Meteorology Department News

Royal recognition for Reading climate scientist

Keith Shine

Professor Keith Shine


The University is delighted to announce that Professor Keith Shine formally begins his new post as the University's first Regius Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science today.

The prestigious title of Regius Professorship was awarded to the University, and 11 other institutions, by HM The Queen earlier this year to mark her Diamond Jubilee. A Regius Professorship is a rare privilege. Before the recent awards, only two had been created in the past century. They reflect the exceptionally high quality of teaching and research at an institution.

Professor Shine said: "It is a great honour to be appointed the first Regius Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science. The award was only possible because of the outstanding work of very many colleagues at Reading, past and present, over the past 50 years."

Professor Shine joined the University of Reading in 1988 and has been a professor since 1998. His research focuses on the science of climate change and he has made significant contributions to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

Professor Shine was one of 17 University of Reading climate scientists who contributed to the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report published last week. In 2009 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society, the UK's academy of science.

Professor Ellie Highwood, Head of the Department of Meteorology said: "Professor Shine epitomises the qualities of international research excellence and leadership that we were seeking when appointing our first Regius Professor. I am also pleased that we were able to award the title to someone who has contributed so much to the Department over the past 25 years."

Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Bell, added: "To be awarded a Regius Professorship is a very important honour for the University. I'd like to congratulate Professor Shine on his appointment and thank everyone in the Department of Meteorology for their outstanding work. The recent IPCC report showed how our academic excellence and cutting edge research is shaping the future of climate science.

Lightning halos could help track fierce thunderstorms

Release Date : 02 August 2013


Scientists from the University of Reading and Bristol Industrial and Research Associates Limited (BIRAL) have discovered a new method of tracking fierce thunderstorms.

The research concerns thunderstorms that produce upper atmospheric ‘halos', high altitude pancake-like electrical disturbances created from strong lightning flashes. Halos are generated by thunderstorms with lightning flashes 10 times stronger than normal¹.

Halos are too faint and short-lived to be seen with the naked eye but using images from low light cameras, they were thought to be restricted to a 50 km radius around the storm. Trial ‘electric field transient' storm detectors at the University's Observatory and BIRAL have now showed halos actually extend several hundred kilometres.

This means that distant thunderstorms producing halos could be detected much further away than the 100km expected from just using the lightning flashes alone.

This unique thunderstorm detection method also provides a much simpler way of monitoring thunderstorms producing these mysterious halos, which are still relatively new to science, 24 hours a day. The only other method of halo observation requires sensitive, high-speed video cameras, which need a clear dark sky and unobstructed view of the horizon, which are restricted to a few locations globally.

Professor Giles Harrison, from the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology and co-author of the study, said: "Lightning generated by thunderstorms regularly causes injury, damage  and even fatalities in the UK, but predicting zones where lightning will strike is extremely difficult. At the moment thunderstorms are detected using the radio signals the lightning generates, which are used to identify regions of strongly disturbed weather. The new electrical approach adds information on the nature of the lightning hazard present, and how far it might extend from the storm system."

The work is published in the American Physical Society's journal Physical Review Letters

University provides crucial tech to improve India's weather warnings

Release Date : 30 July 2013

computer generated image of the INSAT-3D satellite

University of Reading experts have played a vital role in the development of a new satellite which could provide life-saving weather warnings to the people of India.

Reading researchers developed the crucial optical filters for the weather satellite on board the giant Ariane 5 rocket, launched last week from French Guiana.

These ‘eyes of the instrument' will measure the amount of contaminants and pollutants in the atmosphere, as well as the temperature, humidity and levels of other gases. The satellite will improve domestic weather forecasting and track potentially lethal cyclones and monsoons originating from the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.

Launched from the spaceport of Kourou in French Guiana, the INSAT-3D meteorological satellite - India's latest, most advanced weather satellite - will enable more advanced weather forecasting and disaster warning services for India.

Dr Gary Hawkins, from the University of Reading's School of Systems Engineering, said: "These components, developed by our team at the University, will provide the crucial data needed by scientists and forecasters to better monitor extreme weather and provide life-saving warnings to people in India. This is just another example of the expertise of the Infrared Multilayer Laboratory at Reading being used internationally, alongside work with NASA and ESA on the replacement for the Hubble space telescope and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter."

Dr Andy Turner, from the University's Department of Meteorology, said: "India is very densely populated, and high levels of carbon from cooking fires and pollutants from factories are thought to be having a big impact on the climate and weather systems. This satellite will be a vital instrument in the monitoring of these pollutants, which can influence the monsoon season and other changes in weather. The observations that are made using the satellite will also help scientists improve climate models and predictions, meaning that more advanced warnings can be given."

The University of Reading has the largest research capability in weather and climate science and Earth observation of any university in Europe. Reading is also working on a new collaboration, Global Satellite Sensing (GLOSS), with the University of Surrey at the National Physical Laboratory, to monitor changes to the Earth, its ecosystem and climate. It has also recently launched an innovative internship programme that will give students from universities across Europe a unique insight into the space industry.

'Atmospheric rivers' set to increase winter flooding in UK

Release Date : 24 July 2013

The atmospheric river that helped create the Cumbria floods of 2009

The prolonged heat wave that has bathed the UK in sunshine over the past month has given the country an unexpected taste of summer that has seemed to be missing in recent years.   

However, a new study published today (24 July) in IOP Publishing's Environmental Research Letters, has provided warnings that will chime with those accustomed to more typical British weather.

According to the study, by scientists at the University of Reading and University of Iowa, winter flooding in the UK is set to get more severe and more frequent under the influence of climate change as a result of a change in the characteristics of atmospheric rivers (ARs).

Dr Richard Allan, from the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, said: "Previous research at the University of Reading linked flooding in the UK with vast flows of atmospheric moisture.

"The current work has exploited this knowledge in the context of climate change and has found that these atmospheric rivers become more intense in a warmer world."

ARs are narrow regions of intense moisture flows in the lower troposphere of the atmosphere that deliver sustained and heavy rainfall to mid-latitude regions such as the UK.

From Wednesday 24 July, this paper can be downloaded here >>>

University launches first cadets into space industry

Release Date : 16 July 2013

Space@Reading is helping students get crucial work experience

The University of Reading has launched an innovative internship programme this month giving students a unique insight into the space industry.

The University's Space@Reading unit is running the scheme on behalf of the space industry and has placed undergraduates from 22 universities into 14 space organisations in the UK, to carry out projects over the summer. A total of 48 successful candidates have been selected from 240 applications, each receiving a prestigious eight-week paid position within leading and emerging companies in the UK space industry. During the duration of the placement they will also receive one-to-one career coaching from the University's triple accredited Henley Business School.

Professor Robert Gurney, Director of Space and Earth Observation at the University of Reading, speaking on the space sector's skills requirements at the UK Space Conference 2013 in Glasgow today, said:

"We underestimated the response we would get regarding the scheme from both industry and students. We are delighted by the response which is designed to address the high-tech skills shortage within the UK Space industry.

"Space-derived data and services have already revolutionised capabilities in areas such as navigation and broadcasting and technology is now being developed that will play a vital role in the management of issues as wide ranging as natural resources, food security and healthcare. This programme offers a fantastic opportunity for students with an interest in space to pursue a career in a rapidly growing and dynamic industry."

Summer in the city: Is the UK prepared for the risks from a changing climate?

Release Date : 11 July 2013

Lord Krebs will speak at the Walker Institute Lecture

UK cities need to adapt to cope with lethally hot periods of summer weather, according to climate researchers meeting in London today.

While the UK enjoys an extended period of warm weather, policymakers from UK government, businesses such as Sainsbury's and Pepsico, and climate researchers will gather in London today to discuss the many risks to the UK from a changing climate.

Lord (John) Krebs of Wytham, adaptation leader for the Committee on Climate Change, will be the keynote speaker at the University of Reading's Walker Institute Annual Lecture, on the changing risks in the UK from weather and climate.

While it is known that these risks are changing, the event will seek to ask: how can the UK best prepare for these changes and could there be opportunities that might benefit Britain? 

Among several examples that will be discussed is the risk of flooding to our homes, businesses, power stations and transport networks, which is set to increase through the 21st century.

Urban areas are also at risk of warming much faster than elsewhere, making city living increasingly uncomfortable during warm spells and even threatening the health of the young and old. Last month's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report showed a twenty-fold increase in the global death toll from heat waves between the 1990s and the decade 2001-2010, with 136,000 people dying during the decade as a result of extreme heat.

Climate change could also open up new opportunities. Farmers' harvests could improve under warmer temperatures and a longer growing season, as long as crops have enough water, and the UK fishing industry might benefit from migration of new species into UK waters.

Lord Krebs will consider how well climate risks are understood and managed, what still needs to be done and how government, business and communities all have a role to play.

Climate researchers will be keen to discuss how the latest predictions of climate can help to advise business and policymakers on the risks.  This kind of collaboration is key to developing climate adaptation services which could become an emerging market to help the UK economy grow. A greater focus on adaptation in the UK could stimulate enterprise in a global market for adaptation goods and services.

New climate and environment experts to help fight global problems

Release Date : 03 July 2013

Fourteen of the new cohort plus Professor Robin Hogan, Head of Department in Meteorology and Head of School of Human and Environmental Sciences Professor Roberta Gilchrist

A new cohort of climate and environment experts have joined the University of Reading as part of a £50 million investment programme to further knowledge in research areas of critical global importance.

The 28 appointments, recruited over the last 12 months, build on Reading's position as one of the leading centres for the study of climate, meteorology and the environment, including through the Walker Institute for Climate System Research. Reading's outstanding reputation in this area was recently recognised by HM The Queen in her award of a prestigious Regius Professorship in Meteorology and Climate Science, a position that is currently being advertised.

Last year the University of Reading announced it was to invest £50m in 50 new academic posts through its Academic Investment Project (AIP). The AIP is strengthening the University's already renowned research in areas such as climate change, sustainable buildings and environments, food security and healthy ageing, to create world-leading research groupings.

Professor Christine Williams, University Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: "We are delighted to welcome our new group of climate and environment experts who join an institution home to a world leading Department of Meteorology and top climate scientists. Tackling global problems such as climate change means recruiting the very best scientific staff. Our new cohort complement the outstanding researchers we have in this area and strengthen our ability to fight some of the world's most pressing issues."

Professor Sandy Harrison, a world expert on past climate change who has moved to Reading from Macquarie University in Australia, said: "I am excited to join the team in Reading - there is a unique breadth of expertise here that will allow us to take a fresh look at the long-term dynamics of climate change and the history of human-environment interactions. It's great to be joining such a vibrant and dynamic community, and I am especially looking forward to developing plans for Reading's new Centre for Past Climate Change at Reading.

The AIP builds on Reading's reputation as one of the strongest research-led universities in the UK. Excellence with impact is an embedded part of the ethos of the University and this new investment project will have global reach through research and teaching.

The Vice Chancellor, Sir David Bell, said: "The establishment of these new research posts will help Reading build on its reputation as one the strongest research-led universities in the UK and provide a platform for researchers to develop solutions to problems that affect the quality of life and sustainability of our planet."

The 28 new members of staff joined the University's Department of Meteorology (15), the Department of Mathematics and Statistics (5), the School of Construction Management and Engineering (4), and the School of Human and Environmental Sciences (5, including one joint appointment with Meteorology).

The 50 new academics posts across all subject areas of the AIP are due to be filled by September 2013.

