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Sybren Drijfhout

Professor in Physical Oceanography and Climate Physics, University of Southampton

Professor Sybren Drijfhout is Professor in Physical Oceanography and Climate Physics within Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton at the University of Southampton.

My main research interests revolve around the role of the ocean in climate change, and vice versa, the impact of climate change on the ocean, in particular the stability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and abrupt climate change. Apart from doing fundamental and strategic research I am interested to contribute to developing climate change scenarios for the marine environment, including sea level rise.

To this end I make use of ocean and climate models; NEMO and HadGEM3 together with MSM-group of NERC and the UK Met Office, and idealised models based on a.o. MITgcm for process evaluation, and analysis of the CMIP5 database to study the impact of climate change.

I obtained my PhD in 1992 at the University of Utrecht on the subject "On the eddy heat transport in the ocean”. This work was carried out at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). After my PhD I moved for one year to the Max Planck Institute of Hamburg on a Marie Curie grant, to further develop the Hamburg Ocean Primitive Equation (HOPE) model and to develop a Lagrangian view of the Conveyor Belt circulation in ocean models. Thereafter I returned to the Netherlands; first at the University of Utrecht, thereafter back to the KNMI, where I became substitute head of the section Oceanographic Research. In the EU-proposal “TRACMASS” I collaborated intensively with various scientists from NOCS.

My first and only sea-going experience took place in 2001 under the banner of the Mixing of Agulhas Rings Experiment (MARE). In this program I developed a strong interest to collaborate with observational oceanographers. After the sections Oceanography and Climate Predictability merged at KNMI, I started to analyse coupled climate models; the CMIP3 and CMIP5 multi-model ensembles, large single-model ensembles carried out with the NCAR and MPI-Hamburg climate models, and the newly developed climate model “ECEARTH”. More theoretical work was based on experiments with intermediate complexity models ECBILT and SPEEDO, which are used for palaeoceanographic modelling with the late Prof. Nanne Weber, and stability analysis of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) with Prof. Henk Dijkstra. Recently, I started a new line of research on abrupt climate change, and I became work-package leader for this theme in the EU-program EMBRACE. I am keen to introduce coupled modelling at NOCS, based on the NEMO025 model as ocean component (HadGEM3), and working closely together with NERC modellers and scientists. I also see my position at NOCS as a unique opportunity to intensify collaboration with observational oceanographers, and to create stronger links between oceanographic research and climate modelling.


  • –present
    Professor in Physical Oceanography and Climate Physics, University of Southampton