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The research groups - Oceans

Université Catholique de Louvain
Institut d’Astronomie et de Géophysique G. Lemaître

Promotor: Dr. Goosse Hugues


Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics Georges Lemaître (UCL-ASTR) is part of the Physics Department of the Université Catholique de Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium). Over the last 30 years, it has gained a worldwide reputation for the study of climate, climatic changes, and mesoscale meteorology. Its research activities are well integrated in Belgian, European, and international research programmes.
The institute is most widely known for its contributions to the astronomical theory of paleoclimates (computation of the long-term insolation variations resulting from changes in the Earth’s orbital parameters). In complement, UCL-ASTR has built a so-called "Earth system model of intermediate complexity", including simplified representations of ocean, atmosphere, vegetation and ice-sheets. Forced by the long-term changes in insolation and greenhouse-gas concentrations, the model generated continental ice-volume variations over the last glacial-interglacial cycles that are in general agreement with the low-frequency part of paleoclimatic records. This model has also been utilised to investigate the time-dependent response of climate to natural and anthropogenic forcings over the last and next millennia.
UCL-ASTR has a great deal of expertise in the domain of mesoscale meteorology. It initiated the development of the regional atmospheric model MAR, which was mainly build for process studies over the polar regions (Antarctic and Greenland). This model was supplemented by surface snow and vegetation components, and used for various climatic studies such as precipitation in the Alps, Western Europe climate evolution and Western Africa Monsoon. UCL-ASTR also contributes to the development of the non-hydrostatic TVM (Topographic Vorticity-mode Mesoscale) model which is mainly used for studying local scale atmospheric circulations and urban environments.
The institute is also active in three-dimensional global climate modelling; it has developed and coupled together a global oceanic general circulation model (OGCM) and a comprehensive thermodynamic–dynamic sea-ice model. This ice–ocean model has been coupled to the atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) of the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD; Paris) and to the atmospheric quasi-geostrophic model of the Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (KNMI; De Bilt). The first of these 3-D coupled models is currently used to investigate the climate response to anthropogenic forcings over the next century, whereas the latter is employed to study the decadal-to-centennial climate variability and the past evolution of climate.


Main field of activity

  • Interannual variability of the ocean and sea ice cover
  • Human impacts on climate
  • Modelling the mass balance of the Greenland Ice sheet
  • Past climate variations in polar regions during the last few millennia

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