Department of Geography

Climate Science and Society

About the cluster

Staff in the Climate Science and Society research cluster undertake world class research into the multi-dimensional challenges of climate change. This involves an integrated programme of multi-disciplinary research into fundamental climate and Earth system processes (theme 1) and the impacts on our life support systems (theme 2). We draw on this information and evidence to inform policy approaches and pathways towards climate change mitigation (theme 3) and towards adaptation that builds climate resilience (theme 2) in the context of wider sustainable development objectives. At the heart of these themes are a number of major consortium projects which aim to build climate resilience in Africa through consortia of UK and African researchers with mandated national and international agencies responsible for risk and resources management. 

Our staff are involved in a diverse portfolio of major international research projects which combine pure and applied research and pioneer new, interdisciplinary approaches to co-producing knowledge with potential users Research from the cluster has informed UN global climate policy and finance, national policy and practice in Sub Saharan Africa and has had a particularly significant impact in changing the way in which climate forecast information is produced and used across East Africa.

Latest news

Recent news, events and publications

Peter Carpenter Africa Climate Scholarship

Under very generous support from Sussex Alumnus Peter Carpenter we offer scholarships to African students to undertake PhD projects on Africa climate science.


New journal article

Environmental Science & Technology LettersVariability in Sources and Concentrations of Saharan Dust Phosphorus over the Atlantic Ocean

Professor Martin Todd co-authored an aricle in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters

Analysis of phosphate oxygen isotopes and satellite images of transatlantic Saharan dust particles shows that a series "hot spots" scattered across the Western Sahara enriches Saharan dust particles with phosphorus. These phosphorus-enriched particles fertilize the oligotrophic waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the P-depleted rain forests of America.

View the article.

Research themes

Major research themes in the cluster

Theme 1. Climate and Earth System processes

Predicting future climate requires us to understand the processes (physical, chemical and biological) through which the various components of our Earth System interact with each other (the atmosphere, biosphere, pedosphere, cryosphere etc). Our research focusses on a number of key outstanding challenges of Earth System science. Carbon: Improving estimates carbon fluxes in permafrost and forest ecosystems; Aerosols: Quantifying mineral dust aerosol emissions into the atmosphere and their effect on climate; Water: Investigating the mechanisms of climate variability which drive high impact climate events. In each case our research is geared towards improving climate and earth system models on which climate predictions depends.

Theme 2. Understanding climate impacts in the context of human-environment interaction

Climate variability and change has profound impacts on society and many of our ‘life support systems’. However, this is occurring in a rapidly changing world in which the human impact extends far beyond climate change. Moreover, decision making and planning in climate-sensitive sectors involves a complex web of socio-economic and political agendas and objectives. Our research merges natural and social sciences to understand climate impacts, the multitude of other human drivers of change and the decision-making processes. The work is strongly policy-engaged, to provide the evidence base for pathways to adaptation and sustainable development. Our overlapping research interests include:

A strong focus on Africa in our current projects, recognizes the continent as the most vulnerable to weather and climate events. In AMMA-2050 researchers are developing understanding of how the monsoon will change in future decades, to 2050, and how this information can be most effectively used to support climate-compatible development in West Africa. Through UMFULA,  researchers aim to improve climate information to support long-term – 5 to 40 years – planning decisions around resource use, infrastructure investment and cross-sectoral growth priorities in central and southern Africa.

The Forecasts for Preparedness Action (ForPAc) project, funded by UKRI/ Department for International Development (now FCDO) Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience (SHEAR) programme aimed to enhance anticipatory management of flood and drought risks in Kenya. Bringing together mandated agencies for forecast production and risk management in Kenya with UK researchers, the project aims were twofold: To improve the quality of forecast information and improve the use of this information for anticipatory action through the Forecast base Action approach. Through a process of co-production we developed a suite of new forecast products that are directly aligned with decision-making processes in flood and drought. The decision-making processes in the mandated agencies are being advanced to allow early forecast based action. Find out more

Theme 3. Low carbon development

Our research under this theme explores the ways in which economic activity and human development can be achieved in ways that both meet the needs of society whilst mitigating the emissions of greenhouse gases that have historically accompanied economic development. Working closely with the Sussex Energy Group we explore low carbon energy transitions in developing countries, striving to convert new theoretical thinking into practical policy impacts


Find out about some of our key findings

  • A carbon time bomb?
  • Small particles with a big impact
  • Every cloud has a silver lining
  • Lost in translation?
  • Living with a changing climate
  • Flip-flops in the desert
  • Mysteries of the Asian monsoon
  • Environmental refugees or climate adaptors
  • Sustainable energy for all
  • Breaking our carbon addiction
  • Ecology from above



Staff members

Dr. Alexander Antonarakis:
Forest ecology, carbon cycling, biogeography

Alexander AntonarakisAlexander’s research is centered on the interface of terrestrial ecology, land use and climate change, in relation to forest ecosystems. His current work seeks to improve predictions of current and future carbon fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems, at regional and potentially global-scales. Remote sensing techniques are necessary in addressing this due to their ability to estimate vegetation characteristics at a variety of scales. The composition and structure of vegetation are key attributes of ecosystems affecting their current and future carbon, water, and energy flows. He also has interest in the effect of forests in reducing the severity of extreme flooding events.

