Dr David Grimes 1951 - 2011

Dr David Grimes

David's scientific drive was accompanied by an equally strong drive to ensure that the science that he did was of clear benefit to those whose lives are reliant on what the weather brings

David Ian Francis Grimes, Reader in African Meteorology, died on 22 December 2011 aged 60, following the sudden onset of a rare neurological disorder, the sporadic form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

David was born in Consett, County Durham and joined the Department of Meteorology in 1990, and recently received his long-service award from the University. David was renowned for the care which he showed to students, playing major roles in the administration of both undergraduate and masters courses over many years.  Students recall the warmth of David's welcomes on their arrival at Reading, as he was often the first member of staff that they met.  David was a skilled and dedicated teacher, often illustrating his lectures with his own, sometimes very amusing, cartoons. He also contributed to and led many field trips, with his characteristic energy and humour.

David trained as a physicist and after spells at the University of Leicester and the Open University moved to Reading to perform research on the use of satellite data to monitor rainfall over the whole of Africa. His scientific drive was accompanied by an equally strong drive to ensure that the science that he did was of clear benefit to those whose lives are reliant on what the weather brings. He joined the Department's TAMSAT ("Tropical Applications of Meteorology using SATellite data and ground-based observations") research group and took over its leadership in the mid-1990s.  TAMSAT produces data that allows African meteorologists to monitor the progress of their rainy seasons and to give early warning of floods and droughts - and with more than 20 years of satellite data now available, the same data is being used to understand African climate change and climate variability.

The longevity of TAMSAT as a force in African meteorology is down to an underlying simplicity of method, that has proven itself time and again to be more robust than apparently more sophisticated methods.  David authored or co-authored 27 papers on various aspects of African rainfall, exploring novel approaches to exploiting data that led to links with hydrologists, statisticians and agricultural scientists, in Reading and beyond - this made TAMSAT's work of even more relevance to real-world problems. David was also passionate about training and inspiring new generations of African scientists, which he achieved either via many training schools in Africa or by attracting African scientists to Reading - he was also often frustrated by the bureaucratic barriers that prevented African students from coming to Reading to train, and showed no fear in challenging such decisions.

In 2010, TAMSAT received the "IBM award for Meteorological Innovation That Matters" which is administered by the Royal Meteorological Society. In the citation for that award it states that TAMSAT "continues to deliver massive benefits to Africa in terms of essential rainfall predictions, through the use of satellites. Operationally, the rainfall products generated by TAMSAT are used extensively by African weather services, providing a unique and essential source of data. This technology providing precipitation information is of such importance in developing regions, that it merits this recognition. From its inception, TAMSAT have shown how even the early generations of satellite technology can be harnessed quantitatively to provide vital rainfall information over a wide region." 

David was also skilled at amateur dramatics, acting and directing at Reading's Progress Theatre - in the summer of 2011 he played two different leading roles, on alternate nights, in an open air production of the Tempest.  David used these same skills to hilarious effect in the interval acts during the Departmental Christmas Pantomimes - reciting by heart, long poems, such as the Rime of the Ancient Mariner or Albert and the Lion - while at the same time orchestrating unsuspecting folk plucked from the audience, who were made to act out, with a variety of props, the various parts in the poems.  This is but one example of David's immense contribution to the social life of the Department of Meteorology.

David will be greatly missed and remembered with great affection, not only by his friends, colleagues and students in the Department of Meteorology, but also by meteorologists all over Africa and beyond, who David has influenced via either his teaching or his research collaborations.

We extend our deep sympathy to David's teenage son Patrick, David's sister and brother, and to other members of his wider family.

Professor Keith Shine, Department of Meteorology

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