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Dr Phil Anderson


Head of Marine Technology

I joined SAMS in the summer of 2012 as Head of Marine Technology after 27 years working at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). I started at BAS as a field scientist and instrument designer, spending two austral winterers (1986 and 1991) at the Halley Research Station in the south Weddell Sea, and accumulated a further three years “south of the circle” during summer seasons. I gained my Ph.D. in 1994 on stratified atmospheric boundary layers.

In the 1990s I developed a number of techniques to probe the winter-time polar atmosphere, including low-power autonomous remote systems at the surface and kite, blimp and rocket instrument platforms aloft. In the last 10 years, I have concentrated on the physics of coherent structures in the stable boundary layer, whilst developing the use of small robotic aircraft for measuring the structure of the atmosphere near the surface. At SAMS these techniques will help us understand sea-ice dynamics in the Arctic and help explain the observed dramatic reduction in summer-time sea-ice coverage. My interest in things that fly continues after work, training 'Gaia', a young Harris Hawk, and using kites for skiing.

At SAMS I am a member of the


Education/career history


  • Flux-profile relationships in the Stable Atmospheric Boundary Layer (ABL): During my first Antarctic winter in 1986 I noticed that the turbulent atmosphere during the polar night is more complex than expected, with a variety of coherent structures apparent in a range of fine resolution data, from acoustic radar to sonic anemometers. The mechanism that generates and maintains these structures when the atmosphere is stratified (stable) but turbulent is still obscure; turbulence should act to diffuse or blur any structure, not enhance them. Understanding this effect is of growing importance in improving the accuracy of our climate models, as parameterization schemes that derive surface fluxes from bulk meteorology are very noisy and on average biased. My personal research still dwells in the Stable ABL, working through an international group within GEWEX trying to improve GCMs in this area by understanding the missing physics. Click here for micrometeorological data from the Halley Instrumented Clean Air Sector from 2003 to present.

  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft (also known as UAVs): I am leading the SAMS project to developing Earth Observation and in situ platforms for marine research. The project involves training a team of avionics engineers, pilots and commanders for RPA operations, modifying a fleet of Light RPA (< 20kg tow) for over-water deployment, and developing sensor payloads for environmental sampling.
  • Flux buoys: Although many buoy-based systems are operating around the world, the vast majority only  measure meteorology, whilst a fraction measure what is actually needed, fluxes of heat and momentum into the surface. Fluxes are the true coupling conditions that govern air-surface interaction. Making automatic flux measurements is not trivial, but I am adapting relatively standard techniques used on land to work on a mobile platform at sea. Such buoys will help the community validate couple general circulation models in remote oceans, especially polar regions.
  • Glider-Deployed Drifters: I am working in partnership with Southampton University to use the relatively new technique of balloon launched gliders as a vehicle for deploying marine sensors.


Recent publications
  • Anderson PS (2012) Climatology of tropospheric solitary waves observed over an ice shelf. In: Kooij-Connally E (ed). Workshop on Diurnal cycles and the stable boundary layer. ECMWF, Shinfield Park, Reading, UK.
  • Anderson PS  (2009) Measurement of Prandtl Number as a Function of Richardson Number Avoiding Self-Correlation. Boundary-Layer Meteorology. 131(3):345-362.
  • Jones AE, Anderson PS, Begoin M, Brough N, Hutterli M, Marshall GJ, Richter A, Roscoe HK and Wolff EW  (2009) BrO, blizzards, and drivers of polar tropospheric ozone depletion events. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 9:4639-4652.
  • Anderson PS and Neff WD  (2008) Boundary layer physics over snow and ice. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 8(13):3563-3582.
  • Anderson PS and Bauguitte SJB  (2007) Behaviour of tracer diffusion in simple atmospheric boundary layer models. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 7(19):5147-5158.
  • Jones AE, Wolff EW, Salmon RA, Bauguitte SJB, Roscoe HK, Anderson PS, Ames D, Clemitshaw KC, Fleming ZL, Bloss WJ, Heard DE, Lee JD, Read KA, Hamer P, Shallcross DE, Jackson AV, Walker SL, Lewis AC, Mills GP, Plane JMC, Saiz-Lopez A, Sturges WT and Worton DR  (2008) Chemistry of the Antarctic Boundary Layer and the Interface with Snow: an overview of the CHABLIS campaign. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 8(14):3789-3803.
  • Saiz-Lopez A, Plane JMC, Mahajan AS, Anderson PS, Bauguitte SJB, Jones AE, Roscoe HK, Salmon RA, Bloss WJ, Lee JD and Heard DE  (2008) On the vertical distribution of boundary layer halogens over coastal Antarctica: implications for O-3, HOx, NOx and the Hg lifetime. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 8(4):887-900.
  • Simpson WR, von Glasow R, Riedel K, Anderson P, Ariya P, Bottenheim J, Burrows J, Carpenter LJ, Friess U, Goodsite ME, Heard D, Hutterli M, Jacobi HW, Kaleschke L, Neff B, Plane J, Platt U, Richter A, Roscoe H, Sander R, Shepson P, Sodeau J, Steffen A, Wagner T and Wolff E  (2007) Halogens and their role in polar boundary-layer ozone depletion. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 7(16):4375-4418.


Teaching and student supervision

Current research students

  • Rebecca Weeks (2013-present): Identification and tracking of harmful algal blooms using multi-spectral techniques from Remotely Piloted Aircraft platforms



  • 2008-present: Vice-Chair of EU COST Action ES0802 "Unmanned Aerial Systems for Atmospheric Research"
  • 2008-present: Committee Member SCAR Scientific Research Programme "Astronomy and Astrophysics in Antarctica"
  • 1996-present: Past Chair and present UK representative of International Symposium Acoustic Remote Sensing (ISARS)
  • 1988-present: Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society
  • 1998-present: Member of Fuchs Foundation Committee


my contact details

Dr Phil Anderson SAMS

Dr Phil Anderson
T: +44 (0) 1631 559 438
F: +44 (0) 1631 559 001
SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute
Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA, UK

Contact us
Scottish Marine Institute
Oban, Argyll, PA37 1QA
T: 01631 559000
F: 01631 559001