Robert Nicholls

University of East Anglia


Professor Nicholls is Director of the Tyndall Centre since 01 October 2019. He is a member of the Tyndall Centre since its founding, researching the consequences of climate change for coastal areas and led the development of the Tyndall Centre's coastal processes simulator. His research also looks at managing and adapting to the consequences of coastal change, particularly flood and erosion management.

Robert is a world leading scientist and engineer who has studied coastal problems and solutions for 30 years, focusing on how increases in sea-level caused by climate change result in coastal erosion and flooding, and how communities can adapt to these changes. He has studied the implications of sea level rise in the UK and in many of the most sensitive regions of the world. A distinctive dimension of his work is assessing coastal zones as interacting systems that allow policy-relevant examination and developing appropriate solutions.

Robert led the Tyndall Centre's ‘Coasts’ research theme that built the world’s first integrated assessment of a coastal zone, focussed on North Norfolk in the UK, called the Tyndall Coastal Simulator.  The approach was modified for cities, becoming the Tyndall Urban Integrated Assessment Facility, focussed on London. Both the Tyndall Coastal and Urban simulators have given birth to large follow-on projects for interdisciplinary analysis of climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation applied to other locations throughout the world that continue today.

Robert is one of the principal developers of the DIVA (Dynamic Interactive Vulnerability Assessment), used in both research and in policy development. DIVA has been used extensively including for the EU Green Paper on Adaptation, the UNFCCC 2007 paper on adaptation costs, the World Bank 2010 assessment of the Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change, and Asian Development Bank studies of China, South Korea, Japan and Mongolia, and the World Bank Beyond the Gap 2019 study of infrastructure investment costs for climate change. He also led a global assessment of flood exposure in large port cities with the Organisaion for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). At the Tyndall Centre, we continue to use DIVA in our international research for the UK Government.

Most recently, Robert has led significant international projects on the integrated assessment of the development of deltas, including climate change, sea level rise and other key drivers. Much of this recent work is in Bangladesh, the ESPA Deltas and DECCMA Projects, including supporting the Bangladesh government Delta plan 2100.

Robert is co-lead of the World Climate Research Programme Sea-Level Rise Grand Challenge to deliver sea-level science to support better coastal impact and adaptation assessments. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed papers, is the co-editor of six books, and many articles and book chapters, including authorship of five assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  He has a BSc in Geology and a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Southampton, where he later returned to be Professor of Coastal Engineering. Robert joins the Tyndall Centre and the University of East Anglia on 01 October this year.

Robert is the first Tyndall Director with a coastal and civil engineering background, fitting well with the pioneering interdisciplinary ethos for researching solutions to climate change. Former Directors are natural scientists (Mike Hulme, John Schellnhuber CBE, Andrew Watkinson, Corinne Le Quéré CBE), interim Directors at the University of Manchester specialising in energy emissions and social science (Kevin Anderson and Carly McLachlan), and science policy advisor (Sir Robert Watson).


To be updated:

Muis, S., Verlaan, M., Nicholls, R.J., Brown, S., Hinkel, J., Lincke, D., Vafeidis, A.T., Scussolini, P., Winsemius, H.C., Ward, P.J. "A comparison of two global datasets of extreme sea levels and resulting flood exposure" (2017) Earth's Future, . Article in Press. DOI: 10.1002/2016EF000430

Spatial-temporal changes of coastal and marine disasters risks and impacts in Mainland China - Fang, Jiayi, Liu, Wei, Yang, Saini, Brown, Sally, Nicholls, Robert, Hinkel, Jochen, Shi, Xianwu and Shi, Peijun
Published: 2017 Publication: Ocean and Coastal Management

Spatial and temporal analysis of extreme sea level and storm surge events around the coastline of the UK - Haigh, Ivan D., Wadey, Matthew P., Wahl, Thomas, Ozsoy, Ozgun, Nicholls, Robert J., Brown, Jennifer M., Horsburgh, Kevin and Gouldby, Ben Published: 2016 Publication: Scientific Data Volume: 3 Page Range: 160107 doi: 10.1038/sdata.2016.107

Contemporary migration intentions in the Maldives: the role of environmental and other factors - Speelman, Laurens, Nicholls, Robert and Dyke, James
Published: 2016 Publication: Sustainability Science Page Range: 1-19 doi: 10.1007/s11625-016-0410-4

Making SDGs work for climate change hotspots - Szabo, Sylvia, Nicholls, Robert, Neumann, Barbara, Renaud, Fabrice G., Matthews, Zoe, Sebesvari, Zita, AghaKouchak, Amir, Bales, Roger, Ruktanonchai, Cori, Kloos, Julia, Foufoula-Georgiou, Efi, Wester, Phillipus, New, Mark, Rhyner, Jakob and Hutton, Craig Published: 2016 Publication: Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development Volume: 58, (6) Page Range: 24-33 doi: 10.1080/00139157.2016.1209016

Projected changes in area of the Sundarban mangrove forest in Bangladesh due to SLR by 2100 - Payo Garcia, Andres, Mukhopadhyay, Anirban, Hazra, Sugata, Ghosh, Tuhin, Ghosh, Subhajit, Brown, Sally, Nicholls, Robert, Bricheno, Lucy, Wolf, Judith, Kay, Susan, Lazar, Attila and Haque, Anisul. Published: 2016 Publication: Climatic Change Volume:139, (2) Page Range: 279-291 doi: 10.1007/s10584-016-1769-z

Role at Council


Contact information

Tyndall Centre, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk, NR4 7TJ

University website:

To be updated