Professor Grant Bigg

Professor in Earth Systems Science

Grant Bigg

Room number: C7
Telephone (internal): 27905
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 7905
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 7905


Grant Bigg obtained his BSc in physics and applied mathematics from the University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia in 1978, with a BSc (Honours) in applied mathematics the following year. He then became a Tutor in the Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Adelaide, working part-time on a PhD on Diffraction and trapping of waves by cavities and slender bodies. This was completed in 1982, the same year he had a pre-doctoral fellowship at the 1982 Summer Study Program in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

He conducted his doctoral research on workers in the informal sector in Delhi, India, and demonstrated that they play an important role in the production of urban space.

He developed an interest in cities while completing a Master’s in Global Studies (2007) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, and Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, India. He completed his PhD at Clark University (2013) in the United States.

Grant is an Associate Director of the Centre for the Study of Genocide and Mass Violence and the Sheffield Centre for Drylands Research (SCIDR).

He is a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society and the Royal Geographical Society; he is a member of the Quaternary Research Association, the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union. He was a member of the Council of the Royal Meteorological Society in the early 1990s and editor of the Society's journal, Weather, for five years until 2003. He has recently been an Associate Editor of the Journal of Climate, and is currently an editor of the International Journal of Oceanography and Chair of the Editorial Board of the Challenger Society for Marine Science’s Ocean Challenge.

He has acted as external examiner for postgraduate degrees in Britain, the Netherlands, Australia and Jamaica and undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Britain.

Grant is a keen walker, with his border terrier. He has also recorded meteorological data on two continents for almost 40 years.


Research Interests:

Ocean and climate modelling, marine climate change specialising in polar and tropical regions, with special interest in synoptic or meso-scale weather systems. Palaeoceanography: modelling and interpreting observations. Icebergs, and their role in the ocean's freshwater flux, both today and in the Quaternary. The interactions between climate change and society.

Current Research:

The common theme to all my research until recently has been marine climate change. However, many threads contribute to this theme. A major thread is the use, and development, of ocean circulation models to understand climate change on scales from global and millennial to local and sub-monthly. I use a combination of models and remote sensing, with interpreting oceanographic and lower atmospheric data, to increase our understanding of the climatic interaction between the atmosphere and ocean. I use iceberg trajectories to study glacial freshwater inputs to modern and Quaternary oceans. My primary focii of recent years can be divided into the global thermohaline circulation, icebergs and tropical climate change. More recently, however, there has begun to be an increased emphasis on the role environmental change plays in society.


While my specialist teaching is in the fields of oceanography and meteorology, throughout what I teach at both undergraduate and postgraduate level I try to convey the importance of thinking of subjects from an interdisciplinary perspective, using a range of tools students pick up in our skills modules.

This is very much a research-led teaching style, exposing students to current ideas about my specialist subjects as well as the other areas I teach, or the wide range of dissertation topics I supervise. While this involves large-scale lectures when necessary, it also involves tutorial groups and individual supervision, particularly at Masters level.

Grant teaches on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses including:

All staff also engage in personal supervision and tutoring of individual students at all three undergraduate levels in the following modules:

  • GEO163 (Information & Communication Skills for Geographers)
  • GEO263 or GEO264 (Research Design in Human or Physical Geography)
  • GEO356 (Geographical Research Project)

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