Steven MURRAY

Nationality British
Year of selection2008
InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
CountryUnited Kingdom
RiskEnvironmental risks

Type of support

Ph.D

Granted amount

120 000 €

Duration

3 years

Mapping Global Water Resources for the 21st century

Scarcity of freshwater resources—hydrological stress—not exactly the stuff dreams are made of. Yet, climate change and demographic evolutions will ultimately exert an ever-increasing pressure on water availability and demands. But what if we could anticipate and identify “hot spot” regions where water stress* is likely to become a major economic and/or political issue? This is precisely what Steven Murray sought to achieve via an innovative global hydrological model, which combines biological and physical processes with socio-economic dynamics to locate high-risk regions a hundred years from now. Strong emphasis is notably placed on how changes in vegetation distribution and structure will influence water cycles. Murray’s results intend to help policy makers for future water management and thus improve the prospects of enhanced global water security.

Short Resume
My research focuses on freshwater resources, which are critical to life and human endeavour and as such, require reliable monitoring and forecasting. This is particularly important when viewed against the backdrop of climate change and population change, due to the increasing pressures on water availability and demands. Climate change is expected to induce changes in vegetation distribution and structure, but these biospheric effects are not captured by traditional hydrological models. A global dynamic vegetation model is therefore used in this study to provide estimates on future global freshwater resources using a range of climate and population scenarios.

Biography
I achieved a 1st class honours degree in physical geography from the University of Southampton in 2006, where I specialised in the effects of variabilities in atmospheric aerosol loading upon future rates of global evaporation. I subsequently completed my Masters in Natural Hazards at the University of Bristol in 2008. Here I conducted research into the effects of climate change upon future global water resources, using a global dynamic vegetation model and a river routing algorithm to investigate how streamflow might vary with respect to changes in temperature. I have also recently undertaken work to develop a new algorithm for predicting global wildfires, with respect to both climatic and socio-economic variables. During these projects, I have gained considerable experience in data management and analysis techniques using a variety of computer programming languages, alongside the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). These skills have put me in good stead for further enhancing my research into global water resources during my PhD at the University of Bristol.

Research work
I am exploring the potential impacts of environmental change upon water resources at a global scale. The project is highly innovative in that it considers all the main elements of global change – biological, physical, demographic and economic – that influence water stress as experienced by human populations. The project’s conclusions will identify ‘hot spot’ regions where water stress has the potential to become a major economic and/or political issue.
The research will incorporate data generated from a suite of climate models, the most recently available scenarios of climate change for the next hundred years, the LPJ dynamic global vegetation model, and a river routing model, in order to assess how and where the most significant changes in freshwater supplies are likely to unfold. A particular emphasis will be placed on resolving the effect that changes in the operation of global vegetation play in driving the global hydrological cycle, as several unknowns have recently emerged regarding the links between plant physiology and the transfer of water to the atmosphere. In addition, metrics of future socio-economic dynamics will also be superimposed, as a means of assessing variability in water demands.
Integrated simulation of these climatic and demographic factors will enable foresight to be gained in terms of highlighting regions particularly at risk from increased flooding and droughts by the end of the 21st century.

How the AXA Research Fund helps me
I am very grateful for the support of the AXA Research Fund, as it has provided me with an excellent opportunity to further my research into global climate change and water resources. It has enabled me to work with leaders in the field of climate science and hydrology whilst conducting my studies at an internationally recognised climate-research centre. The AXA Research Fund not only gives me the chance to satisfy my current research interests for the next three years, but it also indirectly provides a strong platform on which I hope to extend my career investigating this ever-increasingly important environmental issue.

Future global water resources with respect to climate change and population dynamics

What does your research focus on?
Freshwater resources are critical to life and human endeavour and as such, require reliable monitoring and forecasting. This is particularly important when viewed against the backdrop of climate and population change, due to the increasing pressures on water availability and demands. Climate change is expected to induce changes in vegetation distribution and structure, but these biospheric effects are not captured by traditional hydrological models. A global dynamic vegetation model is therefore used in this study to provide estimates on future global freshwater resources using a range of climate and population scenarios.

What are your tools?
My research incorporates data generated from a suite of global climate models, the most recently available scenarios of climate change for the next hundred years and the LPX dynamic global vegetation model, in order to assess how and where the most significant changes in freshwater supplies are likely to unfold. Metrics of future socio-economic dynamics will also be superimposed – most importantly population change – as a means of assessing variability in water demands.

What are the implications of your research?
Integrated simulation of these climatic and demographic factors will enable foresight to be gained in terms of highlighting regions particularly at risk from increased flooding and droughts by the end of the 21st century. It is hoped these results will inform policy makers in directing water management for the future and thus improve the prospects of enhanced global water security.

Associated web-link

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