What does uncertainty in science really mean? New guide explains all

Release Date : 27 June 2013

Climate predictions always express scientific 'uncertainty'

University of Reading scientists have contributed to a new guide on scientific uncertainty, launched today at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Helsinki. The guide from Sense about Science stresses that uncertainty is an inherent part of all science - scientists understand this, but to policymakers, journalists and the wider public, uncertainty can be misinterpreted as "unreliable".

The new guide, "Making Sense of Uncertainty", looks at:

  • The way scientists use uncertainty to express how confident they are about results.
  • That uncertainty can be abused to undermine evidence, for example to suggest that greenhouse gases from human activity are not changing the atmosphere.
  • Why uncertainty is not a barrier to taking action.

University of Reading contributions came from Averil Macdonald, Professor of Science Engagement, Dr Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist with NCAS in the Department for Meteorology, and Kathy Maskell, communications manager at the Walker Institute for Climate System Research.

Kathy Maskell said: "Climate scientists are dealing with uncertainty all the time. The climate system is a complex place and we simply don't have precise answers about exactly how it will change in the future. So any prediction of future climate is uncertain and this can cause confusion for those making decisions about how to adapt - public, policymakers and business alike.  

"More dialogue is vital here, because I think scientists and the public have very different ideas about what uncertainty means. This excellent guide to uncertainty from Sense about Science is highly pertinent and I would recommend it to anyone grappling with the issue of uncertainty in topical scientific issues such as climate change, GM foods or human diseases."

BBC Berkshire

Student competition to use space science

Prof Robert Gurney talks about a new competition to encourage students to get involved in satellite technology. (from 52mins)

Met Office highlights exciting Reading research on UK soggy summers

Release Date : 19 June 2013

UK media reports on 'exciting' research from the University of Reading

University of Reading research features heavily today in news media outlets across the world reporting the outcomes of a meeting at the UK Met Office on 18 June.

Chairman of the meeting, and head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, Professor Stephen Belcher, who is also Professor of Meteorology at the University of Reading, told reporters the research from Reading was "really exciting new work".

The BBC, Financial Times, The Sun, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Guardian, and numerous media outlets across the world, featured stories citing the Reading-led research highlighted by the workshop - with some headlines suggesting Britain could expect another 10 years of wet summers.

Professor Rowan Sutton, the lead author of the research, said that in reality the knowledge of how long the cycle of wet summers may last was much less certain, adding that finding out more was the next task for Reading scientists.

He said: "The North Atlantic ocean has alternated slowly between warmer and cooler conditions over the last 100 years. We saw a rapid switch to a warmer North Atlantic in the 1990s and we think this is increasing the chances of wet summers over the UK and hot, dry summers around the Mediterranean - a situation that is likely to persist for as long as the North Atlantic remains in a warm phase.

"A transition back to a cooler North Atlantic, favouring drier summers in the UK and northern Europe, is likely and could occur rapidly. Exactly when this will happen is difficult to predict. Based on current evidence it looks like the pattern might persist for anything between a year and a decade, but we definitely can't say that it will persist for a decade.  We're working on it."

The Walker Institute, the University of Reading's centre for research into climate, has published an overview of the research, which was carried out by Professor Sutton with Reading's Dr Buwen Dong and first published in October 2012.

Regret-free approaches for adapting agriculture to climate change

Release Date : 17 June 2013

A new study calls for governments and farmers to adapt to climate shifts, despite uncertainties about what growing conditions will look like decades from now.

The study, from the CGIAR research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which includes work by University of Reading scientists, shows how decision-makers can sift through scientific uncertainty to understand where there is a general consensus.

Moreover, it encourages a broader approach to agriculture adaptation that looks beyond climate models to consider the socioeconomic conditions on the ground. These conditions, such as a particular farmer's or community's capacity to make the necessary farming changes, will determine whether a particular adaptation strategy is likely to succeed.

The study included research by Dr Ed Hawkins, of NCAS (National Centre for Atmospheric Science) at the University of Reading. He said: "While we are learning more about the changing climate every day, it's perhaps even more important that governments, farmers, businesses and others begin to adapt their practices to better suit a climate that we know is not staying the same.

"While we as scientists are always on the hunt for better predictions, it's in everybody's interest that we start to adapt to the reality of climate change and climate variability now."

The study uses examples from the programme's recent work in the developing world to illustrate how some countries have pursued climate change adaptation strategies. Some of the strategies involve relatively straightforward efforts to accommodate changes in the near-term that will present growing conditions that are not significantly different from what farmers have experienced in the past. For example, faced with conflicting climate models about levels of precipitation, the Sri Lankan government is working with farmers to revisit traditional approaches to water storage to provide insurance against what, at the very least, will be climate variability.

The authors also explore "no regrets" strategies, in which agricultural planning takes into consideration long-term changes that exceed historical experience and require substantial changes to livelihoods and diets. "Some farmers and countries are going to need to make big transitions in what food they produce," says Sonja Vermeulen, head of research at CCAFS and the lead author of the study.

For example, while various climate models offer different assessments of changes expected in Central America, they agree that over the long-term, higher temperatures are likely to render Arabica coffee production unsuitable at lower altitudes. A long-term strategy could involve shifting some production to higher altitudes and at lower altitudes switching to a different, but similarly lucrative crop, like cocoa. 

 "Climate projections will always have a degree of uncertainty, but we need to stop using uncertainty as a rationale for inaction," concludes Vermeulen. "Helping governments and farmers plan ahead will make all the difference in avoiding the food insecurity and suffering that climate change threatens."

Reading scientists taking the lead on climate conundrum

Release Date : 18 June 2013

What has been causing Britain's string of wet summers?

Leading scientists from the University of Reading are attending a Met Office workshop today to discuss Britain and Europe's unusual seasonal weather over the past few years.

A series of wet summers in Britain, England's wettest ever year in 2012, and the coldest spring for 50 years in 2013 has prompted weather and climate researchers - including four from the University of Reading - to meet at the Met Office in Exeter today to discuss how to provide some answers about what's going on.

Professor Rowan Sutton, Dr Len Shaffrey, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, and Professor Stephen Belcher, all climate scientists and meteorologists who work at the University of Reading's world-renowned Department of Meteorology, are attending the meeting.

The workshop will look at our existing knowledge about what could be going on with the climate in Britain and Europe and suggest opportunities for new research projects to find out more.

For example, research at the University of Reading has already discovered a link between a natural cycle of warming and cooling in the North Atlantic and our recent run of wet summers. The cycle varies every few decades, suggesting a pattern of drier summers may return 10 or 20 years from now.

Other research is looking at the impact increasing greenhouse gases and the unprecedented summer melt of Arctic sea ice, for example.

But all this cold, wet and icy weather in the UK and elsewhere in Europe has left many people asking - isn't climate change supposed to be making the world warmer?

"It's important to realise that overall, the world is getting warmer," said Dr Peter Inness, from the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology.

"Records of surface temperatures, and those deep under the sea, show the world is warming, which the vast majority of scientists agree is due to man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

"There has always been a lot of variability in Britain's weather, but recent trends suggest that there may be underlying causes to our disappointing run of summers and other record-breaking weather we've seen in recent years.

"Here at the University of Reading we're at the cutting edge of research into climate and weather. We're looking at the planet from every angle - from the far reaches of space, down to the bottom of the oceans and deep inside the ice - to help unravel this complex but fascinating mystery."

Weather reports aid life-or-death decisions in Africa

Release Date : 16 June 2013

Weather information can help life-or-death decisions

The Africa Climate Exchange (AfClix), a University of Reading led project, is helping to bring vital drought and flood information to the people of sub-Saharan Africa.  

When a failure of the monsoon rains brought severe drought in 2011 and floods submerged farms and polluted water supplies in 2012, AfClix was working hard with the US-funded Rainwatch project, Oxfam and Practical Action to warn of the impending dangers. This recent Afclix success is highlighted in a ‘Perspective' article published today (16 June 2013) in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The people living in sub-Saharan Africa have a life-or-death dependency on information about the weather. Knowing when, where and what to grow or graze animals can be the difference between a bumper harvest and facing starvation.

Rainfall information is crucial. Sub-Saharan Africa depends more directly on rainfall than any other region on Earth, and yet has the fewest number of rain monitoring stations. There are also significant delays in the time between measurements being made and the resulting data being made available.

Rainwatch helps provide information in real-time, helping the Niger government to predict and react to the drought of 2011 and deluges of 2012, and informing NGOs and western governments with requests for international relief aid.

Dr Ros Cornforth, Director of AfClix, is a researcher at the University of Reading's world-renowned Department of Meteorology and in the Climate Directorate of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS-Climate).

She said: "There are communication problems between scientists and policy-makers all over the world. But in Africa the problem is particularly acute and, given the extremes of climate facing many people, particularly dangerous.

"By communicating directly with organisations and individuals on the ground, AfClix has been uncovering the issues that really matter to people, and matching them with solutions that can save thousands of lives."

Best research output for the Faculty of Science: Dr Jonny Day

Dr Jonny Day

Dr Jonny Day from the Department of Meteorology


Dr Jonny Day from the Department of Meteorology in the School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences was recently awarded the Research Endowment Trust Fund Prize for best research output for the Faculty of Science. He was awarded this for his research paper "Sources of multi-decadal variability in Arctic sea ice extent ".

Dr Day is a climatologist specialising in climate-cryosphere interactions, particularly in the rapidly changing Arctic. The cryosphere is a term used to describe areas of the Earth's surface where water is found in solid form (such as sea ice in the Arctic). Sea ice plays a crucial role in global and regional projections of climate change.

The research paper considers the possible causes of the significant decreases in Arctic sea ice extent. By comparing the outputs of five general circulation models with satellite observations of sea ice extent, the paper considered whether periodic variations in sea surface temperature and sea level pressure have significantly affected the amount of sea ice.

Significantly, Dr Day has shown that such variations were only a small part of the trend, and further concluded that the majority of observed trends are likely to be caused by human activities.

Every year, the University's Research Endowment Trust Fund awards prizes for the best research outputs and to recognise outstanding research. The prizes are awarded to acknowledge the continuing importance of high quality research to the University. Competitions are run at faculty level, with nominees generated via competitions within schools and departments. This year, each faculty winner received £1,000.

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, 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 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

Dr Andrew Charlton-Perez

Dr Andrew Charlton-Perez received the Gold Star Personal Tutor Award


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

Guy Stewart Callendar

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

Layers clouds play a crucial role in weather and climate

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."

Forecasters look higher to make better cold weather predictions

Release Date : 17 January 2013

Red line shows sudden warming of the stratosphere (data from Met Office)

As Britain shivers through another spell of snow and ice, new research could help weather forecasters predict when such cold snaps are likely to occur.

Professor Ted Shepherd, an expert on the stratosphere at the University of Reading, is co-author of a research paper published this week that helps to confirm the value of studying what's going on high up in the atmosphere to help predict the weather we are likely to see at the surface.

Weather forecasts mainly focus on the troposphere - the lower layers of the atmosphere from the earth's surface up to around 10km - as that is where most of our weather comes from.

However, scientists are increasingly learning that changes to the upper layers of the atmosphere, such as the stratosphere, can have a significant effect on our weather. In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, Professor Shepherd, working with colleagues in Toronto, Canada, where he worked prior to coming to Reading, found evidence that detecting sudden increases in temperatures, high up over the Arctic, was a good indicator that people in Britain and northern Europe could paradoxically expect a big freeze.

The researchers found that these 'stratospheric sudden warming' events were more helpful than had previously been thought in helping forecasters provide better winter forecasts, and could help to predict a cold snap in Britain and northern Europe several weeks ahead.

