Computational Modelling Group


Climate science covers the physics of the atmosphere, oceans and ice sheets, along with chemistry and biology of the land surface and the oceans, from the surface to the abyss. A fundamental challenge is to understand the basic processes of the modern climate system alongside the evidence for different past climates on Earth and the prospects for future climate change. The study of climate has been transformed through a growing appreciation of the integral role that climate plays in our lives, and in particular the prospect of substantial climate change during a human lifetime. The socio-economics of climate change is increasingly important as evidence mounts for both anthropogenic influences on climate and climatic impacts on economies and societies. A wide range of computational models are used to study climate processes, climate change, and climate impacts. Due to the multi-disciplinary nature of climate problems, a correspondingly wide range of individuals and groups across the university are engaged in this topic.

For queries about this topic, contact Robert Marsh.

View the calendar of events relating to this topic.


Advanced modelling for two-phase reacting flow

Edward Richardson (Investigator)

Engine designers want computer programs to help them invent ways to use less fuel and produce less pollution. This research aims to provide an accurate and practical model for the injection and combustion of liquid fuel blends.

Early warning signals in climate data

Kevin Oliver, James Dyke (Investigators), Maike Sonnewald

Paleoclimatic records reveal that the Earth’s climate system has undergone sharp transitions between
states. Much work has recently been devoted to assessing how likely the current climate is to undergo such a sharp transition. This is motivated by the severe socioeconomic consequences such dramatic changes would entail. Thus, predicting iminent transitions would be very valuable. This review provides an overview of two promising techniques which could potentially be used to assess the stability of components of the climate system. These techniques are degenerate fingerprinting and detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA). It is found that degenerate fingerprinting is more widely used, but that DFA could be more suitable. DFA allows for memory in the time-series, and can give better results with less data. However, the DFA technique is best suited for systems close to the transitions, and relies on calibration with the degenerate fingerprinting technique further from the transition. Applying these techniques to forecast transitions is unfortunately impeded by lack of suitable data. Using data from several sources could overcome this. Thus, the techniques could be very valuable if the use of unevenly spaced data from several sources does
not lead to serious loss off accuracy. However, the techniques are still very useful when assessing underlying dynamics in model output and paleooceanographic time-series.

Generating Optimal Ensembles of Earth System Models

Simon Cox (Investigator), Elizabeth Hart, Andras Sobester

GENIE is an Earth system model of intermediate complexity. As with other climate models, the tuning of its parameters is essential for providing reliable long-term forecasts of Earth system behaviour. We apply a multi-objective optimization algorithm to the problem. The aim of the tuning exercise is to find the optimal values for the free parameters that produce and euqilibrium model end state with the closest fit to equivalent observational data.

How sensitive is ocean model utility to resolution?

Kevin Oliver (Investigator), Maike Sonnewald

One of the most intriguing problems in recent ocean modeling research is the impact of varying model resolution on model accuracy. Increasing model resolution one includes more of the important processes. However, the increase in accuracy with resolution is unlikely to be linear. Thus, as computational cost increases with resolution, a critical assessment of achieved benefits is prudent. Here we analyse a suite of realistic and compatible global ocean model runs from coarse (1o, ORCA1), eddy-permitting (1/4o, ORCA025) and eddy resolving (1/12o, ORCA12) resolutions. Comparisons of steric height variability (varSH) highlight changes in ocean density structure, revealing impacts on mechanisms such as downwelling and eddy energy dissipation. We assess vertical variability using the covariace of the deep and shallow varSH. Together with assessing isopycnal movements, we demonstrate the influence of deep baroclinic modes and regions where the barotropic flow sheds eddies. Significant changes in the deepwater formation and dispersion both in the Arctic and Antarctic are found between resolutions. The varSH increased from ORCA1 to ORCA025 and ORCA12, particularily in the Southern Ocean and Western Boundary Currents. However, there is no significant covariance between the surface and deep in ORCA1, while ORCA025 and ORCA12 show significant covariance, implying an important missing energy pathway in ORCA1. Comparing ORCA025 and ORCA12 we see significant differences in eddy energy dissipation. We assess the impact of varying model resolution on the mean flow, discussing implications to dissipation pathways on model accuracy, with reference to stochastic parameterisation schemes.

