Academic Profile : Faculty

Prof Benjamin P. Horton_1.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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Professor Benjamin Horton is Director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore and a Professor in Earth Science at the Asian School of the Environment in Nanyang Technological University (NTU). He has been appointed the AXA-Nanyang Professor in Natural Hazards. Professor Horton is the lead investigator of the Climate Transformation Program.

Prior to joining NTU, Professor Horton was Professor in Marine Science at Rutgers University and Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Horton obtained his BA with honors from the University of Liverpool, UK, and PhD from the University of Durham, UK.

Professor Horton has won several awards in his career. In 2019, he was appointed the President’s Chair in Earth Sciences at NTU for outstanding achievement. For excellence in research, he received the Plinius Medal from the European Geosciences Union, the Voyager Award from the American Geophysical Union, and the W. Storrs Cole Award from the Geological Society of America. He was elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America and the American Geophysical Union.

Professor Horton actively contributed to the COP26 conference: he led the COP26 report on managing disaster risks from natural hazards in ASEAN. He was also appointed Mentor for the Commonwealth Futures Climate Research Cohort to guide a group of researchers working towards solutions for climate-vulnerable communities in the lead-up to COP26. He is a Review Editor for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report and was an author of the 5th Assessment Report. 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 260 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including 40 articles in high profile journals such as Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Professor Horton is supervising or has supervised 27 students to the degree of PhD and 23 postdoctoral scientists, of which 20 now have permanent academic positions. His H-index is 82 and he has >19,000 citations. Professor Horton has been awarded $70 million in research funding.

Professor Horton’s research concerns sea-level change, with the aim of understanding and integrating the external and internal mechanisms that have determined sea-level changes in the past, and which will shape such changes in the future. His research impacts upon important ecological, ethical, social, economic and political problems specifically facing coastal regions.
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.
  • Assessing the long-term viability of nature-based climate solutions to future sea level rise and marine heatwaves in Singapore
  • Baseline data collection and projections of the impacts of Climate Change on Singapore’s offshore water resources
  • Climate Transformation Programme
  • Climate Transformation Programme - Project wide
  • Climate Transformation Programme – Supplementary (for Centre for Geohazards Observation)
  • Driving Mechanisms of Past and Present Sea-Level Change to Quantify Projection Uncertainties
  • GAIP Climate Impacts Initiative
  • MOE Tier3C - Climate Transformation Programme (CTP) space renovation
  • 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
  • Shared Socioeconomic Pathways Perspectives on Air Pollution: Analysing the Impact of Temperature Dynamics on Ozone Concentrations
  • Southeast Asia SEA-Level Program (SEA2)
  • Southeast Asian Climate Change Communication Checker (SEA4Cs Lab)
  • Start-up Grant - Sea Level Research