Professor Shepherd said: "It is well known that stratospheric sudden warming events can affect weather for a period of up to two months.

"The seasonal forecasts issued recently by a number of weather centres predict that Britain will be about 1 degree centigrade colder than average through to the end of February. That might not sound like a lot but averaged over a month it makes quite a difference.

"Our research has shown how a sudden warming high in the stratosphere can add extra skill to wintertime seasonal forecasting - which, evidence shows, had previously been very difficult to get right. Our work shows that we can have more confidence in seasonal winter predictions when these high atmosphere warming events occur."

New research highlights global warming threat to food supplies

Release Date : 14 January 2013

France is one of the world's biggest growers of maize (sweetcorn)

Increasingly hot summer weather could cause a fall in crop yields over the next two decades unless farming techniques are improved more quickly, scientists have found.

High temperatures are having an increasingly damaging effect on maize (sweetcorn) in France - the largest supplier of the crop to the UK - which may explain a recent slowdown in the trend towards higher yields, according to researchers at the Universities of Reading, Exeter and Leeds.

Improvements in agricultural technology, such as fertilisers and new crop varieties, will need to increase yields by up to 12% by the 2020s to be confident about offsetting future decreases in yield from heat stress. However, the current rate of improvement, driven by technological innovation, is not quick enough to meet such a high target, says research published today in the journal Global Change Biology.

Dr Ed Hawkins, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) at the University of Reading, said:

"Our research rings alarm bells for future food security. Over the last 50 years, developments in agriculture, such as fertilisers and irrigation, have increased yields of the world's staple foods, but we're starting to see a slowdown in yield increases. Our research into maize suggests the increasing frequency of hot days across the world might explain some of this slowdown.

"We expect hot days to become more frequent still, and our work on maize suggests that current advances in agriculture are too slow to offset the expected damage to crops from heat stress in the future."

The study shows that over the last 50 years, yields of maize in France have become less sensitive to variations in the amount of rain over the summer and relatively more sensitive to temperature. This is likely due to increased irrigation and hence reduced dependence on natural rainfall. This means that temperature may be more significant than rainfall for future yields.

Professor Andrew Challinor, University of Leeds, said: "Feeding a growing population as climate changes is a major challenge, especially since the land available for agricultural expansion is limited. Supplies of the major food crops could be at risk unless we plan for future climates."

The number of days with temperatures over 32 degrees C has more than doubled in some parts of France over the last 50 years. Many other land areas show similar increases. By the 2020s, temperatures over 32 degrees C could occur over large areas of France where previously they were uncommon. Without agricultural development, this increase in hot days could decrease yields of French maize by more than 10% relative to current yield, the research found.

Tough limits on global greenhouse gas emissions could reduce some climate change damage by two-thirds

Release Date : 13 January 2013


Tough limits on global emissions of greenhouse gases could avoid 20% to 65% of the damaging effects of climate change by 2100, according to new research led by the University of Reading's Walker Institute and published today in Nature Climate Change.

The most stringent emissions scenario in the study keeps global temperature rise below 2 degrees C and has global greenhouse gas emissions which peak in 2016 and then reduce at 5% per year to 2050. The 2 degree target is the focus of international climate negotiations, the latest round of which took place in Doha in December 2012. However, relatively little research has been done to quantify the worldwide benefits, in terms of avoided or reduced impacts, of the 2 degree target.

Of the impacts studied, crop productivity, flooding and energy for cooling are the areas that see the greatest benefit from emission reductions: global impacts in these areas are reduced by 40% to 65% by 2100 if warming can be limited to 2 degrees. In contrast, the adverse impacts of climate change on water availability are only reduced by around 20% when emission limitations are imposed. This is because even a small amount of warming can alter rainfall patterns sufficiently to reduce water availability.

Limiting emissions also has the effect of delaying climate change impacts by many decades. One example from the new research shows global productivity of spring wheat could drop by 20% by the 2050s, but such a drop in yields is delayed until 2100 with stringent emission limits. Similar delays are seen in increased exposure to flood risk and rising energy demand for cooling.

Professor Nigel Arnell, Walker Institute Director, University of Reading, said: "Our research clearly identifies the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions - less severe impacts on flooding and crops are two areas of particular benefit. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions won't avoid the impacts of climate change altogether of course, but our research shows it will buy time to make things like buildings, transport systems and agriculture more resilient to climate change."

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey, said: "We can avoid many of the worst impacts of climate change if we work hard together to keep global emissions down. This research helps us quantify the benefits of limiting temperature rise to 2�C and underlines why it's vital we stick with the UN climate change negotiations and secure a global legally binding deal by 2015."

The new research provides the first comprehensive assessment of the benefits of limiting global greenhouse gas emissions. A range of impact indicators are considered including: flooding, water availability, crop productivity and energy for heating and cooling.

Leverhulme Prize for outstanding atmospheric science researcher

Release Date : 29 November 2012

Dr Paul Williams. winner of Philip Leverhulme Prize

Dr Paul Williams, from the Department of Meteorology and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading, has been awarded a prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize for his research in earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences.

Philip Leverhulme prize recipients are judged to be truly outstanding in their fields, with records of proven achievement as well as telling promise for the future. The Prize, awarded by the Leverhulme Trust, is worth £70,000 and is used to advance the recipient's research.

Dr Williams' research concerns small-scale features in the atmosphere and ocean, which play a crucial role in weather and climate and can have significant societal and economic impacts.  An example is clear-air turbulence, which causes flights to be bumpy and frequently injures airline passengers.  Dr Williams has also developed a new mathematical technique for stepping weather and climate models forward in time, with the potential for improved forecasts.

In his career to date, Dr Williams has published more than 30 papers. He is currently an Editor of Geophysical Research Letters, one of the top journals in his field. He is a Royal Society University Research Fellow and has been described by the Sunday Times as one of the best young scientists working in Britain today. When not undertaking research, Dr Williams teaches Reading students ‘Numerical Methods for Environmental Science' on the BSc Meteorology and Climate degree course, and supervises PhD students.

Dr Williams said: "I am delighted to have been awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize, which will give further impetus to my research career. I plan to use the prize money to advance my research into clear-air turbulence, which injures hundreds of passengers annually (sometimes fatally), costs airlines tens of millions of dollars, and can cause serious structural damage to aircraft.  My future work will involve developing better forecasting methods to reduce these instances, as well as studying how turbulence will respond to climate change. "

Prof Ellie Highwood, Head of academic staff in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading, said: "Paul exemplifies those outstanding researchers for whom the Philip Leverhulme Prize is intended."

Floods set to become more common due to climate change

Release Date : 26 November 2012

Following devastating flooding across the UK, experts from the University of Reading offer their comment.

Professor Nigel Arnell, Walker Institute, University of Reading said:

"The floods this week have been caused not only by the heavy rain of the last few days, but also by the large amounts of rain that fell over the summer and autumn. Soils have been saturated now for a few weeks in many areas and any extra rain is likely to trigger flooding.

"There is a clear trend in the UK towards more heavy precipitation events over the last 50 years (in fact this trend is common over many areas of the world). This is consistent with what we would expect in a warming world and is consistent with what climate models predict for the future. Climate models also predict that UK winters may become wetter, leading to more prolonged periods of saturated soils, and increasing still further the risks of flooding. For example, the sort of wet winters we currently see over Northern Europe just once every 20 years could happen almost every other year by the end of the century.

"There's also growing evidence that human induced climate change is already increasing the chances of UK floods and other extreme events. For example, studies have shown that human induced climate change made the devastating floods of autumn 2000, the wettest autumn on record in England and Wales, between two and three times more likely to happen.

"When you look back at seasonal rainfall for the UK over the last 100 years, there is some suggestion of an increase in winter rainfall and a decrease in summer rainfall, but there is also a lot of year to year and decade to decade variability. The last few summers have been wet over the UK. Whether this is an indication of how climate change might affect summer rainfall is too early to say, but it does emphasise the volatility of our climate.

"It is hard to study trends in floods themselves as they are affected by a whole range of factors, not just the amount of rain that falls: for example, changes to flood defences and changes in the amount of impermeable land surface can all affect floods and their impacts.

"The wettest year on record for England and Wales is 1872 with 1284.9 mm of rain; currently 2012 has had 931.4 mm (source: UK Met Office England and Wales rainfall series which began in 1766)."

Dr David Lavers, Walker Institute, University of Reading said:

"Over the last several days the jet stream, a ribbon of fast moving air around 8-10 km up in the atmosphere,  has been located further south than normal and has brought a series of storms to the British Isles. The weekend saw a long-lasting low pressure system over the UK.

"Flood-generating rainfall in the UK has been linked by scientists at the University of Reading to "Atmospheric Rivers", narrow bands of atmospheric moisture, thousands of kilometres long, that are transported by the wind. The recent succession of storms has transported moisture from the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean towards the UK, some in the form of atmospheric rivers, and this has fuelled large rainfall totals and widespread flooding."

A wind of change - weather forecasting 25 years after the great storm of 1987 and the new 'sting jet'

Release Date : 15 October 2012

The Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading is internationally renowned for its teaching and research in atmospheric, oceanic and climate science.  

Here Dr Pete Inness comments on weather forecasting 25 years on from the great storm and explains the emergence of the 'sting jet'.  

"The 16th of October is the 25th anniversary of the Great Storm of October 1987. Winds across the south-east of England were at their highest for over 250 years and there was extensive damage to trees and property. However, what this storm is probably most famous for was the fact that the weather forecast the day before it occurred was rather poor, predicting that the strongest winds would be across France.

"Much has changed in weather forecasting over the intervening 25 years. On average a forecast three days in advance today is more accurate than a forecast just one day ahead 25 years ago. Research at the University of Reading has also increased our understanding of what causes very strong winds in storms like the one in October 1987. In particular we are now aware of something called a "sting jet" - a region of particularly strong winds near the centre of a storm such as the one in 1987 - something we had no idea existed 25 years ago.

"Research led by Professor Keith Browning (1) and Professor Pete Clark (2) at the University of Reading first identified the existence of a sting jet in the October 1987 storm and other destructive weather systems. Ongoing research led by Dr Sue Gray (3) at Reading is continuing to develop our understanding of these events and how they can best be represented in the computer models we use for weather forecasting. This research has discovered that sting jets may be present in about 30% of the most intense wind-storms over Europe.

"Scientists from Reading have also been involved in field campaigns, flying on aircraft through intense storms to gather detailed measurements of these systems as they develop. On the 8th of December2011 Dr John Methven of Reading University (4) was the lead scientist on a flight through Cyclone Friedhelm, an intense storm which caused considerable damage across northern Britain. This was the first time a meteorological aircraft is known to have flown through a storm which contained a sting jet."

How the bomb could help us predict next months' weather

Release Date : 21 September 2012

LiDAR in Germany (Michael Gerding)

Technology first used to listen for secret H-bomb tests could now help forecasters tell us what the weather's going to be like up to a month in advance.

That's one of the aims of an exciting new international research project which is holding its first scientific meeting at the University of Reading this week.

Sixty experts from around the world are meeting to discuss developments in the European-funded ARISE project (Atmospheric dynamics Research and Infrastructure in Europe), which aims to improve measurements in the Earth's stratosphere and mesosphere.

The project follows recent studies that show the upper layers of the earth's atmosphere could provide crucial information to provide more accurate longer-term weather forecasts, on timescales up to four weeks ahead.

Andrew Charlton-Perez, from the University of Reading, is one of the meteorologists helping to run the event.

