Professor James Scourse
Professor of Physical Geography


Research interests

My research focuses on marine climate change. I have researched mechanisms and feedback responses in the Earth’s climate system, in particular linked to ice-ocean interaction and the impact of changes of sea level on the carbon cycle, sediment transport and ocean circulation. I lead a group reconstructing marine climate using very long-lived annually banded molluscs (sclerochronology/climatology). Notable research highlights of James’ group include:

  • The first annually-resolved marine climate series covering the last 1000 years (2017)
  • Discovery of the longest-lived animal known to science (2007, 2013)
  • The first crossmatched sclerochronological series from the fossil record (2006)
  • The first record of seasonal stratification dynamics for any shelf sea (1997, 2002)
  • The first palaeotidal model reconstructions for the NW European shelf seas integrated dynamic topography (2006)
  • Analysis of the contribution of major sea-level changes to the global carbon cycle (2008)
  • Establishing that the last major glaciation of the Isles of Scilly and Celtic Sea occurred during the Last Glacial Maximum (published 1991, 2017)
  • Providing the first integrated record of ice-rafted detritus flux from the British-Irish Ice Sheet (2009)
  • The first record of the neotectonic instability of southern Britain (1990)

Research projects

My current research activity involves building long, annually-resolved, records of North Atlantic climate - in which I collaborate with colleagues in Geography on the Streatham Campus - in reconstructing tides and tide-dependent processes through geological time, and in investigating recent climate change in the Antarctic Peninsula.


2012-2018: £183k from NERC for ‘BRITICE-CHRONO: Constraining rates and styles of marine-influenced ice sheet decay’ (NE/J007579/1 Consortium Grant led by C. Clark, Sheffield).

2013-2017: £2.7 million from EU Framework 7 for Marie Curie Initial Training Network (FP7-PEOPLE-2013-ITN 604802) (£579,375 to Scourse group): ‘Annually-resolved archives of marine climate change – development of molluscan sclerochronology for marine environmental monitoring and climatology’ (Scourse PI, with partners in Germany, Croatia, Norway, France and The Netherlands).

2015-2018: £53k from NERC for ‘Climate of the LAst Millennium (CLAM): An integrated data-model approach to reconstruct and interpret annual variability in North Atlantic Circulation’ (NE/N002733/1 with I.R. Hall, D. Reynolds, Cardiff, and P. Halloran, Exeter).

2017-2020: £354k from NERC for ‘Impacts of deglaciation on marine benthic ecosystems in Antarctica’ (NE/P003087/1 with S. Jenkins, C.A. Richardson [Bangor] and M. Meredith, D. Barnes [British Antarctic Survey] and A.J. Brante [Universidad Católica de la Santísima, Concepción, Chile]).

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