Department of Physics

Physics of the Environment: Climate and Geophysics


Environmental physics is a key area of research. It addresses vital questions about the world’s climate, sustainable energy, and geo‐hazards. This focus is especially pertinent for New Zealand, an agricultural nation whose physical foundations straddle a complex and very active tectonic plate boundary.

Our current research interests centre on the solid Earth, ocean, atmosphere and climate systems. Stuart Bradley and Kasper van Wijk are experts in the use of acoustics for remote sensing. They’re developing novel techniques for exploring subterranean structures and dynamics, atmospheric boundary layers, turbulence, wind structure and energy, sound propagation and scattering, wind flows in complex terrain, and urban meteorology.

Roger Davies and Gilles Bellon are investigating cloud dynamics and clouds’ influence on climate, using satellite observations and models.

Tra Dinh is studying the physics of atmospheric processes (radiation, air circulations, clouds) that underline the spatial structure of the atmosphere, and how changes in these processes and their interactions will contribute to future climate change.

Geoff Austin focuses on the short-term prediction of thunderstorms and heavy rainfall. He uses small, high-resolution weather radars in designing smart (adaptive) urban storm and waste water systems. He’s also developing solar-powered heating and dehumidifying systems for state houses.

Craig Stevens’ interests lie in process oceanography, turbulent stratified flow, polar oceanography, and marine energy.

Auckland physicists work closely with colleagues across the Faculty of Science. These include Ludmila Adam, who works on energy and geo-hazards by analysing the physics of rocks. Ingo Pecher employs remote sensing to explore the world of near seafloor gas and hydrates. Jennifer Eccles co-leads major research into the workings of the Alpine Fault and other tectonic features of New Zealand. Cate Macinnis-Ng and Melissa Bowen study climate change through its effects on trees and oceans respectively.

Research stories