Aerial view of scenic Greenland Glaciers and icebergs

Environmental change research

Explore our work in this area of expertise, one of two within our Physical and Human Geography

Evidence is growing that human activity influences the Earth’s climate and environment. Our Environmental Processes and Change research examines the changing environment around the world. We explore how to avoid and manage the environmental crises of the future.

From the last ice age to present day climate change, we seek to understand how the natural climate and environment changes over time, and how human activities interact with natural climatic variability. We look at how the growing population increases the pressure on the Earth's environment, and we provide innovative solutions to pressing environmental issues.

To mitigate the future risk from climate change, we're making local assessment of its effects in various ecosystems and hydrosystems around the globe. We're exploring melting glaciers and floods, heat waves and forest fires, landslides and other natural disasters, and helping design better urban environments for humans and biodiversity. We're studying the science of decay and the complex economic, political and cultural contexts in which it occurs, to better preserve the built environment around us.

Our research outputs are regularly published in leading publications within the field, including Nature Climate Change, Climate Dynamics, and the Journal of Geophysical Research. Our work has also been covered by the mainstream media, with recent projects featured in The Times, National Geographic and the New York Post.

Our research focuses on the following topics


  • Coastal Processes
  • Fluvial Geomorphology
  • Quaternary Science
  • Palaeoclimate and Environmental Reconstruction
  • Wildfire
  • Environmental Science
  • Glaciology
  • Climate Science
  • Weathering
  • Ecology
  • Volcanology/Tephrochronology
  • Natural Hazards

Methods and facilities

The University of Portsmouth is home to exceptional facilities that shape the work we do – including our earth surface materials laboratory, sediment and tephra laboratory, infrared Fourier transform spectrometer, laser granulometer, and ground penetrating radar. 

We use laboratory and field-based methods in our research, including quantitative observations, satellite data, remote sensing, modelling, experimental analysis in the laboratory and field, and simulation of complex environmental conditions.

We regularly collaborate with major industry and academic partners on our research, including the National Trust, Forest Research and Historic England. 


Many of our research projects receive significant funding from prestigious organisations, such as the Royal Society, the European Union's INTERACT programme, the Royal Geographical Society, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and the Leverhulme Trust.

   - an NERC-funded project (2016), led by Dr Nicholas Pepin, investigating how land-use affects surface climate (temperature and moisture availability) on Mount Kilimanjaro

Recent publication highlights include

Discover our areas of expertise

Environmental change is one of our 2 areas of expertise in Physical and Human Geography – explore the other area below.

Development, Wellbeing and Justice

Our research is looking at the myriad reasons that lead to inequalities in the health, wellbeing, prosperity and social development of different communities.
Aerial shot of portsmouth
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Research groups

Climate Change and the Environment

We're researching reconstructing climate change generally, with specific focus on volcanoes and snow, ice and glaciers.


Extreme Environments Research Group

We're researching how to evaluate and enhance human comfort and performance in the areas of sport, industry, emergency services, military and expeditions to the ultimate extremes.


Interested in a PhD in Physical & Human Geography?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Physical & Human Geography postgraduate research degrees page.