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Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton
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Dr Ivan D Haigh BSc, PhD

Associate Professor in Coastal Oceanography

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I am an Associate Professor in Coastal Oceanography within the School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton, based at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton.

I am passionate about all things relating to sea level. My team and I investigate variations in sea level from time-scales of seconds (waves), to days (tides and storm surges), through to long-term century scale rises in mean sea level, and its impact on the coast.

Career history

In the last 12 years Ivan has worked on a wide range of projects in both industry and academia covering many different aspects of coastal oceanography, with a particular focus on sea-level rise and coastal flooding. After graduating from the University of Southampton in 2001, having studied oceanography and maths, he worked for 5 years as a numerical modelling consultant at ABP Marine Environmental Research. During this time he led several projects for the Environment Agency, looking at coastal flood risk along the UK south coast. He then undertook a PhD at the University of Southampton examining sea-level rise and extreme events around the UK. He then was a research assistant professor at the Oceans Institute at the University of Western Australia, primarily assessing past and potential future changes in sea level and variability around Australia and worldwide. In April 2012 he joined the National Oceanography Centre Southampton as a lecturer in Coastal Oceanography with the University of Southampton. Ivan is also an Adjunct research fellow at the UWA Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia.

I have four main areas of research, as follows:

  1. Mean Sea level: my research assesses local, regional and global trends in mean sea level, and in particular determines the best methods to detect accelerations in the rate of rise and understand inter-annual variability;
  2. Extreme sea levels and coastal flooding: I investigate changes in storm surges and extreme sea levels and how this changes the frequency of coastal flooding and I apply extreme value analysis techniques. I am particularly interested in compound events, i.e. flooding arising from multiple sources;
  3. Astronomical tides: I analyse inter-annual changes in tides (4.4 and 18.6-year tidal cycles) and variations arising from non-astronomical factors;
  4. Coastal impacts: a key element of my research is translating the magnitude of the projected changes in mean and extreme sea level into impacts and what this means for coastal populations. In particular I consider adaptation responses in coastal cities, on deltas and in small islands.

Active Research Projects

CHANCE: Understanding compound flooding in the past, present and future for North Atlantic coastlines

In CHANCE we will deliver a new integrated approach, incorporating all the spatial and temporal dependencies between the four main source drivers of flooding in coastal regions. 

CompFlood: Compound Flooding in Coastal Viet Nam 

This project brings together UK and Vietnamese expertise to map and characterise present and predict future flood risk, from coastal, fluvial, and surface sources and, uniquely, to assess the risk of compound flooding across the Mekong delta in Vietnam.

CoastRes: Coastal resilience in the face of sea-level rise: making the most of natural systems 

CoastalRes aims to develop and demonstrate prototype methods to assess realistic pathways for strategic coastal erosion and flood resilience in the light of climate change, including sea-level rise.

Seaside coast
Coastal change in Dorset

RISeR: Rates of Interglacial Sea-level Change, and Response

RISeR will use provide high-end projections of sea-level rise beyond 2100 for northwest Europe, based upon the reconstructed magnitudes and rates of regional Last Interglacial sea-level change.

ACROSS: Australasian Colonization Research: Origins of Seafaring to Sahul 

The ACROSS project takes a multidisciplinary approach that embraces marine geoarchaeology, oceanography, and archaeogenetics, to examine the When, Where, Who and How of the earliest ocean crossings in world history.

Completed Research Projects


This project explored the feasibility of combining in situ and satellite-based data with statistical models to develop a toolbox which will help identify timings (with uncertainties) of sea-level rise rates and, accordingly, to estimate lead times for the UK.

Ivan conducting field work
Ivan conducting field work on our research vessel Bill Conway

SUCCESS: Synthesising Unprecedented Coastal Conditions: Extreme Storm Surges 

SUCCESS synthesised a number of “black swan” storm surges for the UK – events that have not been observed but that are physically plausible. 

Adjust 1.5

This project defined and evaluated Adjustable emission Pathways to 1.5°C, in which the emissions pathway was not fixed at the outset, but instead responds to our evolving knowledge of the warming response to emission to deliver a warming target of 1.5°C over the 21st century and beyond. 

