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Interdisciplinary Research Theme

Extreme environments are found on the Earth’s surface, its subsurface, oceans, in the atmosphere, and the solar system. The threats we face due to climate change are likely to exacerbate many of the extreme environments found on Earth such as the geographical poles and arid deserts. Developing a better understanding of these changes and how we can adapt is crucial for the future of Earth and its inhabitants.  

At the most extreme, conditions challenge the existence of most known life forms. The guiding vision of Extreme Environments is to understand and harness the physical and biological environments that operate under extreme conditions and stresses, and to develop research that will have tangible impacts on an environmental, technological, economic and societal basis at regional, national and global levels.Through our research, we are seeking to answer fundamental global questions. What drove past changes in the Earth’s climate and how did ecosystems and humanity adapt? How do processes in the Polar Regions amplify the effects of climate change and what are the global impacts of a loss of snow and ice cover? Can we inform society’s transition to a more sustainable and resilient future by predicting future sea level and forecasting extreme events such as storms in space and rogue waves in the ocean? 

Extreme Environments brings together a broad, multi-disciplinary research community from across the University to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing our planet. Our research extends from the depths of the oceans and the beds of the ice sheets to the outer reaches of the atmosphere and beyond, while encompassing scales from micro-meteorology and microbial biodiversity to climate dynamics and sun-earth interactions.  We are a diverse collection of researchers, currently numbering around ninety researchers working towards a varied range of science goals under the broad theme of environmental extremes and change. By working together across a wide range of disciplines, we are able to share ideas and expertise, gaining from the distinctive ways of thinking about and tackling common problems, and identifying and exploiting synergies that can enhance our research outcomes and open up new avenues of investigation.

While we have major research strengths in space weather forecasting, and in cold and palaeo-environments, including the evolution of the Earth’s great ice sheets and their interaction with the ocean and broader climate system, our range of expertise includes: geophysical analysis, subglacial processes, environmental monitoring, atmospheric circulation, snow modelling, polar/alpine fieldwork, fluid dynamics, 3D & 4D modelling and visualisation, nonlinear and dynamical systems analysis, machine learning, observational solar physics, space plasma physics, magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, geomicrobiology, biogeochemistry, geochemistry/mineralogy, microbial community analyses, human-environment interactions, effects of environmental change on society. The challenge for all species, including our own, lies in their ability to adapt as conditions change, making once habitable environments extreme.

What we do

The key to sustaining the future habitability of our planet for all life rests on our ability to understand environmental change and how, where and when such change causes a transition to extreme conditions. To address that challenge requires a systematic study of environmental extremes and how they have evolved in the past, combined with the development of techniques and technologies that can function under extreme conditions.

These developments will enable us to access and sample extreme environments and thereby undertake the research that will allow us to understand and quantify future changes. The Extreme Environments IDRT brings together expertise from across research groups, departments and faculties to tackle all aspects of the problem including:

  • The processes that create and alter extreme conditions

  • How those processes drive wider environmental change and extreme events

  • How humans and other organisms cope with extremes and adapt to change

  • How the technology that we depend on can be made to function in extreme conditions

Theme Lead

Professor Adrian Jenkins

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More events

Upcoming events

EcoMat Conference 2024
DynaSun 2024
TaPRA Conference 2024

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