Academic Profile : Faculty

Prof Benjamin P. Horton.jpg picture
Prof Benjamin P. Horton
Director, Earth Observatory of Singapore
AXA-Nanyang Chair in Natural Hazards
Professor, Asian School of the Environment
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Benjamin Horton is currently a Director at the Earth Observatory of Singapore. He served as the Chair of ASE from July 2018 to June 2020 in Nanyang Technological University (NTU). He was previously an Assistant and Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania (USA) and Full Professor at Rutgers University (USA). Professor Horton obtained his BA from the University of Liverpool, UK, and PhD from the University of Durham, UK.

Professor Horton has won a number of awards in his career. For excellence in research, he has received awards from European Geosciences Union (Plinius Medal), American Geophysical Union (Voyager Award) the Geological Society of America (W. Storrs Cole Award) and Commanding General of the North Atlantic Division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Medal for Research Excellence). He was made a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 2013 and the American Geophysical Union in 2018. Professor Horton was an author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report and is an editor of the forthcoming sixth assessment report. He was a project leader of International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) 588. He is currently a committee member of PALSEA (PALeo-constraints on SEA-level rise) and Councilor for Marine Geoprocesses for the American Quaternary Association. For excellence in teaching and outreach, Professor Horton has received the Linnean Society Award for contributions to biological diversity and evolution, The Higher Education Funding Council for England Excellence in Teaching Award and the Menzies Australian Bicentennial Award for promoting scholarship, intellectual links, and mutual awareness and understanding between the United Kingdom and Australia. Professor Horton’s research was cited by President Obama in his 2015 State of the Union Address at the United States Capitol on January 20th 2015.

Professor Horton has published over 220 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including over 29 articles in Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Geology with over 13,517 citations. Professor Horton is supervising or has supervised 26 students to the degree of PhD and 22 postdoctoral scientists, of which 17 now occupy academic positions (11 as Assistant Professors; 3 as Associate Professors; and 2 a full Professor). Professor Horton has had an uninterrupted external support of research program from 2004 to 2019, including twenty-one National Science Foundation awards.
200 million people worldwide live along coastlines less than 5 meters above sea level. By the end of the 21st century this figure is estimated to increase to 400 to 500 million. These low-lying coastal regions vulnerable to changes in sea level brought about by climate change, storms or earthquakes. My research uncovers fundamental knowledge about how sea level has changed in the past and how it may change in the future. My findings therefore impact upon important ethical, social, economic and political problems specifically facing such coastal regions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) re-emphasized the importance of sea level as a barometer of climate and drew attention to the potentially devastating consequences of future climate change. The IPCC highlighted the uncertainty with which the driving mechanisms of recent sea-level change are understood and the disconnect between long-term geological and recent observational trends. My research directly addresses the rates and geographic variability of sea-level change, which was highlighted at the top of the list of the eight priority science questions in the “Sea Change: 2015-2025 Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences” report. The study of sea-level change was subsequently recommended as Strategic Research Priority I in “A Strategic Vision for NSF Investments in Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research”.

An incomplete understanding of the earthquake and tsunami hazards associated with the Sunda and Japan subduction zones contributed to the devastating societal impacts of the 2004 Indian Ocean and 2011 Tohoku events. Instrumental records of previous earthquakes and tsunamis proved too short to estimate the potential magnitude and recurrence interval of such great events that recur centuries to millennia apart. My earthquake and tsunami records on centennial and millennial temporal scales are necessary to understanding long-term subduction zone behavior and the occurrences of large, but infrequent events.

Tropical Cyclones and their associated storm surges are among the most destructive natural disasters to impact coastal regions. The severity and frequency of coastal floods is increasing (and will worsen in most locations over the 21st century. But the short timescale and narrow range of 20th century forcing captured by the instrumental record may not address important mechanisms underlying the dramatic changes expected in the late 21st century. My reconstructions of paleo storms reveal spatial and temporal variability of tropical cyclone activity and provided insight into their relationship with global climatic changes.

I have forged very strong international collaborations with developed and developing countries (e.g., Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Philippines, Vanuatu and Thailand). My research involves partnerships between fellows, graduate and undergraduate students of geology, archaeology, geophysics, oceanography, fluvial hydrology, statistics and atmospheric science. My research portfolio extends beyond the collection and interpretation of sea-level data to include topics as diverse as: development of Gaussian process models for the statistical analyses of paleoclimate data; the socio-economic impact of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami; the application of diatom analysis in forensic science; 20th century inter-decadal variability in temperature and precipitation; and the timing and location of emerging civilizations in relation to the productivity of coastal margins. I have thus assembled multinational, interdisciplinary research teams. This has enriched my own thinking and that of my postdoctoral scientists and graduate and undergraduate students. I am/have been supervisor to 22 students to the degree of PhD and 11 postdoctoral scientists.
  • Baseline data collection and projections of the impacts of Climate Change on Singapore’s offshore water resources
  • Driving Mechanisms of Past and Present Sea-Level Change to Quantify Projection Uncertainties
  • GAIP Climate Impacts Initiative
  • Impact of environmental changes since the last glaciation on Southeast Asian populations
  • Monetary Academic Resources
  • Monitoring and Forecasting of Land-Height Change, Coastline Retreat and Coastal Flooding around Southeast Asia using Geodesy and Remote Sensing
  • Relative sea-level changes along the Northern Sea Route: from patterns and rates to drivers and mechanisms
  • Southeast Asia SEA-Level Program (SEA2)
  • Southeast Asian Climate Change Communication Checker (SEA4Cs Lab)