun and planets’ magnetic fields. High-energy electrons and protons are a hazard for satellites; when there’s more of them, the chances of electric discharges (sparks) flying between parts of the spacecraft, or inside those parts, is increased, causing the satellites malfunction. Find out more on our blog.
Watching solar storms with the help of the public
Solar Stormwatch is a citizen science project, which identifies and tracks Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) in the Heliospheric Imager (HI) data recorded by the twin STEREO satellites. The work could help give astronauts an early warning of dangerous solar radiation and aid our understanding of space weather: how solar storms change conditions in space and on Earth.
Measuring our climate from space
The FIDUCEO project brings insights from metrology (measurement science) to the observation of Earth’s climate from space. The aim of the collaborative project, which involves 12 partners including the University of Reading and the National Physical Laboratory is to produce datasets and a suite of software tools, which will be made available under the Creative Commons licence.
For specific enquiries, please contact:
Research Division Lead
Telephone: +44 (0)118 378 7335
Find out more about funded PhD opportunities within our research division and the Department of Meteorology:
Improved outlook for african farmers
Emily Black - WINNERMillions of smallholder farmers across Africa now look forward to a more secure future thanks to satellite-derived estimates of rainfall that are helping insurance companies provide effective cover against drought.
Lockwood, M., Owens, M. and Macneil, A. (2019) On the origin of otho-gardenhose heliospheric flux. Solar Physics
Wadge, G., McCormick Kilbride, B. T., Edmonds, M. and Johnson, R. W. (2018) Persistent growth of a young andesite lava cone: Bagana volcano, Papua New Guinea. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Asfaw, D., Black, E., Brown, M., Nicklin, K. J., Otu-Larbi, F., Pinnington, E., Challinor, A., Maidment, R. and Quaife, T.(2018) TAMSAT-ALERT v1: a new framework for agricultural decision support. Geoscientific Model Development,Lees, K. J., Quaife, T., Artz, R. E. E., Khomik, M. and Clark, J. M. (2018) Potential for using remote sensing to estimate carbon fluxes across Northern peatlands: a review. Science of the Total Environment
Maidment, R.I., Grimes, D., Black, E., Tarnavsky, E., Young, M., Greatrex, H., Allan, R.P., Stein, T., Nkonde, E., Senkunda, S., Alcántara, E.M.U. A new, long-term daily satellite-based rainfall dataset for operational monitoring in Africa (2017) Scientific Data
Lockwood, Michael L., Owens, Matthew J., Riley P.G. Global solar wind variations over the last four centuries (2017) Scientific Reports
Woolway, R., Merchant, C.J. Amplified surface temperature response of cold, deep lakes to inter-annual air temperature variability (2017), Scientific Reports
Lockwood, M., Owens, M. J., Barnard, L. A., Scott, C. J. and Watt, C. E.Space climate and space weather over the past 400 years: 1. The power input to the magnetosphere (2017) Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate
Woolway, R.I., Dokulil, M.T., Marszelewski, W., Schmid, M., Bouffard, D., Merchant, C.J. (2017) Warming of Central European lakes and their response to the 1980s climate regime shift Climactic Change
Linker, J.A., Caplan, R.M., Downs, C., Riley, P., Mikic, Z., Lionello, R., Henney, C.J., Arge, C.N., Liu, Y., DeRosa, M.L., Yeates, A., Owens, M.J. The Open Flux Problem (2017), The Astrophysical Journal
Barnard, L., Scott, C., Owens, M., Lockwood, M., Tucker-Hood, K., Thomas, S., Crothers, S., Davies, J. A., Harrison, R., Lintott, C., Simpson, R., O'Donnell, J., Smith, A. M., Waterson, N., Bamford, S., Romeo, F., Kukula, M., Owens, B., Savani, N., Wilkinson, J., Baeten, E., Poeffel, L. and Harder, B. (2014)The Solar Stormwatch CME catalogue: results from the first space weather citizen science project. Space Weather, 12 (12). pp. 657-674. I
Van Leeuwen, P. J. (2015) Representation errors and retrievals in linear and nonlinear data assimilation. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 141 (690). pp. 1612-1623. ISSN 1477-870X doi: 10.1002/qj.2464