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Nicolas Cullen


Associate Professor


MSc(Cant), PhD(Colorado)

Office Hours:by email appointment



ENVI111 Environment and Society
ENVI311 Understanding Environmental Issues
GEOG101 Physical Geography
GEOG282 Climate Change: Present and Future
GEOG290 Field Research Methods
GEOG380 Field Research Studies (Science)
GEOG388 Climate Change: Present and Future
GEOG460 Climatology

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Research Interests

Nicolas' research interests are in all aspects of meteorology and climatology. The study of the atmosphere inevitably involves an understanding of other components of the global environment, which for Nicolas has been primarily the cryosphere.  Much of his research has focused on the interactions of the atmosphere with snow and ice surfaces in the high and mid-latitudes, as well as on a number of high mountains in the tropics (e.g. Kilimanjaro). Nicolas is also interested in the impacts of atmospheric processes on human behaviour, in particular air pollution meteorology, utilizing wind for energy through turbine development and issues related to climate change on local to global scales.  The research that Nicolas undertakes is dependent on a combination of field data, remote sensing observations and modelling.

Click here to view Research Project Profiles

Click here to view Recent Research Grants

Click here to view PhD positions available

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Current Postgraduate Supervision

Todd Redpath (PhD), PhD thesis topic: A multi-scale approach to assess the four-dimensional (4D) distribution of snow water equivalent (SWE) in complex terrain in New Zealand (Primary Supervisor: Pascal Sirguey, co-supervisors: Nicolas Cullen, Sean Fitzsimons).

Angus Dowson (MSc), MSc thesis topic: Glacier surface albedo from MODIS data and links to annual mass balance for the Gardens of Eden and Allah, New Zealand (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen, co-supervisor: Pascal Sirguey).

Lucy Just (MSc), MSc thesis topic: Modelling the hydrological significance of snowmelt to seasonal stream flows (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen, co-supervisor: Pascal Sirguey).

Kerryn Little (MSc), MSc thesis topic: Ocean-atmosphere controls on mass balance variability of Brewster Glacier, Southern Alps (Primary Supervisor: Daniel Kingston, co-supervisors: Nicolas Cullen, Pascal Sirguey).

Florence Mills (MSc) MSc thesis topic: Comparing water yield between tussock grasslands and Manuka shrublands (Primary Supervisor: Sarah Mager, co-supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

Mitch Rawlyk (MSc) MSc thesis topic: What a Bud Kill: a meteorological investigation of frost incidence in the complex terrain of Central Otago, New Zealand (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

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Recent Postgraduate Supervision

2018, Inka Koch (PhD), Title of PhD thesis: Marine ice formation and deformation at the Southern McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica (Primary Supervisor: Sean Fitzsimons, co-supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

2017, Xiaolin Wu (PhD), Title of PhD thesis: Understanding the past, current and future transport and fate of semi-volatile organic compounds in remote alpine glacier-fed lakes in New Zealand (Primary Supervisor: Kimberly Hageman, co-supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

2016, Andreas Jobst (PhD), Title of PhD thesis: The potential impacts of climate change on the hydro-climate of the Clutha/Mata-Au catchment (Primary Supervisor: Daniel Kingston, co-supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

2015, Jeremy Bell (MSc), Title of thesis: Avalanche awareness and decision making in backcountry terrain, Craigieburn Valley Ski Area, New Zealand (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

2014, Peter Gibson (MSc), Title of thesis: Multi-scale atmospheric and climate phenomena in the context of the wind resource assessment: a case study in complex, coastal terrain (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen). Received the New Zealand Geographical Society's President's award for Best Master's thesis in Geography in 2014.

2014, Nick Price, (MSc), Title of thesis: A multi-scale assessment of the air pollution climatology of Alexandra, New Zealand using a combination of field observations and statistical and physical based modelling (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

2013, Nicolle Britland (MSc), Title of thesis: Surface climatology and ablation on the floating section of the Petermann Glacier, Greenland (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

2013, Jono Conway (PhD), Title of PhD thesis: Constraining cloud and airmass controls on the surface energy and mass balance of Brewster Glacier, Southern Alps of New Zealand (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen, co-supervisors: Sean Fitzsimons, Rachel Spronken-Smith).

2012, Gregor Macara (MSc), Title of thesis: Spatial and temporal variability of snowpack stability in the Craigieburn Valley, New Zealand (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

2012, Seth Gorrie (MSc), Title of thesis: The scientific and cultural aspects of renewable energy development success in Samoa (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen, co-supervisor: Jenny Bryant-Tokalau).

2011, Michael Winkler (PhD), Title of PhD thesis: Kilimanjaro Ice Cliffs morphology, recession, micro-climate, and how they determine glacier area loss (Primary Supervisor: Georg Kaser University of Innsbruck, Austria, co-supervisors: Nicolas Cullen and Thomas Mölg).

2011, Dorothea Stumm (PhD), Title of PhD thesis: The mass balance of selected glaciers of the Southern Alps in New Zealand (Primary Supervisor: Sean Fitzsimons, co-supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

2010, Alice Bowden (MSc), Title of MSc thesis: Wind resource assessment in Waitati, Otago, New Zealand (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen, co-supervisor: Rachel Spronken-Smith).

2010, Ashley Broadbent (MSc), Title of MSc thesis: Measurements and modelling of wintertime PM10 air pollution, Milton, Otago (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

2010, Amber Tate (MSc), Title of MSc thesis: Wintertime PM10 measurement and modelling in Alexandra and Mosgiel, Otago (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen, co-supervisor: Rachel Spronken-Smith).

2009, Andrea Barrueto (MSc), Title of MSc thesis: Accumulation on the Brewster Glacier in New Zealand (Primary Supervisor: Martin Hoelzle, co-supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

2008, Sarah Gillett (MSc), Title of MSc thesis: Modelling summer ablation on the Brewster Glacier, New Zealand (Primary Supervisor: Nicolas Cullen).

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Wu, X., Davie-Martin, C. L., Steinlin, C., Hageman, K. J., Cullen, N. J., & Bodgal, C. (2017). Understanding and predicting the fate of semivolatile organic pesticides in a glacier-fed lake using a multimedia chemical fate model. Environmental Science & Technology, 51(20), 11752-11760. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b03483

Hofer, M., Nemec, J., Cullen, N. J., & Weber, M. (2017). Evaluating predictor strategies for regression-based downscaling with a focus on glacierized mountain environments. Journal of Applied Meteorology & Climatology, 56(6), 1707-1729. doi: 10.1175/JAMC-D-16-0215.1

Schlögl, S., Lehning, M., Nishimura, K., Huwald, H., Cullen, N. J., & Mott, R. (2017). How do stability corrections perform in the stable boundary layer over snow? Boundary-Layer Meteorology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10546-017-0262-1

Jobst, A. M., Kingston, D. G., Cullen, N. J., & Sirguey, P. (2017). Combining thin-plate spline interpolation with a lapse rate model to produce daily air temperature estimates in a data-sparse alpine catchment. International Journal of Climatology, 37(1), 214-229. doi: 10.1002/joc.4699

Cullen, N. J., Anderson, B., Sirguey, P., Stumm, D., Mackintosh, A., Conway, J. P., … Fitzsimons, S. J., & Lorrey, A. (2017). An 11-year record of mass balance of Brewster Glacier, New Zealand, determined using a geostatistical approach. Journal of Glaciology, 63(238), 199-217. doi: 10.1017/jog.2016.128

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