Research Impact

My innovative research has led to considerable impact, in the UK and internationally, as recognized by my receipt in 2019 of the Vice Chancellor Award for Research Impact. Since 2019, I have been co-authoring the coastal risk chapter in the upcoming 3rd Climate Change Risk Assessment Report, for the UK Government; which sets out the risks and opportunities facing the UK from climate change. In 2019, I was one of four people invited to the House of Commons to answer questions from MPs on coastal flooding and erosion for a new Government review. Since 2019, I have been leading a study for the Environment Agency assessing changes in sea level in the Thames Estuary to help inform the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan – 2020 review, which provides strategic direction for protecting the 1.3 million people and £275B of infrastructure currently at risk of flooding in London. In 2019/20, and also previously in 2016/17, I led the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) report on coastal flooding; the aim of which is to provide a co-ordinating framework for the UK to transfer high quality evidence on marine climate change impacts, and guidance on adaptation, to policy advisors and decision-makers. In 2017, I helped update the coastal flooding scenarios for the Cabinet Office’s 2017 National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies. In 2015 I established and continue to lead and develop the UK’s Coastal Flooding database (surgewatch website); the most detailed database on coastal flooding anywhere in the world. Since its launch in May 2015, the website has been viewed >100,000 times and datasets have been downloaded by numerous organisations.

International Leadership

I helped to establish and now lead the biennial Extreme Value Analysis and Application to Natural Hazard (EVAN) international conference series. The overall aim of this conference series is to bring together and promote interchange between a diverse community of research scientists, students, practitioners and stakeholders concerned with this complex and inter-disciplinary topic. To date we have held four highly successful conferences in Germany (2013), Spain (2015), UK (2017, which I organised and chaired) and Paris (2019). The 5th conference will take place in Florida, USA in 2021, and we plan to hold the 6th conference in Venice, Italy in 2023.

Test closure of the Thames Barrier
Test closure of the Thames Barrier, which protects London from Flood

I have acted as the main figurehead for several key international activities. I currently lead the development of the Global Extreme Sea Level Analysis database (GESLA website), which forms the basis for virtual all global extreme sea level assessments and has been used in the two most recent IPCC assessments. In late 2019, as a result of my work with the Environment Agency (see below), the University of Southampton has been formally invited to be part of the I-Storm network, and I am currently acting in this capacity to help storm surge barriers around the world plan and prepare for sea-level rise. In 2017, I worked with the World Bank to provide a coastal flood risk assessment for Fiji. In 2016, I co-authored a chapter on sea level in the North Sea Region Climate Change Assessment.

Since 2017 I have been an editor for Nature’s Scientific Data journal and Frontiers in Marine Science. In the last three years I have guest edited special issues in Natural Hazards, Journal of Marine Science and Engineering and Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences.

My Research Group

Seb Pitman by coast
Seb Pitman measuring rip currents at Perranporth, Cornwall for PhD

My current research group includes: Dr Melissa Wood; Dr Paula Camus; Dr Kiki Kuijjer – ; Mr Ali Hendry; Miss Rebecca Hugget; Mr Alejandro Pinto; Mrs Salma Sabour; Miss Marie Schlenker; Joanna Zanker.

Past group members include: Clementine Chirol, Hagen Radtke, Sebastian Pitman, Christos Mitsis, Fiona Hibbert, Matthew Wadey, Abd Amirudin and Robert Mawdsley.

Research group

Physical Oceanography

Research project(s)

The influence of reefs on coastal oceanography, erosion and recovery

Flood MEMORY: Multi-Event Modelling Of Risk & recoverY

iGlass: Using interglacials to assess future sea level scenarios

Sediment transport pathways offshore between Poole and Christchurch Bays

Great Barrier Reef: How reef morphology and sea level affects wave transmission

When will 1.5°C of warming occur, and what will the consequences be? (ADJUST1.5)

Surge Watch: An interactive and multi-purpose database of coastal flooding events for the UK

Rips and risk: An investigation of the hazard signature

Coastal Landfill and Shoreline Management: Implications for Coastal Adaptation Infrastructure

Coastal resilience in the face of sea-level rise

Co-director (together with Robert Nicholls) and admissions officer of the MSc Engineering in the Coastal Environment.

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Book Chapters




SOES6011: Applied Sediment Dynamics, Course co-ordinator
CENV6143 Research Project: Engineering in the Coastal Environment, Course co-ordinator with Robert Nicholls
SOES6014: Introduction to Physical Oceanography, Lecturer
SOES6058: Introduction to Physical Oceanography for Ship Science, Lecturer
SOES6060: MSc Key Skills and Applied Coastal Oceanography, Lecturer
FEEG6012: MSc Research Project: Engineering in the Coastal Environment, Lecturer

Dr Ivan D Haigh
Ocean and Earth Science
National Oceanography Centre Southampton
University of Southampton Waterfront Campus
European Way
Southampton SO14 3ZH

Room Number : NOCS/564/08

Dr Ivan D Haigh's personal home page
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