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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  People  /  Research Staff  /  Peter Spooner

Peter Spooner

pic for website.jpgPeter T. Spooner
Room 106
Department of Geography
Pearson Building
Gower Street






2016- Present    University College London, UK. Postdoctoral Research Associate position with Dr David Thornalley, funded by the Horizon 2020 EU ATLAS project. High resolution records of North Atlantic oceanography over the last 1000 years.

2012-2016         University of Bristol, UK. Ph.D. in Earth Sciences: Investigating the uses of cold-water corals as archives of past ocean water properties. Supervisors: Prof. L. Robinson and Dr C. Coath.

2008-2012         University of Oxford, UK. Master of Earth Sciences (MEarthSci, 1st Class)

Climate change is one of the biggest issues facing society. Understanding its drivers and dynamics necessitates a multidisciplinary approach involving climate modelling, modern observations, and paleoclimate analysis. My research career has evolved from examining model climate projections, to a proxy-based exploration of the past oceans on glacial-interglacial timescales, to a combined data-modelling approach analysing very recent changes in the N.E. Atlantic.

The aim of my Ph.D. research was to explore novel techniques to facilitate the use of cold-water corals as a paleoclimate archive. Cold-water corals tend to record oceanographic change in different ways, due to so-called “vital effects”. These effects complicate the construction of palaeoceanographic records, as it is often necessary to use several different coral species to develop extended temporal records. My work assessed these effects in a wide variety of corals, and also helped scientists with large collections of corals to rapidly work out how old they were, so that they could be used more effectively as an ocean archive. I was then able to use the Southern Ocean coral collection at the University of Bristol to examine changes during the last deglaciation.

My current position at University College London is as part of the EU ATLAS Horizon 2020 research program. The overall aim of the ATLAS program is to improve understanding and management of ecosystems in the deep Atlantic Ocean. My aim is to examine changes in N.E. Atlantic Ocean circulation over the last 1000 years at exceptional resolution, to provide long term context to the ecosystem studies undertaken by international colleagues.


Spooner P.T., Thornalley D.J.R., Ellis P., (2018) Grain size constraints on glacial circulation in the southwest Atlantic. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, DOI: 10.1002/2017PA003232

Spooner P.T., Guo W., Robinson L.F., Thiagarajan N., Hendry K.R., Rosenheim B.E., Leng M.J., (2016) Clumped isotope composition of cold-water corals: A role for vital effects? Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 179, pp. 123-141

Spooner P.T., Chen T., Robinson L.F., Coath C.D., (2016) Rapid uranium-series age screening of carbonates by laser ablation mass spectrometry. Quat. Geo. 31, pp. 28-39

Chen T., Robinson L.F., Burke A., Southon J., Spooner P.T., Morris P.J., Ng, H.C., (2015) Synchronous centennial abrupt events in the ocean and atmosphere during the last deglaciation, Science 349 (6255). pp. 1537-1541

Spooner P.T., Johnson H.L., Woollings T.J., (2013) Influence of the Southern Annular Mode on projected weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. J. Climate 26 (20), pp. 8017-8036


Thornalley D.J.R., et al., (in review) Anomalously weak Labrador Sea convection and Atlantic overturning during the last 150 years. Nature

Spooner P.T., Robinson L.F., Hemsing F., Morris P.J., (in review) Ba/Ca ratio in cold-water coral skeletons records seawater dissolved barium concentration. Chem. Geo.

Hemsing F., Hsieh Y-T., Bridgestock L., Spooner P.T., Robinson L.F., Frank N., Henderson G.M., (submitted) Barium isotopes in cold-water corals. EPSL.