Dr Charlton-Perez said: "We know much less about the upper atmosphere than we know about what happens closer to Earth, but evidence increasingly shows that what happens up there has a big impact on our weather and climate down here.

"We're thrilled to invite this leading group of scientists to Reading, where some of the world authorities on the subject work every day within Reading's Department of Meteorology and Walker Institute. We believe our work could help people in the future to plan their lives and activities around more accurate longer-term weather forecasts."

The meeting will discuss three new measurement techniques. One system, atmospheric infrasound, has grown out of the monitoring network set up to enforce the comprehensive nuclear weapons test ban treaty.

The system works by listening for very low-frequency sound waves in the atmosphere generated by loud noises, such as ocean waves crashing together and volcanic eruptions, as well as noise from supersonic aircraft and man-made explosions. The technology monitors the stratosphere by looking for changes in the refracting layers of infrasound.

Scientists will also discuss developments with stratospheric LiDAR, which measures particles high in the atmosphere by firing a high-powered laser vertically into the sky, and mesospheric airglow, which examines light emissions and other radiation in the highest reaches of the upper atmosphere, 80-100km above the surface.

Walker Institute hosts international workshop on the impacts of climate change

Release Date : 05 September 2012

The University of Reading's Walker Institute is this week hosting an international workshop bringing together more than 50 of the world's top experts to discuss the impacts of climate change on water, food, biodiversity and human health and the information people need to adapt.

Professor Nigel Arnell, Director of the Walker Institute, said: "This important workshop provides an opportunity for climate change experts to compare results and will improve our understanding of the impacts of climate change on water resources, food and health, for example. It's important to do this work now so the results can feed into the next UN climate assessment report and so help to guide international climate policy."

Climate change challenges many sectors of our economy and society, and risks and opportunities will vary from place to place. However, predictions of these impacts are currently uncertain, partly because predictions of future climate are uncertain and partly because scientists have used a range of different techniques and models to estimate impacts.

The workshop this week brings together different impact modelling groups who will compare their projections of impacts, made using a consistent set of scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions, population and other assumptions. This is something that is missing from previous analyses of climate change impacts.

The workshop is part of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP): a scientific community-driven effort with the goal of providing cross-sectoral global impact assessments and led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany. The ISI-MIP project aims to present results in time for consideration in the next assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The workshop runs from 3 to 6 September 2012, and will be followed by a final meeting in Potsdam, Germany in the spring of 2013.

Melting Arctic sea ice: how much is down to us?

Release Date : 26 July 2012

Natural climate variations could explain up to 30% of the loss in Arctic sea ice since the 1970s, scientists have found.

Sea ice coverage at the North Pole has shrunk dramatically over the past 40 years. The ice is now more than a third smaller each September following the summer melt than it was in the 1970s. This affects wildlife, while potentially opening up new northern sea routes and controversial opportunities for oil and gas exploration.

Scientists at the University of Reading and the Japan Agency for Marine Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) have found that some of the reduction in ice since 1979 - between 5% and 30% - may be linked to the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO), a cycle of warming and cooling in the North Atlantic, which repeats every 65-80 years and has been in a warming phase since the mid 1970s.

Dr Jonny Day, University of Reading, said: "The debate over how much the change observed in Arctic sea ice can be attributed to humans and how much is due to natural variability in the climate is an important one. Our study shows that while natural changes play a significant role, the majority of sea ice loss - between 70% and 95% - is likely to be due to man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

"Work like ours helps to explain how humans and natural variations are affecting sea ice and helps to develop more accurate predictions."

By using advanced statistical techniques to compare satellite data obtained since 1979 with computer simulations run on some of the world's most powerful supercomputers, researchers were able to provide a better estimate of the importance of natural climate variability on the reduction in sea ice, and how much could be attributed to human activity.

They found the natural cycles in winds over the Arctic (the Arctic Oscillation, or AO), which can cause ice to thin in some areas and pile up in others, had surprisingly little influence on the loss of sea ice. However the Atlantic Ocean's AMO oscillation did have an impact.

The research, published online today in Environmental Research Letters, also looks back to 1953 when fewer observations are available. The natural warming/cooling cycles of the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO) appear to have a much smaller influence on sea ice loss since 1953.

The scientists suggest that their work will help to provide more accurate predictions of changes in sea ice extent, allowing those working in science, policy, industry and those living throughout the polar region to have a better understanding of what the Arctic will look like in the future.

Air monitoring project could bring Olympic legacy of cleaner air

Release Date : 25 July 2012

As the Olympics get underway, scientists are busily working around London in the biggest ever air monitoring exercise in the city's history.

The weather could make a crucial difference to whether pollution rises to significantly high levels during the Olympics - and current warm weather conditions are expected to create a build-up of smog in the days before the Games begin.

During the Games, meteorologists from the University of Reading will be among the team organised by the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) which is taking part in an experiment to investigate how weather, chemistry and the amount of traffic all interact to affect air pollution.

The Olympics will act as a real-life experiment allowing scientists to investigate how changes in traffic density and traffic flow affect air pollution. By improving our ability to forecast air pollution, the effect of future changes to traffic patterns as a way of reducing pollution exposure can be assessed, potentially leading to an Olympic legacy of cleaner air for people in the capital.

Dr Janet Barlow, from the University of Reading, is taking part in the project. She said that while the wet summer weather might have been unwelcome, it has been helping to keep the air relatively clean. However, Met Office forecasts for warmer and more changeable weather in the weeks ahead suggest pollution could still be an issue for athletes, visitors and native Londoners alike.

She said: "The current sunny weather is a welcome departure from all the rain we've been having, but it brings with it its own problems. Met Office pollution forecasts are showing smog in London this week will be the worst it has been since May.

"Levels of ozone are forecast to exceed European and Defra safety thresholds - the threshold value for protection of human health, beyond which Defra advises adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, who experience symptoms, to consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors.

"One of the aims of the ClearFlo project is to be able to provide more accurate air pollution forecasts in the future, with less uncertainty about forecast pollution levels and information available for individual neighbourhoods, rather than just regions."

As part of the monitoring exercise, six shipping containers of equipment have been set up in the playground of a North Kensington school to monitor pollutants like ozone, which can exacerbate breathing and heart problems and which can build up when fumes from traffic exhausts react in hot, sunny weather. Particulates - tiny particles that can penetrate the lungs - are also being measured on the ground and by lasers scanning the London skies. The equipment is up and running from 23rd July to 17th August.

Equipment on the top of the BT Tower will be providing vital measurements of what‘s happening above ground and help to give a unique 3D picture of air flow, moisture and chemistry and how they control air pollution at street level.

The measurements are being taken as part of the three-year ClearfLo (Clean Air for London) project, and participants are hopeful that the Games will provide crucial data that could help planners to cut pollution across the city in the future.

"London is such a busy city that it's not often that we get a chance to measure the effect of major changes to traffic patterns on air pollution," Dr Barlow said.

"It would be wonderful if our work this summer contributed to cleaner air for millions of Londoners. That would be an Olympic legacy to really be proud of."

The wettest start to the summer for almost a century

Release Date : 02 July 2012


Nearly three times as much rain fell in Reading in June compared to the average for the month, according to meteorologists at the University of Reading.

The second wettest June in Reading in almost a century added to the miserable April and May weather to make the three-month period to June the rainiest late spring/early summer on record for 90 years.

A total of 123.2 mm of rain (corresponding to about 2.7 times the June average) fell at the University of Reading during June, making it the wettest June in the town since 1971, when 155 mm of rain was measured.  In fact, in the past 90 years only June 1971 was wetter.

Roger Brugge, from the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, said unusually for a wet June, persistent rain was to blame rather than thunderstorms.

Dr Brugge said: "Usually, one or two heavy thunderstorms are the reason for having a wet June. In 2012, however, no thunder was heard at the University while rain fell on 17 days with the longest rainless spell lasting just two days. This year much of the rain was brought by depressions and frontal systems - pushed towards southern Britain by the jet stream."

"June was slightly wetter than April - and the three-month period April to June 2012 brought 265.5 mm - the wettest such late spring/early summer in the past 90 years. Not surprisingly then, the perception of the start of this summer has justifiably been a poor one - with just a week of hot weather in late May seeming to break the wet spell.

"We saw a return to drier conditions during the final week of June, and fortunately in Reading we escaped the very heavy and damaging falls that affected some other parts of Britain."

The 10th-11th was the wettest two-day period during the month, giving a rainfall in 48 hours equivalent to the normal amount expected during the whole of June.

The same cloud that brought the rain has also been keeping the sunshine away. We had just 130 hours of sunshine in June - making the month duller than each of March, April and May this year. The June total was about two-thirds of the average June sunshine duration - making it the dullest June since 1991 with eight days failing to register one hour of sunshine.

The lack of sun also meant a cool month. June was the coldest since 2002 and only one day passed 25 degC. The month was 0.9 degC colder than average and ground frosts were measured on four mornings - the most in any June for seven years. Gardeners should note that in sheltered parts of Reading ground frosts can occur in any month of the year.

Airshow presence for Reading’s space innovation research

Release Date : 02 July 2012

Satellite in space

The University of Reading's expertise in space-related research will be showcased next week at Farnborough International Airshow - the biggest events of its kind in the world.

Reading is a member of the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) and will join co-members to demonstrate the benefits of space technologies and how they are used in all aspects of life. ISIC is the first facility of its kind in Europe and was set up with government and private investment to bring together expertise and facilities from research institutes, universities and industry.

The University specialises in earth observation (EO) and is home to the National Centre for Earth Observation, which plays a major role in steering the National Environment Research Council's and the UK's EO strategy. EO uses data from satellites to monitor global and regional changes in the environment so that future environmental conditions can be modelled and predicted. Reading also has an international reputation for its research into space weather and has advised the UK government on solar flares and their potential impact on UK infrastructure and power supplies.

Reading's Infrared Multilayer Lab has been producing specialist coatings for the space industry for over 40 years, working on projects with NASA and the European Space Agency.

Robert Gurney, Professor of Earth Observation Sciences at the University, said:  "We are looking forward to showcasing our innovative research to visitors to Farnborough. Our expertise covers food security, weather, climate and ocean monitoring, all of which are crucial to how we adapt to our changing world in the decades to come."

Farnborough International Airshow 2012 takes from place from 9 - 15 July 2012. The ISIC stand is located in the Space Zone in Hall 3.

Wet weekend? Blame the jet stream, say weather experts

Release Date : 15 June 2012

Movements to the jet stream - high-level winds that help dictate the weather in Britain - are to blame for the dreary start to June, scientists said.

Researchers at the University of Reading's world-renowned Department of Meteorology said the dull, cold and wet summer so far has been forecast by the Met Office to continue for the next week or so as the jet stream stubbornly refuses to budge from its position over the south of England.

Dr Jonathan Shonk, a meteorologist at the University of Reading, said: "So far, June has been a wet month over southern England and Wales, much of the area having already exceeded its average June rainfall total. A major factor in this run of wet and windy weather has been the position of the jet stream (the band of fast-moving winds high in the atmosphere that controls the creation of low pressure systems).

"Through the start of June, it has been aligned over southern England and northern France, steering low pressure systems into the area. Forecasts by the Met Office suggest that this period of unsettled weather looks likely to continue, with further bouts of heavy rain interspersed by short periods of sunshine over the next week or so."

Dr Andrew Charlton-Perez, from the University of Reading, added: "The jet stream has been in its current position for a long time, and after some warm conditions in May we're now experiencing much colder and wetter conditions. It's hard to say why this is, but research at the University of Reading is exploring how waves in the jet stream, breaking and moving south, create ‘regime change' in our weather."