Impacts of Climate and Sea-Level Change on Coastal Gullies

Stephen Darby (Investigator), Chris Hackney, Julian Leyland

Content to follow

Investigation of gas adsorption of metal-organic frameworks using quantum mechanics and Monte Carlo simulation

Jia Huo (Investigator)

Metal organic frameworks (MOFs) has received much attention in the field of gas storage/separation, catalysis, etc, due to their highly ordered porosity, high surface area, multi functionality, chemically talorability and high loading of meta sites. Experimental method has contributed to these areas, but there are still plenty of problems not solved solely from experiment, including investigation of mechanism of adsorption and screening MOFs for target-specific applications.  In this project, we plan to use quantum mechanics and Monte Carlo simulation to investigate the various guest adsorption properties on MOFs to screen the substrates catalysed by active sites within MOFs and the influence of transition metal sites of MOFs on gas adsorption for design of MOFs with high gas storage capacity.

Metagenomics: Understanding the impacts of environmental change on soil biodiversity

Richard Edwards, Gail Taylor (Investigators), Joseph Jenkins

Drought is expected to increase in prevalence by 2050. Similarly, the use of biochar (a charcoal based soil amendment) has been suggested as a method to sequester carbon and fertilize soils without need of mineral fertilizers, and its use is increasing. We are using next generation DNA sequencing technology and bioinformatics to determine bacterial genetic diversity from soil samples which have been subject to drought or biochar amendment, to further our understanding of the impacts of environmental change on microbial communities.

Sediment Transfer and Erosion on Large Alluvial Rivers (STELAR-S2S)

Stephen Darby, Julian Leyland, Christopher Hackney (Investigators)

STELAR-S2S will provide the first comprehensive quantification of autogenic and climatic controls on riverine sediment fluxes for one of the world's largest rivers (the Mekong), leading to new generic understanding of the relationships between climatic variability, fluvial processes and sediment flux to deltaic zones and the ocean.

Simulating Hydro-geomorphic Changes in European Climate Hotspots

John Dearing (Investigator), Ying Wang

This project will simulate the behaviour of hydro-geomorphological processes in a fluvial system over decadal timescales is an important basis for research on catchment environmental management, especially with regards climate changes and human impacts on fluvial system.

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation’s Response to Variable Buoyancy Forcing

Kevin Oliver (Investigator), Edward Butler

An investigation into the impact of periodic variations in surface buoyancy forcing on the mean strength of ocean circulation; in particular, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.

The Ocean's Gravitational Potential Energy Budget in a Coupled Climate Model

Kevin Oliver (Investigator), Edward Butler

This study examines, in a unified fashion, the budgets of ocean gravitational potential energy (GPE) and available gravitational potential energy (AGPE) in the control simulation of the coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation model HadCM3.

Using MEP to determine parameter values of ocean and atmosphere diffusivity

Kevin Oliver, James Dyke (Investigators), Maike Sonnewald

Entropy budgets can potentially offer new and valuable insights into the dissipation of energy in the ocean system. Specifically, if one assumes the Earth system maximises the dissipation of energy, one can use this as a guiding principle maximising the internal entropy production. In this study, resultant temperature distributions from a four box ocean-atmosphere-ice model are used to assess to what extent such considerations could ameliorate the need for tuning parameter values associated with oceanic and atmospheric diffusivity. Results from a standard implementation with fixed, empirically determined, parameters were compared to one where the maximum entropy production principle is applied to determine the value of oceanic and atmospheric diffusivity parameters. These methods have been successfully applied to cloud fraction and convection in the atmosphere.

The MEP principle suggested using diffusivity values of 3.3×1014 W K −1 and 3.2×1014 W K −1
for the ocean and atmosphere respectively, where the empirical values were 2.0 × 1014 W K −1
and 1.0 × 1014 W K −1 . The oceanic temperatures of the MEP implementation were 3 and -1oC
away the high and low latitude observed ocean temperatures respectively, while the empirical
implementation was -5 and 3oC away, largely within the observational standard deviation of
8 and 2◦ C respectively. For the atmospheric values, MEP implementation was 3W m−2 away
from the high latitude observed value, while the empirical implementation was 6W m−2 away,
both within the standard deviation of 13.2W m−2 . However, in the low latitudes this reverses,
with the empirical implementation being only -16W m−2 off while the MEP implementation
is -21W m−2 off. However, both figures are outside the range of the standard deviation of
4.2W m−2 . Overall, both methods were found to be very close to oceanic observations. This
confirms that in the model used, the assumption of maximal dissipation of energy is reasonable.

