Dr Chris Wilson

Marine Physics and Ocean Climate
+44 (0)151 795 4806

Research interests

I am interested in observing, modelling and predicting the climate system and the dynamical processes that control climate.  

My expertise is in ocean mesoscale dynamics (a strongly nonlinear part of the climate system, with characteristic scales typically of ~ 10 km, ~ 1 week), sea level variability, flow instability and dynamical adjustment processes.


 Satellite image of mesoscale eddies in the atmosphere (white clouds) and ocean (colour), near Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands, Canada (courtesy SeaWIFS, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Centre, and ORBIMAGE) 

>> there are striking similarities between the physics of the atmosphere and ocean














Research details:

I have expertise in developing intermediate-complexity coupled ocean/atmosphere models, which I have applied to address fundamental questions of climate and its predictability. I have also transferred theory from the atmospheric dynamics community and applied it to the ocean, for example involving a dynamical theory on barriers to fluid transport and mixing, known as the “potential vorticity staircase”.  

My research on storm surges and extreme events has contributed to the development of the UK’s operational storm surge forecast modelling system and I was recognised in the NERC Impact Awards 2015 with a runner-up award for Societal Impact. 

I have been PI or Co-I on Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) grants of over £2.4 million (as of August 2016), including the international consortium, Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Programme (OSNAP), in which I lead an inverse modelling component.

Research profile and statistics:

ORCID: <orcid.org/0000-0003-0891-2912>

ResearcherID: <ResearcherID: B-5742-2012>

Google Scholar: <click here>


 Computer model simulation of the ocean "Potential Vorticity Staircase", relevant to the dynamics of Jupiter, Earth's atmospheric ozone hole, and the Southern Ocean

Copyright Chris Wilson


 Postdoc collaborator on OSNAP project

Neill Mackay, National Oceanography Centre


Robert Fraser (D.Phil. student), co-supervised with Laure Zanna, University of Oxford

Science communication












Science Museum (Mathematics Gallery, Opening 8 December 2016)

Natural History Museum (28 September 2012)

Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (14 May 2010)

  MODIS satellite image of mesoscale and sub-mesoscale structures in sea ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (courtesy NASA)

Based on NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

Committee and Board Memberships: 

Honorary Research Fellow, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool 2006- present




