Dr Sally Brown is Research Fellow within Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton.
Sally is interested in coastal geomorphology, the impacts of sea-level rise and climate change adaptation at local and global scales. Since 2008, she has been Research Fellow in the Civil, Maritime and Environmental Engineering and Science Unit (previously School of Civil Engineering and the Environment) and part of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
Impacts and costs of sea-level rise and climate change (since 2008), particularly on;
Adaptation to sea-level rise and coastal change (since 2008);
Physical and human effects of geomorphic change on the coast, and management response (since 2004);
Soft cliff morphology and retreat (since 2003);
Impacts of coastal structures on adjacent coastlines (since 2003).
Her post-doctoral research has covered the impacts of sea-level rise, globally, European-wide, in Africa, Maldives and Peru, whilst her PhD studies (awarded 2008) on cliff retreat, coastal management and crenulate bay formation focused much more on UK examples.
To assess the impacts of sea-level rise, she uses the Dynamic Interactive Vulnerability Assessment (DIVA) model , developed by Robert Nicholls in Southampton and other non-Southampton scientists. DIVA assesses the global and regional vulnerability of sea-level rise and subsequent impacts, such as land loss, people flooded and the associated costs. Sally also supervises dissertations and GDP projects (including BSc Environmental Scientists, MSc Engineering in the Coastal Environment and MEng Civil/Environmental Engineering). She is an associate member of the Institute of Physics and part of the Environmental Physics Group. Sally has also interacted physics and marine science/engineering activities through science and engineering busking, such as on the Isle of Wight ferries and at the Dorset County Show. She has also spoken with schools and given presentations to community groups about her research.
How much do we anticipate sea levels to rise, and what will the impacts be?
There is much uncertainty into how much sea levels will rise and who this will affect. Without investment, it could influence our cities, transport, energy and our natural environment. Sally describes some of these impacts at global and continental scales in a recent book chapter.
To help address this question, Sally’s first post-doc research project was QUEST-GSI which investigated the uncertainties associated with the impacts of sea-level rise using a range of models. This was to help ascertain who and what would be at risk from rising sea levels so that further strategic planning and investment can be undertaken to reduce risk. Before impacts can be calculated, the amount of sea-level rise – and where this will occur (known as a spatial pattern) – needed to be determined. Sally created scenarios of sea-level rise for a range of models, and then calculated impacts. Initial results were used in the widely published Foreign and Commonwealth Office 4º map which included high rates of sea-level rise. Full scientific results will be published shortly.
What are the regional implications of sea-level rise?
Sally has undertaken similar work on the effects of sea-level rise level rise at regional (Africa), and national levels, presently Maldives and Bangladesh.
What are the costs of sea-level rise?
Extreme water levels and rising sea levels have the potential to inflict much damage through the processes of flooding and erosion, resulting in land loss, building damage and people who are forced to move away from the area. These costs can be also reduced through adaptation. Sally contributed to the 2010 World Bank study Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change being a co-author on the coastal impacts chapter. She has also investigated costs in other projects, such as in Europe.
Can we avoid rising sea levels, and what are the benefits of this?
Some sea-level rise could be avoided, but only over longer timescales, and this can be achieved through climate change mitigation via reducing greenhouse has emissions. Sally has been involved in the AVOID study which takes climate mitigation scenarios and compares then with business-as-normal or medium-high emissions scenarios to determine what impacts and costs can be reduced, and when this is likely to occur.
How does the coast historically change, how have we managed or adapted the coast in the past and how are we going to cope with social and physical change (including sea-level rise) in the future?
This initiated from her PhD studies investigating cliff retreat rates in Holderness and Christchurch Bay and to a lesser extent, north-east Norfolk UK. Wanting a practical aspects of research, Sally undertook DGPS beach and cliff surveys and historical coastal data to analyse cliff retreat in GIS. This included consideration of how engineers protected the coast (in good and bad ways!), which often results in a phenomenon called the terminal groyne effect, and subsequent crenulate bay formation. She is interested in how we can best manage and sustain the coast and work with natural processes in the future.