Furthermore, the nature of the landscape of internal entropy production created by the
oceanic and atmospheric diffusivity was found to be fairly smooth, with non-linearities mainly
coming from ice albedo. Assuming the Earth system is in a state of maximal energy dissipa-
tion, applying the MEP principle successfully may depend on such a smooth, easily optimisable
landscape. Thus, the successful application of the MEP principle could be much more difficult
if attempting to aid parametrisation in more detailed ocean models, as these are likely to have
internal entropy production landscapes with local maxima. Nevertheless, results presented
are very promising, and encourage further exploration of to what extent this principle could
be applied to ameliorate the need for tuning parameters in light of lacking information.

Validation of GPS-derived water vapour estimates

Joanna Nield, Jason Noble, Edward Milton (Investigators), Robin Wilson

Measurements from GPS base stations can be processed to provide estimates of the water vapour content in the atmosphere. These are lots of these base stations across the world and they take measurements very frequently, making them perfect data sources for scientific use. However, we need to understand their accuracy - and this project aims to do this.

µ-VIS Computed Tomography Centre

Ian Sinclair, Richard Boardman, Dmitry Grinev, Philipp Thurner, Simon Cox, Jeremy Frey, Mark Spearing, Kenji Takeda (Investigators)

A dedicated centre for computed tomography (CT) at Southampton, providing complete support for 3D imaging science, serving Engineering, Biomedical, Environmental and Archaeological Sciences. The centre encompasses five complementary scanning systems supporting resolutions down to 200nm and imaging volumes in excess of one metre: from a matchstick to a tree trunk, from an ant's wing to a gas turbine blade.


Simon Cox
Professor, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Stephen Darby
Professor, Geography (FSHS)
John Dearing
Professor, Geography (FSHS)
Jeremy Frey
Professor, Chemistry (FNES)
Edward Milton
Professor, Geography (FSHS)
Ian Sinclair
Professor, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Mark Spearing
Professor, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Gail Taylor
Professor, Biological Sciences (FNES)
Joanna Nield
Senior Lecturer, Geography (FSHS)
James Dyke
Lecturer, Electronics and Computer Science (FPAS)
Julian Leyland
Lecturer, Geography (FSHS)
Kevin Oliver
Lecturer, National Oceanography Centre (FNES)
Andras Sobester
Lecturer, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Philipp Thurner
Lecturer, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Anatoliy Vorobev
Lecturer, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Richard Boardman
Senior Research Fellow, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Reno Choi
Senior Research Fellow, Geography (FSHS)
Edward Richardson
Senior Research Fellow, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Dmitry Grinev
Research Fellow, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Christopher Hackney
Research Fellow, Geography (FSHS)
Elizabeth Hart
Research Fellow, Engineering Sciences (FEE)
Jia Huo
Research Fellow, Chemistry (FNES)
Jason Noble
Research Fellow, Electronics and Computer Science (FPAS)
Robin Wilson
Research Fellow, Geography (FSHS)
Joseph Abram
Postgraduate Research Student, Electronics and Computer Science (FPAS)
Leonidas Bourikas
Postgraduate Research Student, Civil Engineering & the Environment (FEE)
Edward Butler
Postgraduate Research Student, Electronics and Computer Science (FPAS)
Graham Elliott
Postgraduate Research Student, Electronics and Computer Science (FPAS)
Chris Hackney
Postgraduate Research Student, Geography (FSHS)
Joseph Jenkins
Postgraduate Research Student, Biological Sciences (FNES)
Lyuboslav Petrov
Postgraduate Research Student, Electronics and Computer Science (FPAS)
Álvaro Ruiz-Serrano
Postgraduate Research Student, Chemistry (FNES)
Maike Sonnewald
Postgraduate Research Student, National Oceanography Centre (FNES)
Ying Wang
Postgraduate Research Student, Geography (FSHS)
Petrina Butler
Administrative Staff, Research and Innovation Services
Ella Marley-Zagar
Enterprise staff, Medicine (FM)
Richard Edwards
Alumnus, University of New South Wales, Australia
Gunnar Mallon
Alumnus, Geography (FSHS)
Joe Scutt Phillips
Alumnus, Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences
Kenji Takeda
Alumnus, Engineering Sciences (FEE)