Meteorology Department News
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."
Revealed: the earths electrical heartbeat seen in clouds
Release Date : 06 March 2013
The height of clouds changes by up to 200m during a day under the influence of a global 'electrical heartbeat' in the atmosphere, scientists at the University of Reading have discovered.
The findings, made by analysing 10 years' data of cloud heights from the north and south poles, open up a whole new perspective on our understanding of how clouds form and influence our weather and climate.
Scientists have been aware of the daily global ebb and flow of electric current through the atmosphere for 100 years, when it was shown to vary consistently throughout the day wherever on the planet it was measured. This regular variation, effectively a global electrical heartbeat, is known as the Carnegie curve, after the ship whose cruises provided the defining experiments in the 1920s.
The electric current is caused by electrified storms across the world. Its daily peak occurs at 7pm GMT each day when the major sources of thunderstorms are the American and African landmasses. The current is usually weakest at 3am GMT, night-time across most of the world's continents, when there are fewest thunderstorms occurring globally.
Previously no connection had been made between this current and the formation of clouds. But, by analysing cloud base measurements made during polar darkness when there are few other influences on cloud formation, University of Reading meteorologists Professor Giles Harrison and Dr Maarten Ambaum found evidence for the first time that cloud heights are closely linked to the Carnegie curve.
Professor Harrison said: "What we found was remarkable. The variations from both north and south poles are almost identical, suggesting a strong link with the Carnegie curve, when other factors are taken out of the equation. This may arise from charging of small droplets in the cloud's base, encouraging them to stick together.
"This implies that factors inside or outside the climate system which change the global electric current, such as ocean temperatures or cosmic rays, may influence the properties of layer clouds. However our results say nothing about any long-term effects, as they were found for rapidly-occurring changes from hour to hour."
Layer clouds are particularly relevant to global temperatures. At night they act like a warm blanket, preventing heat from being lost from the earth into space, and during the day help cool the surface by reflecting away the sun's energy.
"The realisation the electrical heartbeat of the planet plays a role in the formation of layer clouds indicates that existing models for clouds and climate are still missing potentially important components," said Dr Ambaum.
"Understanding these missing elements is crucial to improve the accuracy of our weather forecasts and predicting changes to our climate. The climate system keeps on surprising us with its immense complexity and richness."
The findings are published today (6 March 2013) in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
HM The Queen rewards 'outstanding' Department of Meteorology
Release Date : 29 January 2013
The University of Reading's Department of Meteorology has been awarded a prestigious Regius Professorship by HM The Queen. Reading is one of just 12 institutions to receive a Regius Professorship which marks HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
A Regius Professorship is a rare privilege, with only two created in the past century. It is a reflection of the exceptionally high quality of teaching and research at an institution. The award is a fitting recognition as the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology is recognised as one of the outstanding departments of its kind in the world.
Founded in 1965, the Department is internationally renowned for its training and research in weather, climate and physical oceanography and its work is playing a vital role in the improvement of weather forecasting and climate modelling. In 2004 the Department made the important discovery of the ‘sting jet' which causes the most damaging winds in about one-third of the most intense North Atlantic storms, including the 1987 Great Storm. It has also been heavily involved in the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments.
The University will assign the title to an existing Professor at the chosen Department or appoint a new Professor to take the Chair and hold the title.
Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, said: "This is a very important honour for the University and reflects our status as one of the top 1% universities in the world. The Department of Meteorology conducts outstanding work and I would like to congratulate everyone who has contributed to its success."
This is the second time the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology has been recognised by HM The Queen. In 2006 the Department was awarded a Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.
Professor Ellie Highwood, Head of the Department of Meteorology said: "We are delighted to receive this Regius Professorship in Meteorology and Climate Science in recognition of our excellence in research focussing on the fundamental science of weather and climate. We are approaching the 50th anniversary of the founding of our department and it is hard to imagine a greater honour than that which we have received today."
HM The Queen bestowed the awards after taking advice from Ministers, who were in turn advised by a panel of eminent academics led by Sir Graeme Davies, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of London.
David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: "I was incredibly impressed by the quality and range of the applications received and am delighted that twelve new Regius Professorships are to be created. Together, the successful applications demonstrated an exceptionally high level of achievement in both teaching and research. It is testament to the quality and strength of our higher education sector that so many universities were considered worthy of such a distinguished honour."