Meteorology Department News
University meteorologists on the Oklahoma tornado
Release Date : 21 May 2013
Experts from the University of Reading's renowned Department of Meteorology provide stats, facts and comment on tornados, in the light of the disatrous impact of the Oklahoma tornado.
What is a tornado, why do they occur in Tornado Alley and do they ever impact on the UK?
Dr Andrew Barrett - frequency and strength of tornadoes in ‘Tornado Alley'
"Tornadoes are quite common in the Great Plains in May, averaging about 3-4 per day (often in clusters) - but not usually as strong as this one, and not usually in urban areas. Only 2% of tornadoes in the USA reach EF4 status (scale EF0 to EF5), with winds over 165mph.
"Tornados can occur in many places across the globe, but tornado alley of the Central Plains of the US is most famous. Central Plains in US is ‘Tornado Alley' because it sees frequent collisions of warm, moist air from the south and cold air from further north and has no major east-west mountain range to block air flow between these two air masses."
"Moore, Oklahoma has been hit by significant tornadoes four times in the last 15 years (1999, 2003, 2010 and yesterday) including the most intense storm ever with winds of 317 mph. The size of the tornado was not unprecedented, but at larger end of scales (widths vary from: 100m - 3 km)
Dr Suzanne Gray - thunderstorm supercells
"Tornadoes form in severe thunderstorms e.g. warm humid surface air overlaid by cold dry air aloft - this makes the atmosphere unstable and air tends to rise. The contrast of warm/cold air also creates strong changes in winds with height which can cause air to rotate. This tornado was linked to a thunderstorm supercell (large, organised areas of intense thunderstorms ). Supercells tend to exist in regions of strong wind shear (where winds change dramatically with height) and this can cause updrafts to rotate. Rotating clouds at the base of a storm is the first sign of a tornado forming."
Dr Suzanne Gray - climate change and tornadoes
"Tornados are too small scale for current climate models to simulate, so it is not possible to say very much about how strength and occurrence might alter under climate change. But climate change means warmer temperatures and more moisture and that is providing more energy for the types of storms that produce tornadoes in a warmer climate."
Dr Pete Inness -tornadoes in the UK
"The geography of the US High Plains is unique in creating the perfect environment for tornado formation. In the UK we simply don't have the right set of circumstances to generate the intense storms in which big tornados form.
"According to the UK Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (TORRO) the UK experiences 30-40 tornados per year, although these are all far weaker and shorter lived than their US equivalents and most cause little or no damage to property. Recent occurrences include a small tornado in Oxfordshire in May 2012 which was tracked using Doppler radar by researchers at the University of Reading.
"In July 2005 a tornado hit Birmingham where damage to trees, houses and cars was widespread across an area to the south-east of the city centre. This was one of the few UK tornadoes to cause significant damage (estimated at 40 million pounds) and 19 people were injured."
Study reveals scientific consensus on man-made climate change
Release Date : 16 May 2013
A comprehensive analysis of peer-reviewed articles on the topic of global warming and climate change has revealed an overwhelming consensus among scientists that recent warming is human-caused.
The study is the most comprehensive yet and identified 4000 summaries, otherwise known as abstracts, from papers published in the past 21 years that stated a position on the cause of recent global warming - 97 per cent of these endorsed the consensus that we are seeing man-made, or anthropogenic, global warming (AGW)
Led by John Cook at the University of Queensland, with contributions by Mark Richardson at the University of Reading, the study was published today, Thursday 16 May, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters.
The study went one step further, asking the authors of these papers to rate their entire paper using the same criteria. Over 2,000 papers were rated and among those that discussed the cause of recent global warming, 97 per cent endorsed the consensus that it is caused by humans.
The findings are in stark contrast to the public's position on global warming; a 2012 poll* revealed that more than half of Americans either disagree, or are unaware, that scientists overwhelmingly agree that the Earth is warming because of human activity.
John Cook said: "Our findings prove that there is a strong scientific agreement about the cause of climate change, despite public perceptions to the contrary.
"There is a gaping chasm between the actual consensus and the public perception. It's staggering given the evidence for consensus that less than half of the general public think scientists agree that humans are causing global warming.
"This is significant because when people understand that scientists agree on global warming, they're more likely to support policies that take action on it."
In March 2012, the researchers used the ISI Web of Science database to search for peer-reviewed academic articles published between 1991 and 2011 using two topic searches: "global warming" and "global climate change".
After limiting the selection to peer-reviewed climate science, the study considered 11,994 papers written by 29,083 authors in 1,980 different scientific journals.
The abstracts from these papers were randomly distributed between a team of 24 volunteers recruited through the "myth-busting" website skepticalscience.com, who used set criteria to determine the level to which the abstracts endorsed that humans are the primary cause of global warming. Each abstract was analyzed by two independent, anonymous raters.
From the 11,994 papers, 32.6 per cent endorsed AGW, 66.4 per cent stated no position on AGW, 0.7 per cent rejected AGW and in 0.3 per cent of papers, the authors said the cause of global warming was uncertain.
Co-author of the study Mark Richardson, from the University of Reading, said: "We want our scientists to answer questions for us, and there are lots of exciting questions in climate science. One of them is: are we causing global warming? We found over 4000 studies written by 10 000 scientists that stated a position on this, and 97 per cent said that recent warming is mostly man made."
Visitors to the skepticalscience.com website also raised the funds required to allow the study to be accessible to the public.
Daniel Kammen, editor-in-chief of the journal Environmental Research Letters, said: ""This paper demonstrates the power of the Environmental Research Letters open access model of operation in that authors working to advance our knowledge of climate science and to engage in a public discourse can guarantee all interested parties have the opportunity to review the same data and findings."
