The Research Group on Climate Change and Environmental Systems (ZEPHYRUS) targets at studying climate change and its environmental and societal impacts, at various spatial and temporal scales.

Research is organised in three core areas:

1) Climatology – focusing on Urban Climatology, Climate History, Risks and Climate Responses, Bioclimatology and Tourism Climatology, Water Sports, Wind Resources and Agriculture. In collaboration with technicians in local planning, ZEPHYRUS develops environmental and climate guidelines for policy makers at the municipal level.

2) Biogeography – focusing on studying the influence and impacts of environmental change on vegetation communities, sea-level rise and impacts on coastal ecosystems, changes in land cover and use regarding vegetation distribution and conservation, and physical and human processes and landscape dynamics.

3) Geocryology – focusing on environmental dynamics in Polar regions and mountain areas, and their connection to the Global Climate System. The main subjects are mapping, monitoring and modelling permafrost and the active layer, monitoring geomorphological dynamics in cold environments, remote sensing of snow and polar vegetation, and paleoenvironmental reconstruction. The team takes part in the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P-IPA/WMO), in SCAR/IPA Expert Group on Permafrost, Soils and Periglacial Environments and coordinates the Portuguese Polar Program (PROPOLAR) together with CCMAR, IMAR, IST and CIIMAR.

The group frames several PhD students and hosts scholarship holders. Multidisciplinarity is one of ZEPHYRUS’ characteristics (geographers, physicists, geologists, biophysical and forest engineers, and other areas of expertise). ZEPHYRUS frequently hosts visiting researchers from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Mexico, Morocco, Poland, the UK, Switzerland and the USA.


Fundamental and applied research targets at the topics of the three core areas and seeks to promote competitiveness and interdisciplinarity through science framed within national and international projects.

Research on climatology focus on the impacts of climate change and extreme climate events (climate risks), and aims at creating solutions for spatial planning, especially those dealing with the assessment of climate capacity in urban and periurban areas.

Research on geocryology focus at the impacts of climate change on permafrost and periglacial environments, as well as on the paleoenvironmental reconstruction of Polar and high mountain environments, especially in the Western Antarctic Peninsula, the Arctic (Svalbard and Canada), the Andes and the Atlas mountains. The main methodological framework is based on field data collection and monitoring, spatial and temporal modelling of permafrost and on remote sensing of the cryosphere.

Biogeography studies stress the paleobiogeographic and paleoclimatic importance of isolated peat bogs in the Iberian Peninsula, the identification of glacial refugia and post-glacial expansions, and biodiversity. Special attention is given to studies on the dynamics of the salt marshes of Sado, Alvor and Portimão, and the identification of the best areas both on what concerns to microclimate and hydrologic suitability for the recuperation of common yew populations (Taxus baccata) in Portugal.

ZEPHYRUS manages two main infrastructure networks: the urban mesoclimate network, and the PERMANTAR permafrost Observatories in Antarctica.