Research Themes

 
 
 
  Gulfoss, Iceland (photo by Nadya)

Gulfoss, Iceland (photo by Nadya)

earth's water cycle

The exchange of freshwater within the ocean-land-atmosphere system, or the global water cycle, if one of the fundamental cycles of the Earth's climate system. It is a requirement of life and hence of prime significance to our existence. Recent alteration of the global water cycle due to human-induced climate change has already had serious consequences on environment, economy, and society. These changes are manifested as extremes in the water cycle like droughts, heavy rainfall, and floods, and are already claiming thousand of lives and causing billions of dollars annually of damage. Predicting the changes that are taking place in the Earth's water budget is therefore crucial stakeholders and policymakers to make informed decisions in water and energy management, agriculture, urban development and infrastructure. Cambridge Climate Institute is dedicated to understand and predict the future of the global water cycle, including its largest component - the freshwater in the oceans, its storage, transport and exchange with the atmospheric, terrestrial, and cryospheric elements of the water cycle. 


  Sea level change since 1993 as observed by multi-satellite altimetry missions in response to changes in ocean temperature, circulation, water flux from land hydrology and melting ice. Data provided by Aviso.

Sea level change since 1993 as observed by multi-satellite altimetry missions in response to changes in ocean temperature, circulation, water flux from land hydrology and melting ice. Data provided by Aviso.

sea level

The concern over rising sea level has led to numerous modeling studies and assessments of observational evidence from satellite altimetry, tide gauges, and other related data sets. However, because variability in sea level represents an integration of many aspects of climate change, to formulate projections and to understand contemporary changes in sea level involves consideration of changes in the hydrosphere and cryosphere, as well as the solid Earth, and the complexity of the problem remains challenging. Cambridge Climate Institute is committed to advance our understanding of sea level in the warming climate and to tackle one of the most relevant questions in contemporary climate science such as "how well do we predict future sea level change", "what is the level of uncertainties of the projected sea level change in the next few decades", and "what can we do to improve its accuracy".


  J  ökulsárlón glacier in Iceland that is retreating 100 m per year (photo by Nadya)

Jökulsárlón glacier in Iceland that is retreating 100 m per year (photo by Nadya)

gravitational effects

Ocean responds to a variety of surface loads, such as that related to atmospheric pressure and mass exchange due to freshwater fluxes. Among them are the changes in gravity field. The sources of these gravity variations can be, for example, the changes in the global hydrological cycle, when the ocean gets additional mass through river runoff or glacier melt. Such gravitational changes caused by non-uniform distribution of mass within the land-atmosphere-ocean system can have a significant impact on ocean circulation, variations in relative sea level, mass and angular momentum of the ocean. Cambridge Climate Institute is leading the efforts to improve dynamic representation of the gravitational effects in ocean general circulation models and probabilistic Bayesian integration frameworks. 


  NASA's Aquarius satellite (source: nasa.gov)

NASA's Aquarius satellite (source: nasa.gov)

satellite oceanography

Cambridge Climate Institute supports NASA's Earth's Observing System through research and development of scientific applications using NASA's satellite missions, as well as through improving accuracy of the existing and future satellite-derived products.


  An estimate of sea surface temperature (credit: Los Alamos National Lab)

An estimate of sea surface temperature (credit: Los Alamos National Lab)

computational research

Scientists at Cambridge Climate Institute are specializing in numerical and computational modeling. Our goals are to enhance performance of ocean general circulation models through continuous model development and improvement, and to create a large user base by providing pre-configured computational environments in the cloud that will allow independent scientists to easily make use of climate models in their own research.