See also: Alexander's Sussex web profile


Dr Mick Frogley:
Quaternary palaeoenvironments; lake sediments; biogeography

Mick FrogleyMick’s research concentrates on questions relating to the pacing and expression of Quaternary climate change on a variety of timescales (from orbital to decadal). His focus is largely on inter-disciplinary investigations of lake archives from montane regions (largely for reasons of sensitivity), with two main geographical foci, namely the Eastern Mediterranean and the Central Andes region of South America. Research in the latter area in particular has developed his interests in monsoonal palaeoclimate dynamics and the pattern of societal response to environmental change.

See also: Mick's Sussex web profile

Prof Dom Kniveton:
Climate change and variability; Climate information uptake and decision making; Migration and conflict

Dominic KnivetonA keen interest in climate change and variability with an emphasis on the impacts on society  has run throughout Dominic’s research career. In particular, these studies have tended to have a developmental focus, with projects on water and natural resources management, primate and forest conservation, migration, and conflict in Africa, the Americas and Asia.  A key part of many of these studies has been the integration of concepts and approaches from different academic disciplines to achieve research aims including climate modelling, systems modelling, remote sensing and qualitative methodologies. For example in migration-climate studies his research has embraced the use of qualitative data and analyses and agent based modelling to complement his scientific expertise. Recognition of his agenda setting profile in this latter field is shown by recent invited participations in international expert group meetings run by various agencies of the United Nations and UK government. In the last 5 years Dominic has become increasingly interested in how people use climate information and is involved in facilitating its uptake in decision making across a range of levels of governance in Africa.

See also: Dom's Sussex web profile

Prof. Julian Murton:
Permafrost; carbon cycling; the Ice Age Arctic

Julian MurtonJulian’s research focuses on permafrost as a driver and archive of environmental change. He currently investigating carbon cycling in permafrost beneath the Canadian boreal forest in order to parameterize a model of soil-plant-atmosphere processes. A second project is identifying the evidence for Arctic loess accumulation in northeast Siberia in order, ultimately, to determine a record of atmospheric conditions and dust transport during the Ice Age in Western Beringia.

See also: Julian's Sussex web profile



Dr David Ockwell:
Low carbon energy transitions

David OckwellDavid’s work  is focused on climate change policy, with a particular focus on low carbon technology transfer and development, and on public engagement with climate change. His major initiatives include the ESRC funded STEPS Centre’s Energy and Climate Change Domain, which he co-convenes; the DfID funded pro-poor, low carbon development: Improving low carbon energy access and development benefits in Least Developed Countries (LDC); and a UK China collaboration on low carbon technology transfer (2010-2011) funded by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change and the ESRC). Much of his work directly informs national and international policy on low carbon energy transitions.

See: David's Sussex web profile


Dr Pedram Rowhani:
Land cover change science, GIS

Pedram RowhaniPedram’s research interests centre on the human-environment interface. He is an expert in Land Cover Change Science: i.e. to understand the human and climatic drivers of global changes in land cover, and to analyze the impact of these changes on ecosystems as well as the goods and services they provide to human societies. To achieve this Pedram uses satellite Earth Observation data to map and quantify the changes to land conditions and applies statistical and geo-spatial GIS analyses to determine the processes governing change. Specific research topics include the impact of climate extremes on agricultural yeilds; agricultural policy impacts on habitats and biodiversity; and climate policy and forestry; land cover change at the urban-rural interface. He has a wide range of collaborations with leading research labs in Europe and North America developed through his previous appointments.

See: Pedram's Sussex web profile

Prof. Martin Todd:
Tropical climate variability and change, atmospheric aerosols; climate impacts and adaptation

Martin ToddMartin’s research includes both fundamental climate science and applications in climate change adaptation. He focusses on the complex processes of atmospheric aerosols and produced seminal work on the role of Saharan dust in the global climate system. He also studies climate impacts on the water cycle and water resources to inform adaptation planning. His main area of interest in the African climate system. He has published 85 papers in the peer reviewed literature and has an H-index of 29.

See also: Martin's Sussex web profile

Dr Yi Wang:
Contemporary and paleo climate changes, biogeochemical cycles, climate modelling

Yi WangYi’s research covers the big envelope of Earth system sciences and abrupt climate changes. His recent paper in which he investigated the variation of East Asian monsoon precipitation during the past 21 ka with focusing on the potential CO2 forcing was highlighted by the American Journal of Geology as a cover page. His scientific work has accompanied his academic journey from Canada to USA and from USA to UK. Previously, his work on the US Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program has been selected as one of the four research achievements in 2009 ARM Annual Report. His current research interests include the tropical climate systems, focusing on the global monsoon systems, tropical deep convection, and Madden-Julian Oscillation.

See also: Yi's Sussex web profile

Climate change research across Sussex

The Climate Science and Society research cluster is a key part of the Climate@Sussex research centre; a multi-disciplinary hub of research into the grand challenges of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Other core partners include:


We run two inter-disciplinary masters courses which are taught jointly with SPRU and IDS

MSc climate change students MSc Climate Change students

Climate is a core theme in the undergraduate teaching programme and students can opt for a specialised climate pathway.