Tim Lenton

Last updated
Tim Lenton
BornJuly 1973 (age 50)
Alma mater Robinson College, Cambridge
University of East Anglia (PhD)
Scientific career
Institutions University of Exeter
University of East Anglia
Thesis Redfields green ocean : a geophysical model of marine nitrate, phosphate and atmospheric oxygen regulation  (1998)
Doctoral advisor Andrew Watson [1]

Timothy Michael Lenton FGS FLS FRSB (born July 1973) is Professor of Climate Change and Earth System Science at the University of Exeter. In April 2013 he was awarded the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award. [2]



He graduated with a first-class degree in natural sciences from Robinson College, Cambridge in 1994 and completed his PhD under Andrew Watson at the University of East Anglia in 1998. [1] [3]

Gaia hypothesis

Lenton has taken an interest in the Gaia hypothesis for much of his career. Early in his career, in the journal Nature , [4] Lenton addressed a concern that the Gaia hypothesis was incompatible with the theory of natural selection by demonstrating that a model based on Daisyworld was strengthened by incorporating natural selection. Lenton, with Andy Watson, co-authored the book Revolutions that Made the Earth; [5] it expands on the ideas of James Lovelock on the Gaia hypothesis, by highlighting mechanisms by which the Earth system has been stabilised by negative feedbacks throughout Earth history.

Climate change


Lenton has participated in studies of possible population displacement due to climate change. [6]

Tipping points

Lenton has been called 'a leading tipping point expert'. [7] [8]


Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ecology</span> Study of organisms and their environment

Ecology is the study of the relationships among living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment. Ecology considers organisms at the individual, population, community, ecosystem, and biosphere level. Ecology overlaps with the closely related sciences of biogeography, evolutionary biology, genetics, ethology, and natural history. Ecology is a branch of biology, and it is not synonymous with environmentalism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Lovelock</span> English scientist (1919–2022)

James Ephraim Lovelock was an English independent scientist, environmentalist and futurist. He is best known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis, which postulates that the Earth functions as a self-regulating system.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carbon cycle</span> Natural processes of carbon exchange

The carbon cycle is that part of the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of Earth. Other major biogeochemical cycles include the nitrogen cycle and the water cycle. Carbon is the main component of biological compounds as well as a major component of many minerals such as limestone. The carbon cycle comprises a sequence of events that are key to making Earth capable of sustaining life. It describes the movement of carbon as it is recycled and reused throughout the biosphere, as well as long-term processes of carbon sequestration (storage) to and release from carbon sinks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Daisyworld</span> Computer simulation

Daisyworld, a computer simulation, is a hypothetical world orbiting a star whose radiant energy is slowly increasing or decreasing. It is meant to mimic important elements of the Earth-Sun system. James Lovelock and Andrew Watson introduced it in a paper published in 1983 to illustrate the plausibility of the Gaia hypothesis. In the original 1983 version, Daisyworld is seeded with two varieties of daisy as its only life forms: black daisies and white daisies. White petaled daisies reflect light, while black petaled daisies absorb light. The simulation tracks the two daisy populations and the surface temperature of Daisyworld as the sun's rays grow more powerful. The surface temperature of Daisyworld remains almost constant over a broad range of solar output.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gaia hypothesis</span> Paradigm that living organisms interact with their surroundings in a self-regulating system

The Gaia hypothesis, also known as the Gaia theory, Gaia paradigm, or the Gaia principle, proposes that living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cloud condensation nuclei</span> Small particles on which water vapor condenses

Cloud condensation nuclei (CCNs), also known as cloud seeds, are small particles typically 0.2 µm, or one hundredth the size of a cloud droplet. CCNs are a unique subset of aerosols in the atmosphere on which water vapour condenses. This can affect the radiative properties of clouds and the overall atmosphere. Water requires a non-gaseous surface to make the transition from a vapour to a liquid; this process is called condensation.