Lozier, M. Susan; Bacon, Sheldon; Bower, Amy S.; Cunningham, Stuart A.; de Jong, M. Femke; de Steur, Laura; deYoung, Brad; Fischer, Jürgen; Gary, Stefan F; Greenan, Blair J.W.; Heimbach, Patrick; Holliday, Naomi P.; Houpert, Loïc; Inall, Mark E.; Johns, William E.; Johnson, Helen L.; Karstensen, Johannes; Li, Feili; Lin, Xiaopei; Mackay, Neill; Marshall, David P.; Mercier, Herlé; Myers, Paul G.; Pickart, Robert S.; Pillar, Helen R.; Straneo, Fiammetta; Thierry, Virginie; Weller, Robert A.; Williams, Richard G.; Wilson, Chris; Yang, Jiayan; Zhao, Jian; Zika, Jan D.. 2016 Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program: a new international ocean observing system. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Early Online. 10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0057.1 (In Press)
Wilson, Chris. 2016 Does the wind systematically energize or damp ocean eddies? Geophysical Research Letters, 43 (24). 12,538-12,542.10.1002/2016GL072215
Wilson, Chris; Hughes, Christopher W.; Blundell, Jeffrey R.. 2015 Forced and intrinsic variability in the response to increased wind stress of an idealized Southern Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 120 (1). 113-130.10.1002/2014JC010315
Stansby, P.; Chini, N.; Apsley, D.; Borthwick, A.; Bricheno, L.; Horrilo-Caraballo, J.; McCabe, M.; Reeve, D.; Rogers, B.; Saulter, A.; Scott, A.; Wilson, C.; Wolf, J.; Yan, K.. 2013 An integrated model system for coastal flood prediction with a case history for Walcott, UK, on 9 November 2007. Journal of Flood Risk Management, 6 (3). 229-252.10.1111/jfr3.12001
Wilson, Chris; Horsburgh, Kevin J.; Williams, Jane; Flowerdew, Jonathan; Zanna, Laure. 2013 Tide-surge adjoint modeling: A new technique to understand forecast uncertainty. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 118 (10). 5092-5108.10.1002/jgrc.20364
Wilson, C.; Sinha, B.; Williams, R.G.. 2011 Erratum: The shaping of storm tracks by mountains and ocean dynamics. Weather, 66 (1). p28.10.1002/wea.766
Flowerdew, Jonathan; Horsburgh, Kevin; Wilson, Chris; Mylne, Ken. 2010 Development and evaluation of an ensemble forecasting system for coastal storm surges. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 136 (651), Part B. 1444-1456.10.1002/qj.648
Wilson, Chris; Sinha, Bablu; Williams, Richard G.. 2010 The shaping of storm tracks by mountains and ocean dynamics. Weather, 65 (12). 320-323.10.1002/wea.633
Turner, J.F.; Iliffe, J.C.; Ziebart, M.K.; Wilson, C.; Horsburgh, K.J.. 2010 Interpolation of Tidal Levels in the Coastal Zone for the Creation of a Hydrographic Datum. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 27 (3). 605-613.10.1175/2009jtecho645.1
Hughes, Chris W.; Thompson, Andrew F; Wilson, Chris. 2010 Identification of jets and mixing barriers from sea level and vorticity measurements using simple statistics. Ocean Modelling, 32 (1-2). 44-57.10.1016/j.ocemod.2009.10.004
Thompson, A. F.; Haynes, P. H.; Wilson, C.; Richards, K. J.. 2010 Rapid Southern Ocean front transitions in an eddy-resolving ocean GCM. Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L23602. 10.1029/2010gl045386
Wilson, Christopher; Sinha, Bablu; Williams, Richard, D.. 2009 The effect of ocean dynamics and orography on atmospheric storm tracks. Journal of Climate, 22 (13). 3689-3702.10.1175/2009JCLI2651.1
Horsburgh, K. J.; Wilson, C.; Baptie, B.J.; Cooper, A.; Cresswell, D.; Musson, R.M.W.; Ottemöller, L.; Richardson, S.; Sargeant, S.L.. 2008 Impact of a Lisbon-type tsunami on the U.K. coastline and the implications for tsunami propagation over broad continental shelves. Journal of Geophysical Research, 113 (C4). C04007.10.1029/2007JC004425
Hogg, Andrew McC.; Meredith, Michael P.; Blundell, Jeffrey R; Wilson, Christopher. 2008 Eddy heat flux in the Southern Ocean: response to variable wind forcing. Journal of Climate, 21 (4). 608-620.10.1175/2007JCLI1925.1
Horsburgh, K. J.; Wilson, C.. 2007 Tide-surge interaction and its role in the distribution of surge residuals in the North Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research, 112 (C8). Art. No. C08003.10.1029/2006JC004033
Williams, R. G.; Wilson, C.; Hughes, C. W.. 2007 Ocean and atmosphere storm tracks: the role of eddy vorticity forcing. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 37 (9). 2267-2289.10.1175/JPO3120.1


Williams, J.; Wilson, C.; Horsburgh, K.. 2012 Re-analysis of the December 1981 storm surge event in the Bristol Channel using the current operational tide-surge model suite. Southampton, National Oceanography Centre, 17pp. (National Oceanography Centre Research and Consultancy Report, 26)
Williams, Jane A.; Wilson, Chris; Horsburgh, Kevin J.. 2008 Data assmilation tests using NISE10 Storm Surge Model. Liverpool, Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, 29pp. (Pol Internal Document No. 188)