W. Mike Edmunds Memorial Lecture

In a career spanning almost 50 years, Professor W. Mike Edmunds made an extraordinary contribution to water science and water resource management globally. Mike led advances in geochemistry – particularly hydrogeochemistry and palaeohydrology – authored over 150 scientific publications and mentored numerous water professionals in the process. In recognition of his outstanding work, Mike received many accolades including the Whittaker Medal (1999), the O.E. Meinzer Award (2009), and the Vernadsky Medal (2010). Mike is remembered not only for his scientific achievements, but for his passion, warmth and generosity of spirit which touched the lives of many. This lecture aims to honour his legacy by promoting good hydrogeological science to the service of society: something Mike was deeply passionate about.


Last year’s lecture proved hugely popular and was oversubscribed. If you would like to attend the event, you are encouraged to register as soon as possible to secure your place. The lecture will be followed by refreshments at Christ Church.

Squeezing a climate change (rainfall) record out of soggy sand

This lecture will examine how a record of past climate change becomes stored within soggy sand dunes in desert regions. These dunes represent the part of the groundwater cycle above the water table (the unsaturated zone). Sand-rich deserts are remote and sparsely populated regions, meaning they have relatively poor records of historical rainfall trends. Past rainfall records are vital to (i) constrain the connection between the forcing of our climate and the response of rainfall and (ii) to provide data that can be used as a training set to improve the numerical climate computer model simulations that are the tools used to predict future changes in regional rainfall. Predictions of future regional rainfall patterns remain one of the most uncertain parameters for climate science. Improving these predictions is of great value for humankind in order to plan adaption and mitigation strategies for climatic changes that will be felt in already water-stressed desert regions of the world.

Dr Abi Stone, will explore and unpick how we extract rainfall record from the sand dune rain gauges (the unsaturated zone), and reflect on how these datasets might be used by climate modellers and what this might mean for the future of these desert regions. While progress is still to be made on the latter, there are fantastic examples of where past climate change clues have been squeezed out of the unsaturated zone groundwater record from deserts around the world.

For a preview (2-page highlight) of this approach, including a diagram designed in propelling pencil by Mike himself, click [here](pastglobalchanges.org/download/docs/magazine/2016-1/PAGESmagazine_2016(1_24-25_Stone.pdf).

About the speaker

Dr Abi Stone is a Lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Manchester, a visiting Research Associate and Guest Lecturer at Oxford University’s School of Geography and the Environment, and holds a visiting Senior College Lectureship at Keble College. Her work focusses on understanding the environmental dynamics of desert regions over timescales of decades to hundreds of thousands of years, particularly in southern Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Abi’s career in hydrogeology began as a postdoc working with Mike in Oxford. She has collaborated with him on three papers since 2012, and is currently working on two projects in southern Africa that emerged from her collaboration with Mike. She also attempts to fill Mike’s wise and enthusiastic shoes in co-supervising Michelle Lanzoni’s doctoral research into ‘Rain events and recharge processes in the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado’.