The atmosphere, the thin envelope of gases surrounding the Earth, is essential to our survival, making an otherwise uninhabitable planet habitable. It has been known for some time that human activities (“anthropogenic” influences) are altering the composition of our atmosphere: since the onset of the industrial era in the last two centuries or so, a build-up of so-called `greenhouse gases’ in the atmosphere has been contributing to a warming of the surface of the planet.
Scientists at Oxford study the atmosphere using a variety of techniques involving observations, theory and computer modelling. Oxford has a long history of the use of remote sounding technology to gather information about the atmosphere, designing and building satellite instruments, handling the observational data they return and interpreting those data using computer-based physical and mathematical models of the atmosphere and climate system. Current areas of particularly active research in earth observation monitoring include satellite observations of trace gases and atmospheric aerosols – small particles suspended in the atmosphere which affect climate both directly through their interaction with radiation and also indirectly via their effect on clouds.
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Relevant Research Groups
Research cuts across many components of climate science as they apply to Africa with a focus on rainfall dynamics and aerosol emissions.
Research includes large-scale atmospheric circulation, ocean circulation and climate variability.
Research that addresses physical climate processes in the context of anthropogenic perturbations to the earth system with main focus on aerosol and cloud physics.
Research including mineral aerosols, tropical forest systems, climate change in Africa, Himalaya and Andes, changes in global and regional hydrological cycles.
Earth Observation Data
Retrieval of atmospheric properties (e.g. temperature, pressure, trace gas concentrations, aerosol and cloud properties) from satellite data.
Seeking to understand the fundamental principles of atmospheric circulation.
Using various isotopes to understand what drives natural climate change during the past and present.
Modelling and Predicting Climate Change
Improving the ability of climate models to represent climate variability and develop more accurate and realistic scenarios of future climate change.
Quantifying the uncertainty in weather and climate predictions and understanding what is needed to reduce current levels of uncertainty.
Understanding the climate and variability of the stratosphere, and possible links with changes in the troposphere due to future climate change.
Studying the effects of volcanoes on climate and the interaction between volcanic activity and climate change.