Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society

Prof. Stuart Cunningham

Department / group: Physics and Technology
Personal URL: Not available
Google Scholar URL: Not available

Research interests:

The preeminent scientific challenge of the 21st Century is to understand and quantify Earth’s current and future climate. How will climate variability impact the ocean’s sustainable resources and what are the human impacts of such change? Observing, modelling and quantifying marine systems is key to understanding their response to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Oceans determine the rate, extent and character of climate by their long-term storage and transport of heat and carbon and dominance of the global fresh-water cycle. A critical challenge is to integrate our understanding of ocean systems on different timescales and across disciplines and to propose testable hypothesis of how these systems interact.

New technology, particularly the development of observing platforms and novel sensors will likely provide sustained observations of physical, chemical, biological and geological properties, and so play a critical role in this challenge for the 21st century.

Over several years I have been advocating and proposing basin-wide observations in the subpolar gyre because of the relevance to the UK. I collaborate widely: as a leader or major partner in UK and EU programmes (Thermohaline Overturning at Risk? and North Atlantic Climate Variability); and in international programs interacting with funding and co-ordination agencies (e.g. NSF, NOAA, CLIVAR, OceanObs and the UK MCCIP). I am a contributing author for the International Panel on Climate Change. I provide national and international leadership through the adoption and exploitation of new technology, and through leadership of science programs and the promotion of large-scale observing programmes.

Career history:

I am an observational Physical Oceanographer with a B.Sc. (Astrophysics, University of Edinburgh) a M.Sc. (Physical Oceanography, University College of North Wales) and a Ph.D. (Ocean Inverse Modelling, University of Liverpool). I joined the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences in 1990 and then the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. In August 2012 I joined SAMS as the MASTS appointment in Physical Oceanography. As an observational physical oceanographer I have participated in 32 research cruises (800+ days at sea). I have written or co-authored 35 refereed scientific publications including three in Nature or Science.

Active research projects:

RAPID-MOC/MOCHA: Sustained observations of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and Heat Flux (

Thermohaline Overturning at Risk? (THOR) (

North Atlantic Climate Variability (NACLIM) (

Recent publications:

Srokosz, M., Baringer, M., Bryden, H., Cunningham, S., Delworth, T., Lozier, S., Marotzke, J. and Sutton, R., 2012. Past, present, and future changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 93(11), pp.1663-1676.

Cunningham, S.A., Kanzow, T., Rayner, D., Baringer, M.O., Johns, W.E., Marotzke, J., Longworth, H.R., Grant, E.M., Hirschi, J.J.M., Beal, L.M. and Meinen, C.S., 2007. Temporal variability of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation at 26.5 N. science, 317(5840), pp.935-938.

Clément, L., Frajka‐Williams, E., Szuts, Z.B. and Cunningham, S.A., 2014. Vertical structure of eddies and Rossby waves, and their effect on the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation at 26.5 N. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 119(9), pp.6479-6498.

Cunningham, S.A., Roberts, C.D., Frajka‐Williams, E., Johns, W.E., Hobbs, W., Palmer, M.D., Rayner, D., Smeed, D.A. and McCarthy, G., 2013. Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation slowdown cooled the subtropical ocean. Geophysical research letters, 40(23), pp.6202-6207.

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