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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Supervisors: Christine Lane (Geography) and Ulf Büntgen (Geography

Importance of the area of research:

Understanding the mechanisms and impacts of rapid and short-lived climate change requires analogue studies of past climatic events that occurred under different background conditions. The Late Glacial to Early Holocene transition from a generally cooler and dryer into warmer and wetter climate was punctuated by abrupt and intense temperature and hydroclimatic variations. Annually-resolved tree-ring chronologies and widespread volcanic ash horizons from sedimentary archives provide two of the most effective tools for precisely determining the timing, duration and amplitude of past climate variability and comparing regional environmental responses. Bringing together these data and methods at the European-scale will shed new and important light on the timing, causes and consequences of natural climate change during the Late Glacial period.

Project summary:

Operating at the cross-disciplinary interface of dendrochronology and tephrochronology, this project will seek to improve the dating accuracy of European tree-ring and sedimentary proxy archives between around 14,000 to 11,000 years BP. The project will explore novel approaches to combine these two powerful palaeoclimatic techniques, aiming to evaluate the timing and climatic effects of volcanic eruptions and solar variations, as well as the rate and magnitude of environmental responses across the European continent.

What the student will do:

The candidate will compile a European-wide database of high-resolution tree-ring (dendro) and volcanic ash (tephra) chronologies for the Late Glacial period, to identify areas and intervals where both archives can be synchronised. The research will therefore involve synthesis of published chronological and palaeoclimate data alongside original dendrochronological and tephra research, including radiocarbon measurements. A key case study will be the Laacher See eruption, which occurred ~12,900 years ago, just prior to the onset of the Younger Dryas cold spell. Both the eruption and the Younger Dryas are evidenced, and precisely dated, in annually-resolved sedimentary and tree-ring records from Central Europe. The successful candidate will work alongside other members of the recently established Tree ring and Tephra laboratories, based within the Climate and Environment Dynamics research group in the Department of Geography at Cambridge, which will provide the support of an active and interdisciplinary research environment.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.


Lane, C.S., Brauer, A., Blockley, S.P.E. & Dulski, P. 2013. Volcanic ash reveals time-transgressive abrupt climate change during the Younger Dryas. Geology, vol. 41, pp.1251-1254. DOI:10.1130/G34867.1

Kaiser, K.F., Friedrich, M., Miramont, C., Kromer, B., Sgier, M., Schaub, M., Boeren, I., Remmele, S., Talamo, S., Guibal, F. & Sivan, O. 2012. Challenging process to make the Lateglacial tree-ring chronologies from Europe absolute—an inventory. Quaternary Science Reviews 36:78–90.

Schaub, M., Büntgen, U., Kaiser, K.F., Kromer, B., Talamo, S., Andersen, K.K. & Rasmussen, S.O. 2008. Lateglacial environmental variability in Swiss tree rings. Quaternary Science Reviews 27: 29-41.

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Other projects available from the Lead Supervisor can be viewed here.

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