Facts and figures

WET: By Friday (15 June), the weather station at the University of Reading had experienced nearly twice the average monthly rainfall for the whole of June in the first half of the month (86mm so far - 94% more than we'd expect for the whole of June).

COLD: Thursday (14 June) was the 12th consecutive day that temperatures failed to reach average highs for June in Reading.

DULL: There have been just 35 hours of sunshine recorded so far this month - well below the 90 hours usually expected by now for Reading.

Source: Dr Roger Brugge, University of Reading, using data from Mike Stroud.

May weather sets new records in Berkshire

Release Date : 31 May 2012

May has been a month of two halves for weather in Berkshire, as well as setting new records for high pressure and warm days, according to scientists at the University of Reading.

After a wet April, which brought some much-needed rain to the drought-hit south of England, May began with more sporadic rainfall, with 21.3 mm falling during the first 15 days and just 15.2 hours of sunshine in total until 10th May.

Some chilly weather also persisted, with the mercury failing to push above single figures on the 3rd, 4th and the 6th, and with below-average temperatures right up until the 20th.

Dr Roger Brugge, from the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, said: "On the 12th we recorded the highest pressure in May for 60 years, with the barometer rising to just over 1038 mb thanks to an anticyclone off the south-west coast of Ireland."

After a cold 20th May, temperatures shot up, reaching 24.4 °C on the 22nd and peaking at 26.6 °C on the 27th, with temperatures staying high even at night, not dipping below 15 °C on the night of the 25th/26th.

Despite the chilly start, overall temperatures across the month were 0.5 °C above average and there were more days reaching above 25 °C this May than in any May in the past 50 years.

Even with the early rain, a distinct lack of rainfall in later weeks meant rainfall was below average for the month, with just 22.4 mm of rain falling in total by the morning of the 31st compared to the normal May total of 46 mm.

Festival of weather reigns in Reading this weekend

Release Date : 28 May 2012

Blue skies over the University of Reading's Whiteknights campus

While Britain prays for blue skies for the Jubilee bank holiday this weekend, Reading will be celebrating the weather, rain or shine, in a colourful fusion of science and art.

The inaugural WAM (Weather, Art and Music) Festival, held in Reading town centre from Friday to Sunday (1-3 June), will provide a host of fun and cultural activities for the whole family, while highlighting the town as a leading world centre for weather and climate research.

As well as being home to the University of Reading, with its world-renowned Department of Meteorology and Walker Institute for Climate Research, Reading is home to the Royal Meteorological Society, the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), and scientists from the Met Office.

WAM Festival director Pierrette Thomet said: "If talking about the weather is a British national obsession, for a large number of people in Reading, finding out about the weather and climate is more than that - it's a lifelong passion.

"The WAM Festival will be bursting with that passion and is packed with fascinating and fun events in a collision of science, art and music, the majority of which are absolutely free. 

"We're looking forward to welcoming weather fans of all ages, people who are curious to know how their weather forecast is made, or just to learn more about how Reading is at the cutting edge of this crucial area of science and discovery."

And the WAM festival provides plenty to keep art and music fans happy, with weather-inspired installations and concerts. Among other events, visitors can:

  • Take part in the world's biggest ever ‘human computer' to forecast the weather - the Forecast Factory (Concert Hall, Sunday, 10am and 2pm - FREE, no booking necessary, but tickets can be pre-booked from the Town Hall box office or call 0118 960 6060)
  • Enjoy a Jubilee picnic in the park, with singing and dancing displays (Forbury Gardens, Sunday, 12pm - FREE)
  • Come to a concert where music and science spark off each other to entertain and surprise you. With Reading mezzo soprano Pierrette Thomet and pianist Steven Faber and guest speaker, Royal Meteorological Society chief executive Professor Paul Hardaker (Victoria Hall, Friday, 7pm - tickets £20/£17 - book tickets)
  • Celebrate with University of Reading Chancellor, Sir John Madejski, and Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Bell, at a champagne gala recital featuring world-class soprano Alison Pearce, pianist Mark Packwood, and the Toki Quartet (Victoria Hall, Saturday, 7.30pm - tickets £12-£50 - book tickets).
  • Take part in a Weather Clinic, have their questions about the weather and climate change answered by leading meteorologists, try their hand at presenting the weather on TV, meet weather forecasters, and a whole range of other activities (Town Hall, Saturday, 10am-4pm - FREE. See Notes to Editors below for more information).

North Atlantic storm patterns throw light on 1987 gale

Release Date : 16 May 2012

Satellite image of a weather front over Britain

The cyclone that brought about the devastating winds that battered the UK in the great storm of October 1987 was exceptional in both its strength and path across the south of the country.

This is the finding of a new study which has analysed the places where sting jets - an area that develops in some cyclones and causes strong surface winds - appear in the North Atlantic and how often they do so.

Presenting their results in the journal Environmental Research Letters, researchers from the University of Reading and Monash University, Australia, studied the hundred most intense storms to have occurred across the North Atlantic in the past twenty years.

Of the 100 storms studied, they found that around 30% of the storms had the potential to produce sting jets but these seemed to originate in relatively warmer, more southerly latitudes, out at sea.

A sting jet originates in a cyclone at an altitude of five kilometres within layers of moist ascending air. As the jet of air descends, it passes through clouds of ice crystals that cool it down, increasing its density and causing it to accelerate to speeds of up to 100 mph.

These strong winds appear in regions of a cyclone where they would not usually occur according to previous models.

"This descending jet is called a sting jet due to its location at the tip of the cloud head that wraps around the storm centre. This cloud resembles a scorpion's tail because of its hooked shape and is therefore described as the sting at the end of the scorpion's tail," said lead author of the study Dr Oscar Martínez-Alvarado, from Reading's Department of Meteorology.

The research shows that sting jets are a common feature of the most intense North Atlantic storms and that the potential impact of these storms crossing heavily populated areas should be considered by the insurance industry, policy makers and engineers who rely on these types of scientific advances to assess risk.  

The time period analysed in this study was between 1989 and 2009. However, the researchers have highlighted two recent storms that struck Scotland in December last year and January this year, which both showed signs of a characteristic sting jet and produced winds of over 100 mph, leaving thousands of people without power.  

"There is no evidence to suggest that sting jet storms are becoming more frequent. It really remains a question of chance," said Dr Martínez-Alvarado.

"Using a technique similar to the one we used here, it would be possible to see signs of the potential for sting jets some six hours in advance. However, their time and length scales are so small that forecasting their actual occurrence remains a very difficult task."

Be part of science history by joining the Forecast Factory

Release Date : 08 May 2012

Andrew Charlton-Perez with a picture of Fry Richardson

Science enthusiasts will be able to see how weather forecasts work while helping to create the world's largest weather-predicting human computer at Reading Town Hall next month.

The Forecast Factory experiment, organised by meteorologists at the University of Reading, will attempt to recreate an idea first put forward by weather pioneer Lewis Fry Richardson 90 years ago, but which has never been attempted at such a large scale - until now.

Organisers are now seeking 200 enthusiastic people, aged eight plus, to arm themselves with a pencil, paper and calculator and become a vital cog in the world's largest ever human computer designed to predict the weather.

The free event, in the Town Hall on Sunday 3 June, is part of the Reading WAM Festival (Weather, Art and Music) over the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend.

Participants will also have a chance to meet Met Office forecaster Laura Tobin, who is a BBC weather forecaster and a former University of Reading student, and scientists from the world-leading Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading and the Reading-based European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

Andrew Charlton-Perez, a meteorologist from the University of Reading, said: "This is a fascinating and ambitious attempt to carry out an experiment that was first put forward by one of the fathers of modern weather forecasting.

"You will need no previous experience of meteorology, maths or science to take part. But you will form part of a human computer that will work in exactly the same way as the modern supercomputers used to predict the weather by scientists today.

"This is a unique experiment and it promises to be a lot of fun. We look forward to seeing you."

Fry Richardson first put forward his idea for weather forecasting - in which a series of calculations are made across a grid, with the results for each grid cell depending on the output of those around it - in 1922, and he proposed that a large group of people could be used to make the calculations quickly and accurately.

However, his idea for what he called a 'forecast factory' to make the calculations was overtaken by electronic calculating machines in the 1950s - the forerunners of modern computers - and was therefore never tested.

The event will take place in two sessions, from 10am-12pm and 2-4pm on Sunday 3 June. Tickets are free, but limited to 200 people. Visit the Town Hall box office website or call the box office on 0118 960 6060 for tickets.

East Berks experiences twice the normal amount of April rain

Release Date : 01 May 2012

Terra satellite image from 12.30pm BST on 29 April 2012 showing cloud mass that gave 17.6 mm of rain at the University in 24 hours. Image is courtesy of NASA/NOAA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Reading and Maidenhead experienced over twice the normal amount of rainfall for April according to weather scientists at the University of Reading.

With water companies having enforced a hosepipe ban across the south of England from 5 April, researchers at the University of Reading recently calculated that the region needs twice as much rainfall over the summer than normal to get back to expected levels.

In April, the University received 120 mm while 114 mm fell in Maidenhead. These areas would normally expect to experience 48 mm. However, neither of these totals quite reached the record falls set in April 2000 (121 mm in Maidenhead and 133 mm at the University), which in turn was the wettest April locally in the past 60 years.

Dr Roger Brugge, from the University of Reading's renowned Department of Meteorology, said: "Following a remarkably warm and dry March in East Berkshire April 2012 has brought a return to cooler and wetter conditions. All this rain has come from frontal systems brought to us by areas of low pressure that have been persistently close to, or over the British Isles for most of the month. One wet month is not enough to replenish water sources underground though. Much of the early rain will have created runoff into rivers due to the hard ground surface and the deficit over the past year alone has been less than the surplus this month.

"April 2012 has been colder overall than March 2012 by about 0.8 degC. However, such a reversal in temperature between these two months is not as unusual as you might think. At the University in 1989 March was remarkably 1.2 degC warmer than April.

"With the rain has come cloud and a lack of any hot days. The highest temperature in April before the 30th was just 15.1C recorded on the 8th. Maidenhead recorded 16.3C on the 22nd. However, it turned slightly warmer on the 30th with 19.7C being recorded in Maidenhead and 18.9C at the University.

"However, both these temperatures were well below the March highs this year of 21.4C at the University and 22.7C in Maidenhead."

Why Europe's climate faces a stormy future

Release Date : 02 April 2012

Europe is likely to be hit by more violent winter storms in the future. Now a new study into the effects of climate change has found out why.

A weakening of the warm North Atlantic ocean current, the Meridional Overturning Circulation, during the next century has already been predicted by climate scientists, with suggestions it could lead to colder sea temperatures and reduced warming in Britain.

But new research by scientists at the University of Reading's Walker Institute and the University of Cologne suggests that the weakening of the warm current could also partially shut down Europe's protection against violent storms blowing in from the ocean.

The research, published on April 1 in the journal Nature Geoscience, suggests that without such strong warm ocean currents, the regional temperature variations in the North Atlantic will increase.

Such temperature variations, or gradients, help to power storms as they brew up over the ocean. The increase in regional gradients in the Atlantic suggests that the number of storms following a more southerly track, therefore hitting land in Europe, will also increase as greenhouse gas levels rise in the atmosphere.

This is contrary to predictions about changes to storm tracks in other parts of the globe, where increasing temperatures are expected to cause storms to reach higher latitudes than is currently the norm.

The findings are likely to be useful for planners, policy makers and businesses that will need to prepare for the impending changes to our climate in the years ahead.

