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Dynamic climates: what can other planets tell us about the Earth?

Tuesday, November 9, 2021 - 18:00 to 19:00
Berrill Lecture Theatre, Walton Hall, Open University, MK6 7AA

Stephen Lewis, Professor of Atmospheric Physics, delivers his inaugural lecture on the atmospheres, weather and climate of other planets in the Solar System.

He will discuss what weather and climate mean on these different planets. The atmospheres of our neighbouring planets are fascinating physical systems to study and test our ideas. Our ability to forecast conditions is now vital for safe exploration by spacecraft. Can the knowledge gained about other worlds help us to understand our own climate better?

Attend in person


Every large body (even dwarf planets and moons) in the Solar System, except Mercury, is surrounded by a gaseous atmosphere. The largest planets of all, Jupiter and the other Giant Planets, are mainly gases from the clouds down to great depths. Even on the planets which are mainly rocky — Venus, Earth and Mars — the presence of the atmosphere alters the surface conditions to a remarkable extent. On Venus, the greenhouse effect has produced a toxic world, with temperatures hot enough to melt lead. On Mars, the surface is a frozen desert. But there is evidence that these climates have changed over the lifetime of the planets, and that they might once have been more hospitable.

The Earth has the most complex and unusual atmosphere of all. Without our atmosphere, there could be no life. But the presence of life has in turn changed the atmosphere that it depends on. Research into planetary atmospheres offers context to the urgent need to understand the changes in our own environment.

About Professor Stephen Lewis

Stephen Lewis, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at The Open University, is Head of the School of Physical Sciences. He researches the dynamics of planetary atmospheres. This includes understanding the dynamics of climate systems, forecasting the weather for spacecraft missions and interpreting the atmospheric observations that they return. He has won awards for work on spacecraft teams, including NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Curiosity and Perseverance Rovers. Back on Earth, he is a Fellow of The Royal Meteorological Society. Stephen has been the academic consultant on BBC series including Wild Weather, The Planets and A Perfect Planet.

Event programme

Timings Item
18:00 - 18:45 Inaugural lecture: Dynamic climates: what can other planets tell us about the Earth
18:45 - 19:00 Q&A
19:00 - 20:00 Refreshments

Arrangements will be reviewed for the physical event nearer the time in view of COVID-19. The event will also be livestreamed.

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