Associate Professor Anthony Malcolm Fowler

MA/PhD (Auckland)

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Associate Professor


I completed my PhD at the University of Auckland and joined the staff of the Department of Geography (now part of the School of Environment) in 1993. This followed a two-year stint at CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research in Melbourne where I worked on the potential impacts of future climate change. My research interests shifted to palaeoclimatology in the 1990s, but I retain research and teaching interests across the broad field of climate change, especially related to hydrology and climate reconstruction from tree rings.

Research | Current

My research activity over the last three decades has covered three separate but inter-related fields. Focus during the late 1980s through to the mid-1990s was on future climate change and its potential impacts on hydrology and water resources. From the late-1990s emphasis shifted to palaeoclimatology, associated with several major FRST-funded research projects.

These two fields are currently merging into new research endeavours that use our understanding of past climate to test climate models used to project future climate change and to improve scenarios of future climate (particularly in the context of hydrology and water resources).

  • Palaeoclimatology (specifically climate reconstruction from tree rings): This is my specific research interest in the field of climate reconstruction and has been my main research area for the last decade. Specific interests include: computer-based crossdating; changes in growth response with tree and site age (hence the potential for flawed climate reconstructions); seasonal growth response to environmental variables (growth triggers, environmental characteristics associated with peak growth, inter-tree variations in growth response); the use of integrated variables (such as soil water deficits and runoff) in response and transfer functions; and climate reconstruction. Notable recent developments include: a) a 1000 year reconstruction of the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon from kauri tree rings; b) multi-proxy ENSO reconstruction, using diverse high-resolution proxies from ENSO teleconnection regions, and; c) work relating NZ regional multi-proxy signals to the evolving frequency of synoptic situations deduced from the instrumental record. All three of these developments are collaborative endeavours.
  • Future climate change and climate change impact assessment: My research in this area has been concerned with: derivation of regional climate change scenarios; climate change impact assessment methodology; assessment of the sensitivity of the soil-water regime, surface runoff, and irrigation to climate change; potential impacts of climate change on the water balance and pasture productivity; implications of climate change for water resource use and for water resource planning; and potential climate change impacts on extreme precipitation. I was most active in this research area in the early 1990s, but work has continued up to the present. Activity in this research area is now increasing as I work to couple it with the palaeoclimate research focus, above. This derives from my belief that significant progress in reducing uncertainties concerning future climate change requires comprehensive merging of research related to anthropogenic forcing with sound understanding of the nature and scale of natural variability.
  • Hydrology and water resource planning: I also have significant research interests in near surface hydrology and water resource planning. To date, the primary focus has been on field-scale and small catchment modelling with an applied hydrology focus, specifically models suitable for planning and operational water resources management. The soil water regime and catchment water yield are the two main foci with specific applications in the field of irrigation and urban water supply planning. This research area has been strongly integrated with my climate change impacts research and expands my palaeoclimatology work into the historical instrumental record.

Teaching | Current

My teaching responsibilities lie across the sub-disciplines of climatology, hydrology, and environmental change. Climate change is the prevailing theme.

I teach most of the 2nd year course GEOG 261 Climate & Hydrology.

I teach the graduate paper GEOG 730 Climate Change: Past, Present, & Future.

Postgraduate supervision

Past PhD students

  • Tony Poninghaus - Assessment of flood risk
  • Keith Adams - Hydrological modelling of the impacts of land-use change
  • Andrew Lorrey - Climate reconstruction from kauri tree-rings
  • Joelle Gergis - Multi-proxy reconstruction of ENSO events
  • Maryann Pirie - Statistical palaeoclimatology
  • Howard Diamond - Tropical cyclone climatology

Other recent postgraduate research topics

  • Regional drought hydroclimatology
  • Water balance studies related to water resources
  • Land-use change hydrology
  • Climate change impact assessment
  • Variable source area hydrology, and
  • The climate signal in kauri tree-rings

Areas of expertise

Climate change (past, present, future).

Dendroclimatology (climate reconstruction from tree rings).

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Li, J., Xie, S.-P., Cook, E. R., Morales, M. S., Christie, D. A., Johnson, N. C., ... Gou, X. (2013). El Niño modulations over the past seven centuries. Nature Climate Change, 3, 822-826. 10.1038/nclimate1936
  • Fowler, A. M., Boswijk, G., Lorrey, A., Gergis, J., Pirie, M., McCloskey, S. P. J., ... Wunder, J. (2012). Multi-centennial tree-ring record of ENSO-related activity in New Zealand. Nature Climate Change, 2, 172-176. 10.1038/nclimate1374
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Gretel Boswijk
  • Gergis, J. L., & Fowler, A. M. (2009). A history of ENSO events since A.D. 1525: implications for future climate change. Climatic Change, 92, 343-387. 10.1007/s10584-008-9476-z
  • Fowler, A. M. (2008). ENSO history recorded in Agathis australis (kauri) tree rings. Part B: 423 years of ENSO robustness. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CLIMATOLOGY, 28 (1), 21-35. 10.1002/joc.1479
  • Fowler, A. M., Boswijka, G., Gergis, J., & Lorrey, A. (2008). ENSO history recorded in Agathis australis (kauri) tree rings. Part A: kauri's potential as an ENSO proxy. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CLIMATOLOGY, 28 (1), 1-20. 10.1002/joc.1525
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Gretel Boswijk
  • Adams, K. N., & Fowler, A. M. (2006). Improving empirical relationships for predicting the effect of vegetation change on annual water yield. JOURNAL OF HYDROLOGY, 321 (1-4), 90-115. 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2005.07.049
  • Boswijk, G., Fowler, A. M., Lorrey, A. M., Palmer, J., & Ogden, J. (2006). Extension of the New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis) chronology to 1724 BC. Holocene, 16 (2), 188-199. 10.1191/0959683606hl919rp
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Gretel Boswijk
  • Fowler, A. M., & Adams, K. (2004). Twentieth century droughts and wet periods in Auckland (New Zealand) and their relationship to ENSO. International Journal of Climatology, 24 (15), 1947-1961. 10.1002/joc.1100


Contact details

Office hours

By appointment.

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 4, Room 463
New Zealand

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