School of Earth and Environment

Alan Haywood Prof Alan Haywood

Professor of Palaeoclimate Modelling; UK National Centre for Atmospheric Science PI (Palaeoclimate); Director of Research and Innovation

Telephone number: +44(0) 113 34 38657
Email address:
Room: 8.107
PA details: Cara Healy +44(0) 113 34 36461

Affiliation: Earth Surface Science Institute, Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science

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I am currently Professor of Palaeoclimate Modelling within the Institute of Climate & Atmospheric Science and the Earth Surface Science Institute, School of Earth & Environment, University of Leeds. I earned my Ph.D. in numerical climate modelling and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction in 2001 from the University of Reading and have worked on modelling past climate and environmental change since that time. My research focuses on the reconstruction of past climates (particularly for the Cenozoic) and on evaluating the outputs of advanced numerical climate models (GCMs) against proxy climate and environmental data.

Research Interests

My research interests are multidisciplinary as well as holistic. They are focussed on the reconstruction of Earth's environmental/climatic history, the assessment of our ability to model it, and the use of this information to examine potential scenarios for future climate change. Some highlights of my research include:

  • Exploration of the importance of vegetation climate feedbacks in palaeoclimate modelling exercises
  • Examination of ocean temperature responses during past greenhouse climates
  • Prediction of ENSO behaviour during past warm intervals
  • Reconstruction of Cretaceous climate dynamics using a limited area climate model
  • Assessment of equator to pole temperature gradients during the past and implied changes in atmospheric versus oceanic heat transport

My particular area of expertise is in the synthesis of global palaeoclimate proxy data and then the use of this data as prescribed boundary conditions within a model, or as a validation tool for model predictions. In essence my research niche is to provide an interface between climate modellers and earth scientists. Numerical climate models are currently at the forefront in the quest to predict accurately the dynamics and consequences of future climate change. It is necessary to test the robustness of output produced by such models through comparison to palaeoclimate proxy data. The importance of developing data sets of boundary conditions to initially force and then evaluate palaeoclimate modelling experiments has clearly been demonstrated by the CLIMAP, COHMAP, GLARMAP, PRISM & GEACEP initiatives. Data from one locality is of little use in evaluating model output or for developing a full understanding of past climate dynamics. However, once data has been properly synthesised across a region or globe its usefulness, in conjunction with climate model simulations, is immense. This research field is dynamic and continuing to grow significantly in importance. The techniques used in data synthesis and data/model comparison studies are applicable to any time slice of the geological record. The international importance of research which investigates past climate history and aims to understand the interactive physical, chemical and biological processes that regulate the total Earth system, is underlined by global initiatives such as the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and Past Global Changes Core Project (PAGES).

Current Projects

  • Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project - Phase 2 (international collaborative project)
  • The Past Earth Network (EPSRC funded UK science network)
  • Palaeogeography and past climate change (industry funded)
  • Pliocene Arctic Climate Teleconnections (Norwegian Science Foundation)
  • The onset of Aridity in Asia (Chinese National Science Foundation)

Current PhD Students

  • Caroline Prescott: Understanding Pliocene climate variability
  • Joanna Hall: Did extreme seasonality in Cenozoic and Cretaceous climates influence the evolution of marine and terrestrial biotas in Antarctica
  • Despina Zoura: Modelling ancient Eurasian seaways and the onset of the Asian aridity
  • Ilkka Matero: North American ice sheet collapse and abrupt climate change
  • Dario Domingo: Mathematical Methods for Uncertainty Quantification in Reconstructions of Past Climate
  • Yvonne Smith: Modelling iceberg trajectories and the nature of ice sheets during the Pliocene
  • Paul Smith: Mathematical and statistical approaches in climate modelling