Hull’s high-tech ‘mini waves’ to provide vital lessons for climate change

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Hull is to play a central role in shaping the future of international climate change policy, following a €1m award.
Prof D.Parsons

Hull is to play a central role in shaping the future of international climate change policy, following a €1m award.

The University of Hull’s state-of-the-art Total Environment Simulator (TES) at The Deep in Hull will figure strongly in a Europe-wide project aimed at improving climate change forecasts.

Environmental researchers, led by Dr Stuart McLelland and Prof Dan Parsons of the Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences have been awarded funding to carry out research as part of the €10m EU-funded HYDRALAB+ project.

The University will be working with 23 other European centres of research excellence over the next four years to improve predictions about how rivers, estuaries and coasts respond to environmental change.

Prof Parsons explained:

The project will utilise the particular strengths and expertise at specialist facilities throughout Europe to develop new techniques and protocols to improve how climate change is modeled and its impacts forecasted.

In Hull’s case, we have access to the Total Environment Simulator, one of the most sophisticated pieces of equipment for modelling the effects of flows and waves levels under different environmental conditions.

The TES is widely regarded as one the of world’s foremost experimental facilities for modeling the dynamics of fluid and sediment transfer under a wide range of environmental conditions.

With a large flume tank and apparatus to control the movement of water and sediment, it is able to simulate a wide variety of conditions, including storms and floods. An integrated suite of high-resolution monitoring equipment then measures the speed of the processes and the shape of developing landforms.

Dr McLelland added that the data gathered will enable countries and regions currently threatened by rising sea levels to make vital decisions about flood defences.

When planning to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, your decisions are only as good as the models you have to work with,” he said.

Trying to predict what climate change will do to coastlines is very complicated because there are so many different variables.

By looking at the behaviour of water and sediment in different scenarios using the TES, we will be able to model this complexity in greater detail. It will help to provide a much more detailed picture that can be used to deal with flood risk all over the world.

The award of the research grant is the latest success for the Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, which was recently listed among the top 200 places to study the subject in the world. The importance of the TES as a world-class research facility was also recognised recently with a £150,000 upgrade.

Dr David Richards, PVC-Research and Enterprise said:

This is very important research that will help governments around the world to make vital decisions as the impact of climate change is felt.

Hull’s central role in the project recognises the pioneering research being carried at the University in the field of environmental science and climate change studies.