Dr Tim Woollings, from the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, said: "From the climate models studied, we expect more storms will hit Europe as the 21st century progresses. We found that changes in ocean currents, in response to increasing levels of greenhouse gases, are crucial in shaping the North Atlantic storm track changes.

"Predictions showed obvious changes to expected weather patterns by the end of the century, but it is not yet clear exactly when this signal may first emerge.

"Predicting future changes to storm patterns can be difficult, and we have shown that in order to improve confidence in these predictions we need to improve our observations and models of ocean currents."

The researchers studied and compared a number of climate models, including those used to help compile the influential fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Professor Ted Shepherd appointed to Grantham Chair in Climate Science

Release Date : 02 April 2012

Professor Ted Shepherd

The University of Reading is delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Ted Shepherd to the Grantham Chair in Climate Science. Professor Shepherd will play a leading role in climate research in the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, the renowned international centre for the study of weather and climate, and in the University's Walker Institute for Climate System Research.

Professor Shepherd, currently based at the University of Toronto, is acknowledged to be one of the leading atmospheric scientists of his generation. His outstanding research record over the past 30 years encompasses atmospheric dynamics, climate dynamics and climate change, and he is particularly known for his research on the stratosphere, the atmosphere above 10 km.

Professor George Marston, Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Reading, said: "We are delighted that we have recruited a scientist of Ted Shepherd's calibre to the Grantham Chair in Climate Science. We are already one of the leading international centres for weather and climate research. Professor Shepherd will provide a further boost for our research excellence, and new leadership in climate science at Reading and for the UK."

This appointment is one part of a large current investment in weather, climate and related areas of environmental science at Reading by external funders and the University. In particular, building on this recent funding by the Grantham Foundation and other funding by the UK Met Office and Willis Re, the University is investing in the creation of over 15 new academic posts over the next six months in Climate and Environmental Sciences in the Department of Meteorology and more broadly across the University, with the aim that Reading become the number one academic centre internationally for weather and climate research.

Professor Shepherd takes up his post at the University of Reading on 1 May 2012.

England needs 'twice normal rainfall' to overcome drought

Release Date : 29 March 2012

Drought in 1976 and 2012

Southern England needs twice as much rainfall over the summer than normal to get back to expected levels, climate scientists have calculated.

As water companies prepare to enforce a hosepipe ban across the south of England from 5 April, researchers at the University of Reading said that the region needed rainfall equivalent to the amount seen during the 2007 summer floods to get back to normal.

Dr Ben Lloyd-Hughes, from the University's Walker Institute, said: "Over the last two years we've seen 22 months with normal or below normal rainfall, and crucially we've seen two dry winters in a row.

"We've seen less rainfall over the last year than in the 1976 drought and for the south east we have to go back to 1921 to see such a severe and prolonged lack of rainfall.

"The lack of rainfall over the last year means that we would need over 400mm of rain to get us back to normal levels by August - that's more than twice what we would normally get over the April to July period.

"We have seen those sorts of rainfall amounts before though. For those of you who remember the summer of 2007 when flooding threatened the Tewksbury electricity sub-station, we saw more than double the normal amount of rainfall in May, June and July."

He added that Met Office forecasts hinted at the possibility of some relief, with showers predicted over the next few weeks in the south of England, but the Met Office experimental forecasts, which look 2-4 months into the future, suggest normal or even drier than normal conditions are most likely over the next few months.

Dr Lloyd-Hughes said that unlike in 1976, current drought conditions were only affecting the southern part of the UK.

He said: "What we've got is a situation with very dry soils and low river and aquifer levels. At this time of year, winter rains have usually replenished water supplies and soils are wet. So to see such dry conditions at the beginning of the spring/summer season is a real concern to water companies and farmers."

Warm days, cool nights, foggy mornings - March a month of contrasts

Release Date : 30 March 2012

Weather scientists in Reading have recorded the highest March temperature since 1965 - but also a record number of foggy starts and the biggest temperature contrasts for more than 50 years.

As well as a lack of rain, adding to the region's acute drought problems, meteorologists recorded the highest March temperature at the University of Reading since 1965 on Wednesday this week (28 March).

Dr Roger Brugge, at the University's Department of Meteorology, said as of Friday March 30, Reading had seen a remarkably dry, sunny and warm start to the spring.

Dr Brugge said: "High pressure has been the outstanding feature of the weather of March 2012. The mean pressure at sea level so far this March has been 1028 mb in Reading - and this high pressure has resulted in mainly dry conditions and a continuation of the dry weather we had for much of the winter.

"The rainfall total for March so far stands at 20.6 mm - or just under half the normal March total. There have been much drier March months recently (in 1990 barely 10 mm fell), but the total rainfall since the start of September 2011 amounts to only 262 mm (10.3 inches) - or a deficit for that period of 135 mm (5.3 inches). This lack of rain has occurred at a time when winter rainfall normally recharges the aquifers and March itself is the eleventh dry month in the last 13.

"Large areas of high pressure, such as the ones we've had this month, tend to be associated with either clear skies and sunny days - or with foggy spells and sometimes low cloud. While the low cloud has not been too much of a problem this March, we have seen plenty of early morning fogs and prolonged sunshine. There have been 8 mornings with fog at 9 a.m. during March - the average figure for March is about one morning with fog, while since 1960 only the seven days with fog in March 1969 came close to this month's total.

"Sunny conditions, coupled with light winds, gave us some very warm afternoons from the 22nd onwards. Of particular note were the 23rd and 24th (when 20.1 C was reached each day) and the 28th (when 21.4 C was recorded. The latter date came close to passing the highest March temperature on record at the University in 1965, when a reading of 22.8 C was noted.

"Interestingly, the same clear skies that gave us long sunny spells and high temperatures also allowed the temperature to drop sharply overnight - such that in the 28th we had a slight air frost (-1.3 C minimum temperature) and a minimum temperature of -4.6 C at grass tip level - gardeners beware! The daily range in temperature of 22.7 degC on the 28th was remarkable - the greatest daily temperature range in March since before 1960.

'Light meter in the sky' opens a window into the secret world of clouds

Release Date : 02 March 2012

A weather balloon test flight of the technology

On a foggy spring morning, as experienced in parts of the UK over the past few days, looking to the horizon, it can be difficult to tell where the land ends and the sky begins.  Now scientists at the University of Reading have found a new way to see inside and above clouds.

Atmospheric scientists from Reading's Department of Meteorology have designed a sunlight-measuring instrument that uses the natural swinging and spinning motion of a rising weather balloon to distinguish clouds from clear air. The device, described in a paper published in the American Institute of Physics' journal Review of Scientific Instruments, may provide higher-resolution measurements of clouds than is currently possible, particularly for thin clouds - which could help meteorologists provide more accurate weather forecasts.

Anyone who has looked out of an aircraft window when in cloud - or anyone in the fog in South East England over the past couple of days - will have noticed that things look equally dull in all directions. Outside cloud or fog, however, the sun can dazzle depending on which way we look. 

The team from the University of Reading exploited this by realising that, in the bland conditions inside a cloud, there would be less variation in sunlight compared with clear air conditions. They reasoned that, by simply comparing measured fluctuations in cloud and clear air, cloud could be sensed optically using a routine daytime weather balloon carrying their device.

Laboratory experiments demonstrated that the new airborne light meter worked consistently over the range of temperatures weather balloons encounter.

In test balloon flights, the optical technique did indeed report much smaller optical fluctuations within cloud as suspected, locating upper cloud boundaries with good precision, which they compared with the traditional measurement of temperature and relative humidity. The researchers add that the new system could also be used to determine lower boundaries of clouds in broken cloud conditions.

Dr Keri Nicoll, the University of Reading research scientist working on the project, said: "This new idea combines a weather measurement mainstay with simple technology in an innovative way. Knowing reliably where clouds occur is central to providing accurate weather forecasts."

Professor Giles Harrison, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at the University of Reading, said: "Weather balloons have been a long-standing method for gathering data on weather conditions since 1929, but until now we have not been able to use them to visually measure clouds."

Shrinking arctic ice link to tough winters

The shrinking of Arctic sea ice is causing colder, snowier winters across much of North America, China and Europe, including the UK, according to a study.

The University of Reading's Dr Len Shaffrey told David Shukman it was "very early days" for the research, but it offered another tool for creating better forecasts in the future.

For the full interview, please go to the link below:

Warming since 2000 hidden below the surface of the ocean

Release Date : 24 January 2012

New research, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, has detected a sustained energy surplus in Earth's climate and warming below the sea surface since 2000 that is consistent with the continued build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Despite an apparent slow down in the rate of global surface warming over the last decade, the research suggests that the planet is steadily accumulating energy, at the rate of 0.5 Watts for each metre squared of the globe - equivalent to the heat of 250 billion kilowatt electric heaters distributed across the globe.

Global climate change results from an imbalance between the amount of sunlight absorbed by Earth and the thermal radiation emitted back to space.

Researchers from the US and British scientist Richard Allan, of the University of Reading, combined satellite measurements and sub-surface ocean observations to estimate the heat entering the planet since 2000.

Measurements of temperatures below the sea surface - up to 1,800m deep, more than a mile down - suggest that the oceans, which absorb nine-tenths of the additional heat caused by man-made global warming, are still getting warmer.

"Our results confirm that energy has indeed been accumulating in Earth's climate since 2000 and that much of this 'excess energy' has been continuing to heat the sub-surface ocean", Dr Allan said.

"Contrary to previous reports of 'missing energy' unaccounted for by measurements, our results show consistency between changes in energy entering the top of the atmosphere and reaching the ocean."

Dr Allan, whose work is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, was working with US-based colleagues from NASA, NOAA, and the Universities of Hawaii and Miami.

Decline in solar output unlikely to offset global warming

Release Date : 23 January 2012

New research has found that solar output is likely to reduce over the next 90 years but that will not substantially delay expected increases in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases.

Carried out by the University of Reading and the Met Office, the study establishes the most likely changes in the Sun's activity and looks at how this could affect near-surface temperatures on Earth.

It found that the most likely outcome was that the Sun's output would decrease up to 2100, but this would only cause a reduction in global temperatures of 0.08 °C. This compares to an expected warming of about 2.5 °C over the same period due to greenhouse gases (according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's B2 scenario for greenhouse gas emissions that does not involve efforts to mitigate emissions).

Gareth Jones, a climate change detection scientist with the Met Office, said: "This research shows that the most likely change in the Sun's output will not have a big impact on global temperatures or do much to slow the warming we expect from greenhouse gases.

"It's important to note this study is based on a single climate model, rather than multiple models which would capture more of the uncertainties in the climate system."

The study also showed that if solar output reduced below that seen in the Maunder Minimum - a period between 1645 and 1715 when solar activity was at its lowest observed level - the global temperature reduction would be 0.13C.

During the 20th Century solar activity increased to a ‘grand maximum' and recent studies have suggested this level of activity is at or nearing its end.

Professor Mike Lockwood, an expert in solar studies at the University of Reading, used this as a starting point for looking at the most probable changes in the Sun's activity over the 21st Century.

Met Office scientists then placed the projections into one climate model to see how they may impact temperatures.

Professor Lockwood said: "The 11-year solar cycle of waxing and waning sunspot numbers is perhaps the best known way the Sun changes, but longer term changes in its brightness are more important for possible influences on climate.

"The most likely scenario is that we'll see an overall reduction of the Sun's activity compared to the 20th Century, such that solar outputs drop to the values of the Dalton Minimum (around 1820). The probability of activity dropping as low as the Maunder Minimum - or indeed returning to the high activity of the 20th Century - is about 8%. The findings rely on the assumption that the Sun's past behaviour is a reasonable guide for future solar activity changes."

