School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences


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Chris Old

My scientific career started at a young age through a strong interest in astronomy.   I spent many nights out observing the New Zealand skies through a pair of 7x50 binoculars and a 2.5" refractor that I had on lone from a family friend.  It was my interest in astronomy that eventually lead me to the University of Waikato, Hamilton, NZ, where I studied physics.  On completing my BSc I took a year out to generate some income so that I could return to university.  I was later accepted into the MSc programme in the Physics Department at the University of Auckland, Auckland, NZ.  For my research project I used a numerical model to study the tidal dynamics of the Hauraki Gulf.  It was this project that lead me away from astronomy and into oceanography.  On completing my MSc I worked for the NZ Defence Scientific Establishment where I developed underwater acoustic propagation models for a variety of applications.  Wanting a change of scene, I took a break from research and taught computing, mathematics and physics in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the Gold Coast Campus of Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.  As I did not have a PhD the University could not offer me permanent employment, so I returned to New Zealand to study for a PhD.  I won a 3 year Graduates Research in Industry Fellowship (GRIF) from the NZ Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FRST) to study in the Marine Science Department of the University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ.  The project was sponsored by Port Otago Ltd, and was aimed at developing an understanding of the tidal processes at the entrance to the Otago Harbour, and the role of tidal currents in the changing sediment distribution in and around the Harbour entrance.  In 2001 I moved to the UK to take up a Post-Doctoral Research Assistants position at the Enviromental Systems Science Centre (ESSC) at the University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire.  Here I studied the role of oceanic heat storage in the decadal scale climate variability.  In 2004 I moved up to Edinburgh, where I am now based.  This move has also required my interests to broaden to include the atmosphere, with the ocean link remaining through the sea surface-atmosphere interface. 

Who knows where all this will lead...

Research Interests

Physical oceanography is my main field interest.  Since completing my BSc I have worked on the modelling of tidal dynamics in shallow seas, ocean acoustic propagation modelling, observational and theoretical studies of coastal fluid processes, and understanding the role of large scale oceanic heat storage in climate change through diagnostic studies of climate model output data.  I am currently working on the development of probabilistic techniques for cloud screening thermal and reflectance imagery.  The ultimate aim of this work is to improve the retrieval of surface temperature measurements from remote sensing platforms (i.e. aircraft and satellites).

Personal Interests

I still pursue my interest in astronomy, though not as avidly as I did when I was younger.  Now and then I pick up my classical guitar and play a tune, although I rarely find the time to practice on a regular basis.  I like to get out into the hills and hike, admittedly I miss the New Zealand scenery, but Scotland has lots to offer.  I sail whenever the opportunity arises, however the water is a lot colder up in this part of the world.  When I can find the space, I like to garden, in particular growing herbs and vegetables.  When the weather is less agreeable I spend my time woodworking.  Over the summer I brew mead; my preference is a metheglin (spiced mead) as these have more flavour.  Any remaining spare time is spent reading or watching movies.