Sally is keen to promote cooperation between researchers with similar interests and in March 2013 organised the WUN Changing Coasts, where eminent researchers world-wide met to discuss how we can better sustain, adapt and protect our coast, whilst maintaining healthy ecosystems in the future. Part of this involves a better liaison between scientists, engineers and policy makers and local and national levels - which is a common thread in her current research project RISES-AM-. In February 2014, Sally was invited to speak at a workshop in nearby Eastleigh, hosted by local MP Mike Thornton and run by Green Alliance (an environmental organisation encouraging political leaders to become engaged in global environmental issues) where climate change adaptation was discussed between community, local organisations, businesses and the local authority.
Safe and just operating spaces for regional social-ecological systems - Dearing, John A., Wang, Rong, Zhang, Ke, Dyke, James G., Haberl, Helmut, Hossain, Sarwar, Langdon, Peter G., Lenton, Timothy, Raworth, Kate, Brown, Sally, Carstensen, Jacob, Cole, Megan, Cornell, Sarah, Dawson, Terence, Doncaster, C. Patrick, Eigenbrod, Felix, Flörke, Martina, Jeffers, Elizabeth, Mackay, Anson, Nykvist, Björn and Poppy, Guy M.
Shifting perspectives on coastal impacts and adaptation - Brown, Sally, Nicholls, Robert J., Hanson, Susan, Brundrit, Geoff, Dearing, John A., Dickson, Mark E., Gallop, Shari L., Gao, Shu, Haigh, Ivan D., Hinkel, Jochen, Jiménez, José A., Klein, Richard J.T., Kron, Wolfgang, Lázár, Attila N., Neves, Claudio Freitas, Newton, Alice, Pattiaratachi, Charitha, Payo, Andres, Pye, Kenneth, Sánchez-Arcilla, Agustín, Siddall, Mark, Shareef, Ali, Tompkins, Emma L., Vafeidis, Athanasios T., van Maanen, Barend, Ward, Philip J. and Woodroffe, Colin D.
Coastal zone - Kebede, A.S., Nicholls, R.J., Brown, S. and Hanson, S.. In Mozambique: Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change
Downdrift erosion and the frequency of coastal landsliding - Brown, S. and Barton, M.E.. In Landslides and Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions. Proceedings of the International Conference on Landslides and Climate Change, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, UK, 21–24 May 2007 - McInnes, Robin, Jakeways, Jenny, Fairbank, Helen and Mathi, Emma (eds.)
International Conference on Landslides and Climate Change
Engineering Geology for Society and Territory: 12th International Association of Engineering Geology Congress, Torino , Italy
15 - 19 Sep 2014
Human dynamics of climate change map - Lewis, K., Richardson, K., Kent, C., Dankers, R., Davie, J., Giuntoli, I., Robinson, E., Clark, C., Prudhomme, C., Wada, Y., Brown, S., Nicholls, R.J., Lincke, D., Hinkel, J, Elliott, J.W. and Rosenzweig, C.
Human dynamics of climate change. Launched by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Foreign and Commonwealth OfficeLondon, UK
University of Southampton, School of Civil Engineering and the Environment
Scientists and engineers are sometimes asked by students in University or outside how they got to where they are now.
I really enjoyed learning about the environment at school, particularly in physical geography. However, I found geography didn't provide enough answers as to why things happened in the environment. To provide answers to my questions I looked to physics to help provide explanations. After taking A levels in Geography, Physics and Maths, I went onto study Geophysical Sciences at the University of Southampton. This multi-disciplinary course appealed to me as it combined many different subjects of interest, including geophysics, geology, geography, oceanography, physics and maths. However, I was never entirely satisfied with learning about science, and wanted to understand more about its application.
After a year working, I realised I could make this connection by applying my scientific interests to engineering. I returned to the University to study MRes Coastal Engineering for Climate Change, which combined both my interests in geology and also climate change. My dissertation analysed the role of defences and cliff retreat at Barton-on-Sea, Christchurch Bay. At the end of the year I extended my research into a PhD, looking at other cliffed environments in Holderness and Norfolk.
In 2008 I started working as a post-doctoral research scientist studying coasts, climate change and sea-level rise. I really like my job as there is a great range of different topics with a lot of applications, and I get to work with scientists in different disciplines. Although my work is more computer based now, I also still enjoy visiting the coast too.
Dr Sally Brown Engineering and the Environment University of Southampton Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