Peter Stott, who also worked on the research for the Met Office, said: "Our findings suggest that a reduction of solar activity to levels not seen in hundreds of years would be insufficient to offset the dominant influence of greenhouse gases on global temperatures in the 21st century."

University scientist wins Royal Astronomical Society award

Release Date : 18 January 2012

Dr Mathew Owens

A scientist from the University of Reading has won a prestigious prize for his research which includes revealing the secrets of the Sun's magnetic cycles.

Dr Mathew Owens, from the Department of Meteorology, has been awarded the Fowler Prize by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). The awards are given to individuals who have made a particularly noteworthy contribution to Astronomy and Geophysics sciences at an early stage of their research.

Mathew's research includes determining changes in Sun's magnetic field and how this evolves over solar cycles. This plays an important role in understanding how the Sun's energy output has varied in the distance past and may change in the future, which may be vital for Earth's climate.

Dr Owens said: "It's a real honour to be recognised in this way. Being a space physicist in a meteorology department, I'm particularly grateful to receive the Fowler prize, as Peter (the son in the father-son-wife trio after which the prize is named) performed important work in both cosmic ray measurement and meteorology."

Professor Giles Harrison, Head of the Department of Meteorology commented: "The sun has many subtle effects on the atmosphere and we are delighted that Mathew Owen's pioneering work is already receiving such distinguished recognition."

Dr Owens' early research was mainly concerned with the global structure and dynamics of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). These massive eruptions of material and magnetic field from the Sun are known to cause major disturbances in the near-Earth space environment, and understanding their properties is of societal value as well as being a major unsolved scientific problem.

RAS President Professor Roger Davies added: "Dr Owens is a talented solar-terrestrial physicist with an impressive record. I'm delighted that the RAS has recognised his work with the Fowler Award and wish him every success in his future scientific career."

Dr Owens will be presented with the Fowler Prize (£500) at the 2012 National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2012) that will take place from 27-30 March in Manchester.

Reading scientists comment on UK Climate Change Risk Assessment

Release Date : 26 January 2012

Britain faces more risk from the effects of climate change, such as flooding

Published today (26 January 2012), the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment provides a national overview of the impacts of climate change - those that pose the most pressing risks to the UK - but also the opportunities.

It is the Government's first risk assessment as required under the Climate Change Act 2008. The assessment marks the first major step in the Government's programme to help the country prepare for the risks and opportunities that climate change could bring.

Find out more and see how research from the Walker Institute at the University of Reading has helped inform the new report

Professor Nigel Arnell, Walker Institute Director, University of Reading, said: "The Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) represents a vital step in highlighting and managing the risks and opportunities from climate change in the UK.  The assessment looks at possible impacts of climate change across a range of sectors, through the 21st century. The assessment identifies coastal and river flooding, heat waves and pressure on water resources  as some of the most pressing risks for the UK.

"The language of risk is essential when addressing climate change, because, while we can expect the UK to get warmer, we don't know all the details of how temperature and rainfall will change at a particular place.  The language of risk resonates with business and provides a way to build climate change adaptation in to plans for the future.

"While the assessment provides a national overview, risks will depend on the particular business you are in. Many of these risks will be complex, and many may arise from climate changes in other parts of the world. It is important for organisations to assess their own individual risks and how they may adapt to them, and this needs close cooperation between the scientific community, public sector and business. The CCRA provides an excellent starting point for this cooperation."

Professor Rowan Sutton, Climate Director in the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, said: "Assessing the risks that climate change poses to the UK is a vital and urgent task, and one which involves numerous scientific challenges.

"The first UK Climate Change Risk assessment is an important landmark. As well as raising awareness about the risks we face, it highlights the need for further research to refine our knowledge in order to provide more detailed advice which policy and decision makers need to design cost-effective adaptation strategies."

Reading's top players working together to become more sustainable

Release Date : 16 January 2012

More than 100 delegates attended an initial conference to start the planning process for Reading's next Climate Change Strategy at the University of Reading on Thursday 12th January.

The event, hosted at the University's Palmer building on the Whiteknights campus, marks the beginning of a process that will see businesses, residents, and the public sector across Reading joining forces to forge a sustainable future for the town.

Delegates were challenged by speaker Dennis Moynihan, from the Institute for Sustainability, to 'make the magic happen' by bringing about a sustainable and prosperous future for people in Reading.

Sally Coble from the Environment Agency and chair of the Reading Climate Change Partnership, who organised the event, said: "Partnership working is the key to making the magic happen. We're going to need all the major players involved and Thursday's event was a great way to start this off."

Sir David Bell, the University of Reading's Vice-Chancellor, opened the event by welcoming leaders from Reading's businesses, community and public sector bodies.

"The University is delighted to host this consultation on climate change," he said.

"With our Centre for Food Security, Walker Institute for Climate Research and our Technologies for Sustainable Built Environments Centre, we are proud of our research and teaching excellence in this area and take seriously our role as a major player in the Reading Climate Change Partnership."

Peter Harper, Head of Research and Innovation at the Centre for Alternative Technology and co-author of Zero Carbon Britain, was the keynote speaker at the event, outlining a practical but radical option for Reading to play its part in helping the UK cut carbon emissions to zero by 2030.

Sally Coble, Chair of the Reading Climate Change Partnership and Ben Burfoot, Sustainability Manager at Reading Borough Council, presented an update on the progress so far on the current climate change strategy for Reading, which runs until 2013.

Delegates then split into workshops to put together initial proposals for the next strategy, which will need to see radical and positive change if Reading is to achieve a low-carbon future resilient to the effects of climate change.

Further information on the development of the climate change strategy will be hosted by the business community on Reading Green Business network website over the coming months. The draft strategy will be out for public consultation in the summer.

University honours distinguished climate scientist

Release Date : 22 December 2011

Professor Julia Slingo

The University of Reading was proud to award an Honorary Degree to one of the world's foremost climate scientists at this year's December Graduation Ceremony.

Professor Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the Met Office and a leading figure in climate research for more than 30 years, was awarded a Doctor of Science.

Julia has made significant and lasting contributions to many aspects of climate science and is best known for her work on clouds, which remain a primary source of uncertainty in climate models, and the meteorology of the tropics. 

Professor Slingo has held the most senior roles in climate science. She has contributed to the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, and to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Julia has a long association with the University of Reading. She was a member of staff for nearly 20 years, from 2002 as Director of NCAS-Climate, the Climate Division of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science.  In 2006 she founded the University's Walker Institute for Climate System Research.

Professor Slingo was presented with her Honorary Degree by Professor Stephen Belcher, the Joint Met Office Chair in Weather Systems at Reading, and until recently Head of the University's School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

He said: "The University was delighted to recognise Julia in this way. Her work has clearly shown the different controlling influences of the oceans and the maritime continents on tropical climate, and the important part this then plays in the global climate, seasonal prediction and climate change. Through this work she has shaped our understanding and our response to the dangers posed by climate change facing India, China and some of the most vulnerable countries of the world."

In 2008 Professor Slingo became the first female President of the Royal Meteorological Society and was awarded an OBE for services to climate science. Since 2009 Julia has been the Chief Scientist at the UK Met Office.

Professor Slingo said: "This is a huge personal honour from the university where I spent many happy years and achieved my most productive research. To be recognised in this way by my friends and colleagues has given me enormous pleasure and I am glad that I have been able to play a part in the growing reputation of Reading's world-leading Department of Meteorology."

The 2011 December Graduation Ceremony took place on Thursday 15 and Friday 16 December.


For all media enquiries please contact James Barr, University of Reading Press Officer on 0118 378 7115 or by email on

2011 - The second hottest year on record in Reading.

2011 was the second warmest year locally on record, with only 2006 being warmer. This statistic is possibly the most surprising one of the year – the summer was cool and dull, but was compensated for by warm, dry and sunny spring and autumn seasons; even December was on the mild side this year in contrast to 2010. While 30°C was not reached this year, there were many very warm or hot days during these two seasons – and the year exhibited a marked lack of low temperatures, the lowest being just -4.2°C which occurred rather late in the winter in March.

Unfortunately, heatwaves were short-lived, usually being 2-3 days in length. The mean maximum temperature in 2011 was (at 15.6°C) higher than that in 2006 but below that in 2003 when the summer was much hotter.

Sunshine exhibited an unusual distribution during the year; after 227.3h of sunshine during a sunny April (this total was 42% above the average) the sunshine duration recorded in the seven subsequent months was less in each case than in the preceding month – although the months of June to September each had very similar sunshine amounts. Even October had only one hour per day less sunshine than June.

There were few days with thunder or snow during the year, while about 10 per cent of the year’s rain fell in a few hours in August on the 18th. Overall rainfall was only 3 per cent less than what we would expect in a year – the spring and autumn were dry but the summer rather wet.

Other features of the weather in 2011

  • The minimum temperature of 12.7°C on 13 January made this one of the warmest January nights in the past 30 years.
  • 17 January was the wettest January day for over 50 years and resulted in some localised flooding around the town the next day.
  • 17 days were sunless in February; not since 1972 has February been so dull in the Reading area.
  • It was the mildest February since 2002 with the lowest number of February air frosts since 1995.
  • March was a dry and sunny month – the driest March since 1987.
  • Only 1.8mm of rain fell during April.
  • April was the sunniest month of the year; in the past 50 years only 2007 and 1984 have been slightly sunnier in April.
  • April was the hottest April for over 94 years locally – and the maximum temperature of 26.1°C on the 23rd was the highest April temperature since before 1961.
  • May was the only month of the year to have sunshine on every day.
  • May was colder during the day than April by 0.8degC.
  • All three summer months (June to August) were cooler than average.
  • 25°C was not reached during July – for only the third time since 1980.
  • August was the wettest month of 2011, with 127mm being almost two and half times the average for August, making it the wettest August since 2004. Of this 59.5mm fell on the 18th – a day when the maximum temperature failed to reach 15°C - and this was the wettest of any day since 1992.
  • The main heatwave of the year occurred during a sunny spell from 28 September to 3 October.
  • A remarkable 27.8°C was recorded on 1 October – only 0.4degC below that recorded on 1 August, the hottest afternoon of 2011.
  • October was warm, sunny and dry overall – probably one of the seven sunniest Octobers in the past 100 years locally.
  • All three autumn months (September to November) were dry and warm.
  • The year ended on a dull note with just 2h of sunshine in the final nine days, seven of which were sunless.


This summary of the weather of 2011, produced by Roger Brugge and Mike Stroud, is based on daily observations made at the University of Reading climatological station. For more details on the observations of 2011 contact

Research team wins major European computing award for global climate modelling

Release Date : 07 November 2011

A significant step forward has been taken in the study of current and future climate with the award of a new grant that allows a team led by the University of Reading to use one of the world's most powerful computers.

The Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) Access Committee has granted substantial computing resources to a Joint Weather & Climate Research Programme (JWCRP) team of researchers.

The team comprises climate scientists at the Met Office and at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) Climate, and is led by Pier Luigi Vidale, Willis Professor of Climate System Science and Climate Hazards at the University of Reading's Meteorology department and Director of the Weather and Climate Hazards Laboratory.

Professor Vidale's team will use the HERMIT (a TIER-0 machine) supercomputer in Stuttgart, Germany, to conduct a series of 25-year simulations under both current climate conditions and a climate change scenario. Out of the 53 project applications submitted to PRACE, only 24 have been awarded a share of the available 610 million core-hours. The  JWCRP team has been awarded 144 million core-hours computing time, the largest amount assigned to one team.

