Professor Alan Haywood

Professor Alan Haywood


I am currently Professor of Palaeoclimate Modelling within the Institute of Climate & Atmospheric Science and the Earth Surface Science Institute. I earned my Ph.D. in numerical climate modelling and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction in 2001 from the University of Reading, and I have worked on modelling past climate and environmental change since that time. My research is focussed on understanding the evolution of climate and environments on Earth, and in evaluating how well advanced numerical climate models simulate major changes that have occurred in the climate system in the past. This helps us to understand how well models simulate future climate change.



  • Director of Research & Innovation
  • REF2021 Unit of Assessment Leader

Research interests

My research interests are multidisciplinary and 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 driving past climate change
  • Examination of ocean temperature responses during past greenhouse climates
  • Prediction of climate variability during past warm intervals
  • Understanding the dynamics of past climates
  • Assessment of equator to pole temperature gradients during the past and implied changes in atmospheric versus oceanic heat transports

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 outputs produced by such models through comparison to palaeoclimate proxy data.

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 Past Global Changes Core Project (PAGES).

Current Projects

  • Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project - Phase 2 (International Collaborative Project)
  • Arctic Ocean circulation during the Mesozoic (The Leverhulme Trust)
  • Palaeogeography and past climate change (Industry)
  • Pliocene Arctic Climate Teleconnections (Norwegian Science Foundation)
  • The onset of Aridity in Asia (Chinese National Science Foundation)

Current PhD Students

  • 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
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Professional memberships

  • American Geophysical Union
  • European Geoscience Union

Research groups and institutes

  • Climate Science and Impacts
  • Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science
  • Earth Surface Science Institute
  • Palaeo@Leeds
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>