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Dr Natalie Lord

Modelling long-term past and future climate change

My research focuses on modelling long-term past and future changes in climate that occur over tens to hundreds of thousands of years. On these timescales, variations in the three main orbital parameters (obliquity, precession and eccentricity) act as a significant forcing on climate. Changes in the natural carbon cycle also need to be considered, along with the impacts of future anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In order to model climatic changes over such long timescales, I use a combination of Earth System Models of Intermediate Complexity (EMIC), General Circulation Models (GCM) and statistical models (impulse response function for CO2 and emulator).

My work primarily aims to produce projections of a range of possible future climate evolutions that are of relevance to the geological disposal of radioactive wastes. Due to the significant timescales involved in the decay of radioactivity to safe levels, the timescale of interest is the next ~1 million years, with a primary focus on the next 100,000-200,000 years. Climate projections at the regional or local scale can then be used to evaluate potential patterns of landscape development, and provide input to post-closure performance assessments for geological disposal facilities. I also apply the same modelling approaches to try to reproduce past changes in climates, particularly over the late Pliocene. These projections are used in model-data comparisons, and to investigate variations in orbital and greenhouse gas forcing on global and regional climate.

My PhD was funded by Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) via a framework contract with AMEC, who were supported by Quintessa. It contributed to Working Group 6 of the Modelling and Data for Radiological Impact Assessments (MODARIA) international research program, coordinated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

My current research is jointly funded by Posiva Oy and SKB, and uses a combination of Earth system modelling efforts focussing on the Finnish and Swedish disposal sites of Olkiluoto and Forsmark. I have also co-written a review commissioned by the National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Wastes (Nagra), focusing on long-term past and future climate modelling in the context of geological evolution on timescales pertinent for waste repositories.

Research keywords

  • Climate change
  • Future and paleo climate modelling
  • Nuclear waste disposal
  • Carbon cycle
  • Orbital forcing
  • Emulation