Stuart Cunningham


  • Physical Oceanographer, SAMS
  • PA37 1QA

    United Kingdom

  • 3267 Citations
  • 26 h-Index

Research output per year

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Personal profile

Research expertise

Prof. Stuart Andrew Cunningham
Head of Environmental Physics and Autonomous Technology
The preeminent scientific challenge of the 21st Century is to understand and quantify Earth¿s current and future climate. How will climate variability impact the ocean¿s sustainable resources and what are the human impacts of such change? Observing, modelling and quantifying marine systems is key to understanding their response to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Oceans¿ determine the rate, extent and character of climate by their long-term storage and transport of heat and carbon and dominance of the global fresh-water cycle. A critical challenge is to integrate our understanding of ocean systems on different timescales and across disciplines and to propose testable hypothesis of how these systems interact.
New technology, particularly the development of observing platforms and novel sensors will likely provide sustained observations of physical, chemical, biological and geological properties, and so play a critical role in this challenge for the 21st century.
I am an observational Physical Oceanographer with a B.Sc. (Astrophysics, University of Edinburgh) a M.Sc. (Physical Oceanography, University College of North Wales) and a Ph.D. (Ocean Inverse Modelling, University of Liverpool). I joined the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences in 1990 and then the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. In August 2012 I joined SAMS as the MASTS appointment in Physical Oceanography. As an observational physical oceanographer I have participated in 32 research cruises (800+ days at sea). I have written or co-authored 35 refereed scientific publications including three in Nature or Science. From 2004 to 2012 I was Principal Investigator for the NERC/NSF funded RAPID-WATCH programme for sustained observations of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation at 26.5°N. Over several years I have been advocating and proposing basin-wide observations in the subpolar gyre because of the relevance to the UK. I collaborate widely: as a leader or major partner in UK and EU programmes (Thermohaline Overturning at Risk? and North Atlantic Climate Variability); and in international programs interacting with funding and co-ordination agencies (e.g. NSF, NOAA, CLIVAR, OceanObs and the UK MCCIP). I am a contributing author for the International Panel on Climate Change. I provide national and international leadership through the adoption and exploitation of new technology, and through leadership of science programs and the promotion of large-scale observing programmes.

Education/Academic qualification

Master of Science, University College of North Wales

Award Date: 1 Jan 1990

Bachelor of Science, The University of Edinburgh

Award Date: 1 Jan 1989

Doctor of Science, University of Liverpool

Award Date: 1 Jan 1989


  • Marine Processes and Climate

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Research Output

Larval behaviour, dispersal and population connectivity in the deep sea

Gary, S. F., Fox, A. D., Biastoch, A., Roberts, J. M. & Cunningham, S. A., 30 Jun 2020, In : Scientific Reports. 10, 1, 12 p., 10675.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
  • 6 Downloads (Pure)

    Ocean circulation causes the largest freshening event for 120 years in eastern subpolar North Atlantic

    Holliday, N. P., Bersch, M., Berx, B., Chafik, L., Cunningham, S., Florindo-lópez, C., Hátún, H., Johns, W., Josey, S. A., Larsen, K. M. H., Mulet, S., Oltmanns, M., Reverdin, G., Rossby, T., Thierry, V., Valdimarsson, H. & Yashayaev, I., 29 Jan 2020, In : Nature Communications. 11, 1, 15 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 5 Citations (Scopus)
    4 Downloads (Pure)
    Open Access
  • 12 Downloads (Pure)

    Arctic Mediterranean Exchanges: A consistent volume budget and trends in transports from two decades of observations

    Osterhus, S., Woodgate, R., Valdimarsson, H., Turrell, W. R., de Steur, L., Quadfasel, D., Olsen, S., Moritz, M., Lee, C., Larsen, K. M., Jonsson, S., Johnson, C. L., Jochumsen, K., Hansen, B., curry, B., Cunningham, S. & Berx, B., 12 Apr 2019, In : Ocean Science. 15, p. 379-399 21 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 12 Citations (Scopus)
    49 Downloads (Pure)

    A sea change in our view of overturning in the sub polar North Atlantic

    Lozier, M. S., Li, F., Bacon, S., Bahr, F., Bower, A. S., Cunningham, S., de Jong, M. F., de Steur, L., deYoung, B., Fischer, J., Gary, S., Greenan, B. J. W., Holliday, N. P., Houk, A., Houpert, L., Inall, M., Johns, W., Johnson, C. L., Karstensen, J., koman, G. & 17 others, Le Bras, I. A., Lin, X., Mackay, N., Marshall, D., Mercier, H., Oltmans, M., Pickart, R. S., Ramsey, A. L., Rayner, D., Straneo, F., Thierry, V., Torres, D. J., Williams, R., Wilson, C., Yang, J., Yashayaev, I. & Zhao, J., 1 Feb 2019, In : Science. 363, 6426, p. 516-521 6 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 66 Citations (Scopus)
    24 Downloads (Pure)


    • 18 Oral presentation
    • 2 Types of Public engagement and outreach - Media article or participation
    • 1 Organising a conference
    • 1 Invited talk

    Ocean predictions and observations in response to the climate emergency

    Stuart Cunningham (Keynote speaker), , Noel Keenlyside (Keynote speaker), , Steffen Olsen (Keynote speaker), , Barbara Berx (Speaker), & Mark Payne (Keynote speaker)

    16 Oct 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

    Workshop on Subpolar North Atlantic Eastern Boundary

    Stuart Cunningham (Participant), & Gerard McCarthy (Organiser)

    14 Oct 2019

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventOrganising a conference


    Estimates of the seasonal variability of volume, heat and freshwater fluxes in the Rockall Trough

    Stefan Gary (Speaker), , Stuart Cunningham (Speaker), , Clare Johnson (Speaker), , N. Penny Holliday (Speaker), , Loic Houpert (Speaker), , Erik Behrens (Speaker), , Claus W. Böning (Speaker), & Arne Biastoch (Speaker)

    Apr 2016

    Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation

    ATLAS: Adding chemical sensors to the eastern portion of the OSNAP array

    Clare Johnson (Speaker), , Stuart Cunningham (Speaker), & Stefan Gary (Speaker)

    Nov 2016

    Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation

    Press / Media

    Covid-19 measures ahead of ocean science trip

    Stuart Cunningham


    1 item of Media coverage

    Press/Media: Research

    Sea level rise quickens as Greenland ice sheet sheds record amount

    Stuart Cunningham


    8 items of Media coverage

    Press/Media: Research

    Alarm as Greenland ice sheet sheds half-a-trillion tonnes

    Stuart Cunningham


    7 items of Media coverage

    Press/Media: Research