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Dr David Armstrong McKay

Dr David Armstrong McKay

Research Impact Fellow

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 Laver Building Level 8


Laver Building, University of Exeter, North Park Road, Exeter, EX4 4QE, UK


I’m a Research Impact Fellow at the University of Exeter & Global Systems Institute, working on understanding and enhancing Earth system and socio-ecological resilience. I completed my PhD in Ocean and Earth Science on Earth system modelling of palaeoclimate disruptions at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, followed by postdocs on ecological resilience, agro-ecological systems, and climate-biosphere feedbacks at the University of Southampton and Stockholm Resilience Centre. My research uses numerical modelling and analysis to investigate Earth system resilience in the past and future, including climate-biosphere feedbacks and tipping points, dynamics and indicators of ecological resilience, and pathways to socio-ecological system transformation. Current projects involve leading the ‘State of Tipping Points’ report section on the current status and state of knowledge on Earth system tipping points, and helping the Earth Commission set safe and just Earth system boundaries for climate change and nutrient cycle disruption. I am also a keen science communicator, synthesising and explaining topics like climate science, ecology, and tipping points for the wider public.


PhD Ocean and Earth Science (NOCS / University of Southampton)

MSci Geophysics (NOCS / University of Southampton)

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Research interests

Earth System Science, Biogeochemical Cycles, Complex Systems, Palaeoclimate, Sustainability Science

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Journal articles

Lenton T, Buxton J, Abrams J, Boulton C, Powell T, Cunliffe A (In Press). A resilience sensing system for the biosphere. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Abstract.
Hessen DO, Andersen T, Armstrong McKay D, Kosten S, Meerhoff M, Pickard A, Spears BM (2024). Lake ecosystem tipping points and climate feedbacks. Earth System Dynamics, 15(3), 653-669. Abstract.
Stewart-Koster B, Bunn SE, Green P, Ndehedehe C, Andersen LS, Armstrong McKay DI, Bai X, DeClerck F, Ebi KL, Gordon C, et al (2024). Living within the safe and just Earth system boundaries for blue water. Nature Sustainability, 7(1), 53-63. Abstract.
Abrams JF, Huntingford C, Williamson MS, Armstrong McKay DI, Boulton CA, Buxton JE, Sakschewski B, Loriani S, Zimm C, Winkelmann R, et al (2023). Committed Global Warming Risks Triggering Multiple Climate Tipping Points. Earth's Future, 11(11). Abstract.
Rockström J, Gupta J, Qin D, Lade SJ, Abrams JF, Andersen LS, Armstrong McKay DI, Bai X, Bala G, Bunn SE, et al (2023). Safe and just Earth system boundaries. Nature, 619(7968), 102-111. Abstract.  Author URL.
Ritchie PDL, Abrams JF, Armstrong McKay DI, Cox PM, Lenton TM (2023). Tipping points: Both problem and solution. One Earth, 6(12), 1610-1613.
Armstrong McKay DI, Staal A, Abrams JF, Winkelmann R, Sakschewski B, Loriani S, Fetzer I, Cornell SE, Rockström J, Lenton TM, et al (2022). Exceeding 1.5°C global warming could trigger multiple climate tipping points. Science, 377(6611). Abstract.  Author URL.
Wunderling N, Winkelmann R, Rockström J, Loriani S, Armstrong McKay DI, Ritchie PDL, Sakschewski B, Donges JF (2022). Global warming overshoots increase risks of climate tipping cascades in a network model. Nature Climate Change, 13(1), 75-82.
Rammelt CF, Gupta J, Liverman D, Scholtens J, Ciobanu D, Abrams JF, Bai X, Gifford L, Gordon C, Hurlbert M, et al (2022). Impacts of meeting minimum access on critical earth systems amidst the Great Inequality. Nature Sustainability, 6(2), 212-221. Abstract.
Armstrong McKay D, Staal A, Abrams J, Winkelmann R, Sakschewski B, Loriani S, Fetzer I, Cornell S, Rockström J, Lenton T, et al (2022). Updated assessment suggests >1.5°C global warming could trigger multiple climate tipping points.
Avery RS, Greenwood SL, Schenk F, Morén BM, Armstrong Mckay DI, Brunnberg L, Wohlfarth B (2021). A 725-year integrated offshore terrestrial varve chronology for southeastern Sweden suggests rapid ice retreat ~15 ka BP. Boreas, 50(2), 477-496. Abstract.
Armstrong McKay DI, Cornell SE, Richardson K, Rockström J (2021). Resolving ecological feedbacks on the ocean carbon sink in Earth system models. Earth System Dynamics, 12(3), 797-818. Abstract.
Armstrong McKay DI, Dearing JA, Dyke JG, Poppy GM, Firbank LG (2019). To what extent has sustainable intensification in England been achieved?. Science of the Total Environment, 648, 1560-1569. Abstract.
Dearing JA, Zhang K, Cao W, Dawson TP, McKay DA, Sillitoe P, Treves R, Yang X (2019). Who determines the trade-offs between agricultural production and environmental quality? an evolutionary perspective from rural eastern China. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 17(5), 347-366. Abstract.
McKay DIA, Lenton TM (2018). Reduced carbon cycle resilience across the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. CLIMATE OF THE PAST, 14(10), 1515-1527.  Author URL.
Armstrong McKay DI, Tyrrell T, Wilson PA (2016). Global carbon cycle perturbation across the Eocene-Oligocene climate transition. Paleoceanography, 31(2), 311-329. Abstract.
Minshull TA, Marín-Moreno H, Armstrong McKay DI, Wilson PA (2016). Mechanistic insights into a hydrate contribution to the Paleocene-Eocene carbon cycle perturbation from coupled thermohydraulic simulations. Geophysical Research Letters, 43(16), 8637-8644. Abstract.
Tyrrell T, Merico A, Armstrong McKay DI (2015). Severity of ocean acidification following the end-Cretaceous asteroid impact. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(21), 6556-6561. Abstract.
Armstrong McKay DI, Tyrrell T, Wilson PA, Foster GL (2014). Estimating the impact of the cryptic degassing of Large Igneous Provinces: a mid-Miocene case-study. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 403, 254-262. Abstract.
McKay DA, Tyrrell T, Wilson PA (2014). Investigating the evolution of the late Palaeogene carbon cycle using biogeochemical modelling and analysis. Rendiconti Online Societa Geologica Italiana, 31, 13-14.

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Office Hours:

Mostly remote

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