The faint young Sun paradox or faint young Sun problem describes the apparent contradiction between observations of liquid water early in Earth's history and the astrophysical expectation that the Sun's output would be only 70 percent as intense during that epoch as it is during the modern epoch. The paradox is this: with the young sun's output at only 70 percent of its current output, early Earth would be expected to be completely frozen – but early Earth seems to have had liquid water and supported life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Abrupt climate change</span> Form of climate change

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<i>The Revenge of Gaia</i> 2006 book by James Lovelock

The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back – and How We Can Still Save Humanity (2006) is a book by James Lovelock. Some editions of the book have a different, less optimistic subtitle: Earth's Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">100,000-year problem</span> Discrepancy between past temperatures and the amount of incoming solar radiation

The 100,000-year problem of the Milankovitch theory of orbital forcing refers to a discrepancy between the reconstructed geologic temperature record and the reconstructed amount of incoming solar radiation, or insolation over the past 800,000 years. Due to variations in the Earth's orbit, the amount of insolation varies with periods of around 21,000, 40,000, 100,000, and 400,000 years. Variations in the amount of incident solar energy drive changes in the climate of the Earth, and are recognised as a key factor in the timing of initiation and termination of glaciations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">CLAW hypothesis</span> A hypothesised negative feedback loop connecting the marine biota and the climate

The CLAW hypothesis proposes a negative feedback loop that operates between ocean ecosystems and the Earth's climate. The hypothesis specifically proposes that particular phytoplankton that produce dimethyl sulfide are responsive to variations in climate forcing, and that these responses act to stabilise the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere. The CLAW hypothesis was originally proposed by Robert Jay Charlson, James Lovelock, Meinrat Andreae and Stephen G. Warren, and takes its acronym from the first letter of their surnames.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Polar amplification</span>

Polar amplification is the phenomenon that any change in the net radiation balance tends to produce a larger change in temperature near the poles than in the planetary average. This is commonly referred to as the ratio of polar warming to tropical warming. On a planet with an atmosphere that can restrict emission of longwave radiation to space, surface temperatures will be warmer than a simple planetary equilibrium temperature calculation would predict. Where the atmosphere or an extensive ocean is able to transport heat polewards, the poles will be warmer and equatorial regions cooler than their local net radiation balances would predict. The poles will experience the most cooling when the global-mean temperature is lower relative to a reference climate; alternatively, the poles will experience the greatest warming when the global-mean temperature is higher.

Andrew James Watson FRS is a British marine and atmospheric scientist and an expert in processes affecting atmospheric carbon dioxide and oxygen concentrations. He was formerly a Professor of biogeochemistry in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, in 2013 he moved to a position as Professor at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Exeter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tipping points in the climate system</span> Large and possibly irreversible changes in the climate system

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The Medea hypothesis is a term coined by paleontologist Peter Ward for a hypothesis that contests the Gaian hypothesis and proposes that multicellular life, understood as a superorganism, may be self-destructive or suicidal. The metaphor refers to the mythological Medea, who kills her own children.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Climate change feedback</span> Feedback related to climate change

Climate change feedbacks are effects of global warming that amplify or diminish the effect of forces that initially cause the warming. Positive feedbacks enhance global warming while negative feedbacks weaken it. Feedbacks are important in the understanding of climate change because they play an important part in determining the sensitivity of the climate to warming forces. Climate forcings and feedbacks together determine how much and how fast the climate changes. Large positive feedbacks can lead to tipping points—abrupt or irreversible changes in the climate system—depending upon the rate and magnitude of the climate change.

Ocean dynamical thermostat is a physical mechanism through which changes in the mean radiative forcing influence the gradients of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and the strength of the Walker circulation. Increased radiative forcing (warming) is more effective in the western Pacific than in the eastern where the upwelling of cold water masses damps the temperature change. This increases the east-west temperature gradient and strengthens the Walker circulation. Decreased radiative forcing (cooling) has the opposite effect.

Bette Otto-Bliesner is an earth scientist known for her modeling of Earth's past climate and its changes over different geological eras.


  1. 1 2 "Professor Tim Lenton Chair in Climate Change/Earth Systems Science". University of Exeter. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  2. "Royal Society announces new round of Wolfson Research Merit Awards". Royal Society. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  3. "Tim Lenton". Faculty of 1000 . Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  4. Lenton, T. (1998). "Gaia and Natural Selection". Nature . 394 (6692): 439–447. Bibcode:1998Natur.394..439L. doi:10.1038/28792. PMID   9697767. S2CID   4412683.
  5. Lenton, Tim (20 March 2011). Revolutions that Made the Earth. OUP Oxford. ISBN   9780199587049.
  6. Carrington, Damian (2023-05-22). "Global heating will push billions outside 'human climate niche'". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  7. "The scourge of climate doomism | Financial Times". www.ft.com. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  8. "A Sustainable Future: Prof. Tim Lenton, on Planetary Boundaries, Early Warning Systems and Climate Tipping Points | Man Institute". www.man.com. Retrieved 2023-08-21.