Staff honoured in Gold Star Awards
Tuesday, 07 May 2013
Each year, Reading University Students' Union (RUSU) invites students to nominate members of staff whom they feel have had a great impact on their learning whilst at University. This year's winners were recently presented with their Gold Stars at an awards ceremony in RUSU's 3sixty. Congratulations to Andrew Charlton-Perez for winning the following award:
Personal Tutor Gold Star
Dr Andrew Charlton-Perez - Department of Meteorology
"The winner of the Personal Tutor Award has worked hard to support students in their academic studies, from their first year right through to their final year. Andrew has inspired students to do their best in their degree and has been a pillar of support to students within their final year. The nominations received described him as extremely approachable, quick to respond to emails, supportive throughout their time at University and excellent at ensuring students receive all the support possible from the University. The winner goes the extra mile by setting aside weekly sessions to go over dissertation work and speak about possible employment opportunities for when his tutees leave the University."
Scientists pay tribute to climate change pioneer, 75 years on
Release Date : 22 April 2013
Global warming may seem like a relatively newly-discovered phenomenon - but climate scientists are this month celebrating the 75th anniversary of the breakthrough that helped kick-start research into one of the world's biggest scientific questions.
The global warming effect did not reach the mainstream of public consciousness until the 1980s. But the research that first confirmed the planet was warming was written by a British amateur climatologist, Guy Stewart Callendar, in April 1938.
Now scientists in the UK have marked the anniversary with a new research paper looking at the significance and legacy of Callendar's landmark findings.
Dr Ed Hawkins, of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading, is the lead author of the new paper, alongside Professor Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia.
Dr Hawkins said: "In hindsight, Callendar's contribution was fundamental. He is still relatively unknown, but in terms of the history of climate science, his paper is a classic.
"He was the first scientist to discover that the planet had warmed by collating temperature measurements from around the globe, and suggested that this warming was partly related to man-made carbon dioxide emissions."
Despite making his groundbreaking discovery, Callendar did not receive widespread acclaim when he first published his work, Dr Hawkins said.
"People were sceptical about some of Callendar's results, partly because the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere was not very well known and because his estimates for the warming caused by CO2 were quite simplistic by modern standards," Dr Hawkins said.
"It was only in the 1950s, when improved instruments showed more precisely how water and CO2 absorbed infra-red radiation, that we reached a better understanding of the importance of carbon emissions.
"Scientists at the time also couldn't really believe that humans could impact such a large system as the climate - a problem that climate science still encounters from some people today, despite the compelling evidence to the contrary."
Professor Jones added: "Callendar's estimates for the amount of observed warming have stood the test of time and agree remarkably well with more modern analyses of the same period."
What makes Callendar's work the more remarkable was that he was an enthusiastic amateur who made all the tedious calculations himself in his spare time, by hand, without the use of computers. By day, he was a professional steam engineer.
He also thought global warming was a good thing, because it would prevent the return of what he called the ‘deadly glaciers' and increase crop production at high latitude. But his work was key to restarting the debate over whether man could influence the global climate, Dr Hawkins believes.
‘On increasing global temperatures: 75 years after Callendar' will be published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society - the same journal in which Callendar's paper was first published three-quarters of a century ago.
University of Reading, Malaysia hosts symposium on resilience to climate change in South East Asia
Release Date : 16 April 2013
The University of Reading Malaysia will this week (16-18 April 2013) host a symposium bringing together experts from the University of Reading and South East Asia to discuss the vital issue of climate change. This is the first symposium in a series which aims to create a vibrant network across South East Asia and so enhance the University's teaching and research activities as part of our development in the region.
The success of our growing network will be marked at the symposium when three new formal partnerships will be established with the University of Indonesia, the University of Danang (Vietnam) and the University of the Philippines Los Baños. We will be collaborating with these Universities to develop research and teaching in areas such as climate change, agriculture, food science, biodiversity, economics and systems engineering.
Professor Steven Mithen, University of Reading Pro-Vice-Chancellor for international and external engagement said: "We are delighted to be holding our first symposium in Malaysia and we see this as key to the University's development in the region. Climate change is a fitting topic and an area where the University excels. Our success is already in evidence through the establishment of formal partnerships with the Universities of Indonesia, Danang and the Philippines Los Baños. We know this is just the start of many rewarding and productive links."
Climate change, a particular strength of the University of Reading and a key challenge in South East Asia, is the issue under discussion at this first symposium which is being organised jointly with the University of Reading's Walker Institute for Climate System Research. Areas being discussed include: cities and health; water and ecosystems; agriculture and development.
Dr Maria Noguer, Walker Institute research co-ordinator said: "This event provides a wonderful opportunity to bring together Walker Institute experts in climate change with experts from across South East Asia who bring vital local knowledge. Working together we can make a real difference to addressing climate change in the region."
South East Asia is expected to be seriously affected by climate change. Extreme events such as floods, droughts and tropical cyclones are being experienced throughout the region with major impacts on people and the economy and such events are expected to get worse through the 21st century. To deal with the cross-boundary issues, regional cooperation and information sharing is required. The University of Reading wishes to bring its expertise to support research in these matters and gain from that existing within the region, through collaborative projects and teaching partnerships.
Dr Martha-Marie Kleinhans, Vice-Provost (Academic), University of Reading Malaysia said: "This series of symposia is an important step in the development of the University of Reading Malaysia and the collaborations we develop will lay strong foundations for our research and teaching activities. We're already teaching students here and we look forward to opening the doors of our new campus in Iskandar Malaysia to many more students in 2015."