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Environmental Dynamics


EMM-DSCF0021-Cropped-430x300Research projects conducted by the Environmental Dynamics (ED) Research Group are characterised by high levels of national and international co-operation, and by internal collaborative work between members of the group and other departmental research groupings, most notably that of the Contested Development Group.

As well as working in the UK, ED domain members participate in many funded, international collaborative projects, for example in the last few years within Africa; Europe, Japan, Central Asia, and Central and South America.
Key research outputs include many dozens of peer-reviewed journal publications, edited books, environmental monitoring programmes, decision-support tools, datasets, policy-relevant information, educational materials, and other environmentally-relevant output.

Active Projects:

Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK)

Professor Mark Pelling (PI), Professor Bruce Malamud (co-I), Dr James Millington (co-I)

Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) is a three year programme of research and capacity building that aims to reduce disaster risk in urban sub-Saharan Africa by breaking cycles of risk accumulation. The programme aims to do this  by building a community of practice including sub-Saharan, African and international researchers and practitioners that can  provide a structured assessment of risk accumulation and reduction dynamics. This will require a detailed understanding of  risk to women, men and children in a diverse range of urban contexts in low-income countries in Africa, and of how the  nature and scale of these risks are changing in the context of urban growth and change, poverty and climate change. The  consortium will work: Dakar (Senegal), Ibadan (Nigeria), Karonga (Malawi), Mombasa (Kenya), Nairobi (Kenya) and  Niamey (Niger). The cities offer broad regional coverage (three in West Africa, three in East Africa), a range of city  population sizes and in-land and coastal locations. ARUP, UN-HABITAT, Save the Children and International Alert are also  consortium members providing access to the cutting edge of practitioner science and for this to be shaped through the  research process.

Urban ARK's research questions are: 

  1. What is the nature, scale and distribution of risk across the whole spectrum of  hazards in urban centres, and what are their inter-linkages? 
  2. What are the underlying factors driving risk accumulation in  the context of urban growth and change, poverty and climate change? 
  3. What institutional arrangements and good  practices in local governance and in urban planning and management are capable of reducing risk and building resilience  in this context?
MACC-II  Wildfires

Pioneering work by a team led by Professor Martin Wooster in the Department of Geography, King’s College London, is helping keep track of worldwide wildfires in real time.  The research, in collaboration with the  European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) and a series of internationa partners is aimed at monitoring, modelling, and forecasting the effects of wildfires on the atmosphere - including changes in the quality of air we breathe.


Wildfires routinely affect parts of the planet in very extreme ways. According to Professor Martin Wooster: ‘In Africa, it is estimated that fires annually affect perhaps 10-20% of the continent’s vegetated areas, and indeed the savannah ecosystems require quite regular fires if they are to remain in their current state and not gradually revert to forest.

These fires change landscapes while releasing enormous amounts of smoke into the atmosphere. The smoke they produce is a mixture of tiny particles and dozens of different chemical gases including; carbon dioxide, water vapour, carbon monoxide and methane. This smoke can have implications for air quality tens, hundreds, and even sometimes thousands, of kilometers down-wind.’

To understand the effects of this 'biomass burning' on the Earth and on us, data is needed on the number of fires taking place; the amount of fuel they are burning, the chemical makeup of the emitted smoke, the influence of weather (and potentially climate change), and the impact this material ultimately has on the atmosphere.

King’s research using satellite remote sensing has helped enable the routine observation of fires worldwide.  Using the ability of satellites to "see" infrared light (emitted by fires in massive amounts due to their very high temperatures), Professor Wooster's team and collaborators have been able to help build a picture of where and when fires normally occur, where there are departures from 'normal' patterns of burning, and what the resulting atmospheric effects are.

Work conducted by the King’s team and collaborators has yielded algorithms to better map the location of the wildfires, and to optimally estimate the amount of thermal energy each fire radiates. This radiant energy estimate is then used to 'back-calculate' the amount of vegetation being burned, and the amounts of gases and particles released.  The work has contributed to a global modelling and forecasting system for the Earth’s atmosphere (the GMES/Copernicus Atmosphere Service;, part of Europe's Global Monitoring of Environment and Security Programme).  Once input into the atmospheric transport model operated as part of this Service, the satellite data related to fire smoke emissions helps diverse agencies respond appropriately to instances of reduced air quality, and feeds into detailed early warning systems that are aimed at protecting the public health. In this way, King’s research is helping to detect and warn the public of such air pollution sources, whilst helping national and international bodies monitor pollution and air quality treaty compliance.

LAMPRE (LAndslide Modelling and tools for vulnerability assessment Preparedness and REcovery management)

Bruce D. Malamud (PI), Nick Drake (co-I), Mark Pelling (co-I)

Brief outline of the research project: LAMPRE proposes to execute innovative research and technological developments to increase GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) limited operational capacity to cope with triggered landslide events and their consequences, in Europe and elsewhere. LAMPRE will enhance landslide risk mitigation/preparedness efforts and post-event-landslide recovery and reconstruction activities, in highly vulnerable geographic and geologic regions. The project improves the ability to detect/map landslides, assess/forecast the impact of triggered landslide events on vulnerable elements, and model landscape changes caused by slope failures. These goals are achieved by (i) researching and developing new techniques and products to dynamically integrate satellite/airborne imagery, (ii) designing and using intelligent image processing techniques, (iii) modelling landslide-infrastructure interactions using advanced numerical modelling and ground based thematic information, and (iv) proposing standards for landslide mapping, susceptibility zonation and image processing. LAMPRE details:

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