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 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 joined the Tyndall Centre and the University of East Anglia on 01 October 2019.

Key Publications:

Cundill, G., Harvey, B., Tebboth, M., Cochrane, L., Currie-Alder, B., Vincent, K., Lawn, J., Nichols, R. J., Scodanibbio, L., Prakash, A., New, M., Wester, P., Leone, M., Morchain, D., Ludi, E., DeMaria-Kinney, J., Khan, A., Landry, M., (2019) Large-scale transdisciplinary collaboration: Challenges and Insights. Global Challenges 1700132.

Nicholls, R.J., Brown, S., Goodwin, P., Wahl, T., Lowe, J., Solan, M. Godbold J.A., Haigh I.D., Lincke D., Hinkel J., Wolff C., Merkens, J.-L. (2018). Stabilization of global temperature at 1.5°C and 2.0°C: Implications for coastal areas. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A, 376(2119). DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2016.0448.

Nicholls, R.J., Hutton, C.W., Lazar, A.N., Allan, A., Adger, W.N., Adams, H., Wolf, J., Rahman, M. and Salehin, M. (2016) Integrated assessment of social and environmental sustainability dynamics in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta, Bangladesh, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 183, 370-381 doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2016.08.017.

Hinkel, J., Nicholls, R.J., Tol, R.S.J., Wang, Z.B., Hamilton, J.B., Boot, G., Vafeidis, A.T., McFadden, Loraine, Ganopolski, A. and Klein, R.J.T. (2013) A global analysis of erosion of sandy beaches and sea-level rise: an application of DIVA. Global and Planetary Change, 111, 150-158. (doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2013.09.002).

Hallegatte, S., Green, C., Nicholls, R.J. and Corfee-Morlot, J. (2013) Future flood losses in major coastal cities. Nature Climate Change, 3, 802-806. (doi:10.1038/nclimate1979).

Hanson, S, Nicholls, R. J., Patmore, N, Hallegatte, S, Corfee-Morlot, J, Herweijer, C and Chateau, J (2011) A global ranking of port cities with high exposure to climate extremes. Climatic Change, 140, (1), 89-111. (doi:10.1007/s10584-010-9977-4).

Nicholls, R.J., Marinova, N, Lowe, J.A., Brown, S., Gusmão, D, Hinkel, J and Tol, R.S.J. (2011) Sea-level rise and its possible impacts given a ‘beyond 4°C world’ in the twenty-first century. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences, 369, (1934), 161-181.

Nicholls, R.J. and Cazenave, A. (2010) Sea-level rise and its impact on coastal zones. Science 328 (5985), 1517-1520.

Dawson, R.J., Dickson, M., Nicholls, R.J., Hall, J., Walkden, M.J.A., Stansby, P.K., Mokrech, M., Richards, J.,Zhou, J., Milligan, J., Jordan, A., Pearson, S., Rees, J., Bates, P.D., Koukoulas, S. and Watkinson, A. (2009) Integrated analysis of risks of coastal flooding and cliff erosion under scenarios of long term change. Climatic Change, 95, (1-2), 249-288. (doi:10.1007/s10584-008-9532-8).

Nicholls, R.J., Tol, R.S.J., & Vafeidis, A.T. (2008). Global estimates of the impact of a collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet: an application of FUND. Climatic Change, 91(1-2), 171-191. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-008-9424-y

Nicholls, R.J., Wong, P.P., Burkett, V., Woodroffe, C.D., & Hay, J. (2008). Climate change and coastal vulnerability assessment: scenarios for integrated assessment. Sustainability Science, 3(1), 89-102. DOI: 10.1007/s11625-008-0050-4

Nicholls, R.J. and Tol, R.S.J. (2006) Impacts and responses to sea-level rise: a global analysis of the SRES scenarios over the twenty-first century. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences, 364, (1841), 1073-1095. (doi:10.1098/rsta.2006.1754).

Arenstam Gibbons, S. and Nicholls, R.J. (2006) Island abandonment and sea-level rise: An historical analog from the Chesapeake Bay, USA. Global Environmental Change, 16, (1), 40-47.(doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2005.10.002).

Nicholls, R.J. (2004) Coastal flooding and wetland loss in the 21st century: changes under the SRES climate and socio-economic scenarios. Global Environmental Change, 14(1), 69-86.(doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2003.10.007).

Nicholls R.J., Lowe J.A., (2004) Benefits of Mitigation of Climate Change for Coastal Areas. Global Environmental Change, 14(3), 229-244.

Small, C. and Nicholls, R.J. (2003) A global analysis of human settlement in coastal zones. Journal of Coastal Research, 19, (3), 584-599.

Nicholls, R,J., Hoozemans, F.M.J. and Marchand, M. (1999) Increasing flood risk and wetland losses due to global sea-level rise: regional and global analyses. Global Environmental Change, 9, supplement 1, S69-S87. (doi:10.1016/S0959-3780(99)00019-9).

Klein, R,T.J. and Nicholls, R.J. (1999) Assessment of coastal vulnerability to climate change. Ambio, 28, (2), 182-187.

Nicholls, R.J., Birkemeier, W.A. and Lee, G.H. (1998) Evaluation of depth of closure using data from Duck, NC, USA. Marine Geology, 148, (3-4), 179-201. (doi:10.1016/s0025-3227(98)00011-5).

Nicholls, R.J. & Mimura, N. (1998) Regional issues raised by sea-level rise and their policy implications. Climate Research, 11, 5-18.

Nicholls, R.J. (1995) Coastal megacities and climate change. GeoJournal, 37(3), 369-379.

Role at Tyndall Council


Ideas & insights

Contact information

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