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Lianne Harrison

Lianne HarrisonEmail:

ORCiD: 0000-0002-7329-4674 | LinkedIn

I graduated with a first class MPhys, BSc in physics from the University of Leeds where my research projects focused on condensed matter physics. I am interested in applying my skills to climate research as the way in which individual features of Earth’s climate are interwoven, so as to influence other properties through feedback, fascinates me. Climate modelling appeals to me because making predictions about our changing climate is a vital tool to aid the mitigation of future climate change.

Before starting my PhD I took part in a NERC research experience placement (REP) which contributed to the international Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project. This project sought to assess the climate’s response to elevated levels of atmospheric CO2, taking into account long term feedback mechanisms such as vegetation and ice sheet coverage. The temperature increase in response to contributions from these feedback processes is known as Earth system sensitivity (ESS). This was quantified by modelling global temperatures during the mid-Pliocene Warm Period (approximately 3.3 to 3 Ma) which is the most recent period of Earth’s history with similar CO2 concentrations to those seen today. I estimated the likely value of ESS and its uncertainty via a probability density function (PDF) produced using temperature anomaly data from an ensemble of almost 300 model simulations.

PhD title: Is ocean melting driving Larsen C Ice Shelf towards collapse?
The Antarctic Peninsula has suffered significant ice loss in recent years, notably the Larsen A ice shelf in 1995 and Larsen B in 2002. New studies now show neighbouring ice shelf, Larsen C, to be thinning and lowering - both precursors to collapse.

The collapse of Larsen C would cause glaciers on land to run out to sea, releasing fresh meltwater which would disrupt ocean currents and lead to significant global sea level rise. Oceanographic instruments have been deployed underneath Larsen C and seismic surveys of the ice shelf and cavity below it are currently being undertaken to provide ground breaking data concerning the environment underneath Larsen C. My PhD will use this data, along with state of the art computer modelling techniques, to gain a better understanding of how the ocean may be causing Larsen C to thin and what consequences this may have for future collapse.

Haywood, A. Dolan, A. Hunter, S. Harrison, L. Hill, D. Howell, F. Prescott, C. and Tindall, J. Pliocene Constraints on Earth System Sensitivity. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting December 2015. Abstract available at:

In September 2015, I attended the opening Past Earth Network Conference where I presented a poster entitled ‘Pliocene constraints on Earth system sensitivity.’ My poster received a special mention during the poster competition announcement.

Primary supervisor: Dr Paul Holland (BAS)
Secondary supervisors: Dr Keith Nicholls (BAS), Prof Karen Heywood (UEA).

Other relevant activities
During my undergraduate degree I volunteered as a Peer Assisted Learning Mentor. This involved supporting new physics students as they adjusted to university life, offering academic and pastoral advice, and managing weekly group activities to help them understand course material.