Professor Vidale said: "With our current level of resources on national TIER-1 machines, this experiment would take 33 years to complete. Access to HERMIT is a true quantum-leap for UK climate science. We are grateful to PRACE for the continued international recognition of our team's world-leading capability in climate modelling."

PRACE is an association of 21 member countries creating a pan-European research infrastructure for large-scale scientific and engineering applications at the highest performance level.

Reading Professor to become Head of the Met Office's Hadley Centre

Professor Stephen Belcher

Professor Stephen Belcher


Prof Stephen Belcher, currently Joint Met Office Chair in the Department of Meteorology, has been appointed as the new Head of the Met Office Hadley Centre (and Deputy Director of Climate Science at the Met Office), from January 2012.

The new appointment at the Hadley Centre is on an 80% basis and Stephen will be retaining a 20% position as Professor here in Meteorology. Stephen’s role will strengthen our already productive links with the Met Office, while allowing him a continuing role in the development of the School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences and to lead his strong boundary layer meteorology research group.

We are delighted to see another prominent Reading academic appointed to a key role at the Met Office.  We offer our congratulations to Stephen and wish him all the very best in this important role for UK and international climate science.


Read the Met Office press release>>

One of the world's foremost climate change research centres, the Met Office Hadley Centre is co-funded by Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It provides guidance to Government and business on the science of climate change.

Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tony Downes, said: "We are proud that Stephen is to take on this challenging new role, whilst keeping a part-time appointment at Reading. We look forward to an even closer collaboration between the Department of Meteorology here and the Met Office Hadley Centre."

Professor Belcher said: "I am very excited to be joining the Met Office Hadley Centre and to contributing to its world wide reputation in climate science. To be the Head will be exciting and a privilege."

Professor Belcher has held key science leadership roles in the Department of Meteorology and has pursued a highly productive research career at Reading, Stanford University in the USA and the University of Cambridge.

He will take up his Met Office Hadley Centre leadership responsibilities from January 2012, and will continue, part time, his work at Reading into the effects of climate change on cities, and the role of the oceans in climate.

Professor Belcher's scientific interests include atmospheric and oceanic turbulence, boundary layer meteorology, especially urban meteorology and the impact of climate change on urban areas. Stephen has won a number of awards including the Smiths Prize, University of Cambridge, and the Rosenstiel Award for Oceanography, University of Miami.


Leading climate change professor contributes to Government report on Migration and Global Environmental Change

Professor Nigel Arnell, Director of the University of Reading's Walker Institute for Climate System Research, is part of the lead expert group for the Foresight report on Migration and Environmental Change, published today.
The report reveals that "the major challenges associated with migration and environmental change have been underestimated. By focusing solely on people who might leave vulnerable areas due to environmental change, we risk neglecting those who will be ‘trapped' and those who will actually move towards danger".
During the report's two-year preparation, Professor Arnell has been part of the expert group, focusing particularly on climate change over the coming decades and the impacts this might have. Drought, flooding and water availability are highlighted throughout the report as key impacts directly and indirectly affecting migration patterns.

Professor Arnell is Director of the Walker Institute for Climate System Research at the University of Reading. The Institute aims to improve understanding and prediction of our changing climate and its impacts over seasons, decades and beyond, across a range of applications.

The UK Government Foresight Programme was set up to use the latest scientific and other evidence combined with futures analysis to tackle complex issues and help policymakers make decisions affecting our future. The programme reports directly to the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and the Cabinet Office. It is a part of the Government Office for Science within the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

For executive summary of the report, please see:

Hot end to September explained

Dr Pete Inness, from the University of Reading's internationally renowned Department of Meteorology, asks is this weather that unusual, a guide to our winter weather and an indication of climate change?

Is the predicted weather unusual?

"This forecast, although it is predicting temperatures well above average, is still not going for anything excessively unusual and a spell of warm weather now isn't something we never expect to see. The fact that we even have a name for it (an Indian Summer) suggests that it must happen on a fairly regular basis."

Is the unusual weather related to climate change?

No, the natural variability in the UK weather is large, and so one warm autumn or cold summer does not either prove or disprove climate change. Climate change is all about long term trends, which are hard to detect in a weather record which has very large natural variability."

Will the UK be hotter than Southern Europe?

"The ridge of high pressure that's bringing us the warmer temperatures is set to build across much of Europe, bringing warm air up from the south. Thus most places in Europe will be pretty warm this week."

Does this week's weather give us an indication of the winter to come?

"Due to the variability of our weather, warm temperatures in late September/early October tell us nothing one way or the other about the forthcoming winter. The systems that are bringing us warm weather this week will be long gone by winter and our weather doesn't have any real memory - i.e. conditions this week will not have an effect on weather patterns more than a couple of weeks into the future."

Facts and figures

The UK record for September is 35.6 degrees C in 1906 (the 2nd of September), although this figure is not without some reservations as its rather old so pre-dates modern observing practices.

The highest temperature anywhere in England in October was on the 1st of October 1985, with 29.4 degrees C in Cambridgeshire.

The September record for Reading is 29.6 degrees C in 2006 which was an exceptionally warm September.

If the temperature reaches 26 degrees C at the weekend we would just break the October temperature record for Reading which currently stands at 25.5 degrees C in 1985.

Leading climate scientist joins University of Reading and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science

Release Date : 30 August 2011

The University of Reading's renowned Department of Meteorology and the UK's National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) are to be further strengthened by the appointment of a leading climate scientist.

In September, the Department welcomed Professor Bryan Lawrence as a new Chair in Weather and Climate Computing, a position jointly funded by NCAS, the research centre for atmospheric science of the UK's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Professor Lawrence will also become the Director of Models and Data in NCAS.

Climate modelling is key to predicting climate change. By simulating the interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, and ice, models are used to project future changes resulting from increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

In the eleven years of his previous role as Director of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Centre for Environmental Data Archival, at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Professor Lawrence has built up an international reputation for addressing the issues associated with managing and curating environmental data. This includes the very large datasets associated with climate modelling and earth observation.

After having major roles in developing both the UK and European strategies for climate modelling, at Reading, Bryan hopes to contribute to turning those strategies into implementations which address the enormous climate simulation problems ahead.

Professor Simon Chandler-Wilde, Head of School, said: "We are delighted that Professor Lawrence is joining our leading Department of Meteorology, to strengthen our ability to develop the next generation of weather and climate models. We are particularly pleased that this is a joint initiative, cementing our already strong relationship with NCAS."

Planes make rain that wets airport terrain

Chris Westbrook of the University of Reading in England, said what is new in this study is that use of a computer model to study the reaction of the cloud to this process, in particular the effect on the air motion around the hole.

Westbrook, who has done similar research but was not part of this team, said that finding differs from what has been seen in England, "so this is certainly still an area of uncertainty and active study. It may perhaps be that the air circulation reverses in the later stages of the hole's evolution."

Understanding these processes, Westbrook added, can "give us some insight into the basic science of how clouds work, how the microscopic processes of tiny ice crystals and droplets interact with the large-scale air motion which drives the clouds, and how the seeds of precipitation are sown."

30 June 2011

Global warming not to blame for 2011 droughts

ADD one more to the list: after the driest spring in more than 20 years, parts of eastern England are officially in a state of drought, according to the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This comes hard on the heels of some of the worst droughts on record across the globe, from Texas to China.

While global warming is an obvious suspect, there's no evidence that it is to blame. Though climate change models predict extended droughts and periods of intense rainfall for the end of the 21st century, they don't explain the current droughts, says Martin Hoerling at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "A lot of these extreme conditions are natural variations of the climate. Extremes happen, heat waves happen, heavy rains happen," he says.

Drought across the southern US - and heavy rains across the north of the country - are a result of La Nina, says Michael Hayes, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. An extended holding pattern in the jet stream, the same type of "blocking event" that caused last summer's heat wave in Russia, is responsible for this year's European droughts, says Michael Blackburn of the University of Reading, UK.

As for the apparent convergence of droughts worldwide, Mark Saunders of University College London says current conditions aren't that unusual. News media may simply be more tuned in to reporting extreme weather events.

15 June 2011

The new Ice Age: Climate change could slow as sun simmers down

The last time the sun went to sleep, there were frost fairs on the Thames and ice extended for miles into the North Sea.

Now scientists have unearthed evidence that the sun is poised to enter its first period of hibernation since the Little Ice Age of the early 1700s.

If they are right and its a big if it means global warming caused by greenhouse gases could be less severe over the next few decades than predicted.

The sun goes through a regular cycle of activity that peaks every 11 years.

During its most frenzied periods, huge magnetic storms erupt from the sun while vast sunspots appear on its surface. But during the quiet part of the cycle the solar minimum eruptions and sunspots are rarer.

Astronomers say the sun should now be building up to its next maximum and that sunspots should be appearing on its surface. But three separate studies reported at an astronomy conference in America this week have found clues that the sun is not waking up on schedule.

Dr Frank Hill, of Americas National Solar Observatory, showed that a regular jet-stream current within the sun which was due in 2008 and 2009 has failed to start up again.

Meanwhile, Dr Richard Altrock, of Sacramento Peak Observatory who has been studying the suns atmosphere, the corona, for 40 years found that a tell-tale march of magnetic activity towards the poles that heralds the start of the solar maximum has failed to materialise.

And Matthew Penn, also of the National Solar Observatory, has shown that the strength of the magnetic field inside sunspots has been much weaker than expected and is in steady decline.

If this continues, the sun will have lost its spots completely by 2022.

The last time the sun went quiet was during the Maunder Minimum from 1645 to 1715, when Europe and America suffered a succession of bitterly cold winters called the Little Ice Age.

The Thames which was wider and slower in those days regularly froze over, while sea ice choked the coasts of England.

Mike Lockwood, professor of space environment physics at the University of Reading, said: Our research shows there is an eight per cent chance that we will return to Maunder Minimum conditions over the next 40 years.

But, given the observed and predicted rise in greenhouse gases, we find it would do no more than slow global warming a little.

However, Joanna Haigh, professor of atmospheric physics at Imperial College London, said: In a future grand minimum, the sun might again cool the planet by up to one degree. Greenhouse gases, on the other hand, are expected to raise global temperatures by between 1.5C and 4.5C by 2100.

So even if the predictions are correct, global warming will outstrip the suns ability to cool.

17 June 2011

New ash cloud 'not as severe'

Scientists at the University of Reading believe ash from the latest volcano eruption in Iceland will be less severe than last year

Professor Giles Harrison of Department of Meteorology said 'The situation is very changeable compared to last year, mainly due to the winds. Any disruption to aircraft is more likely to be much less than last year'


25th May 2011

Reading Research gives more accurate analysis of volcanic dust cloud

Research undertaken at the University of Reading on last year's volcano eruption in Iceland is already having a direct benefit on our understanding of the dispersion of the Grimsvotn volcanic ash cloud.

Specially designed weather balloon probes that Reading used last year to measure the ash plume in Scotland has been supplied to the Met Office this week for the same purpose. This will allow a direct comparison between the two eruptions.

Giles Harrison, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at the University of Reading, said: "Analysis of multiple measurements made last year has improved the detail of volcanic ash forecasts. This research has been done in little more than a year and is already have a positive influence on our predictions.

"The situation is very changeable compared to last year, mainly due to the winds. Any disruption to aircraft is more likely to be more intermittent than last year.

"Interestingly the amount of volcanic lightning that the Grimsvotn volcano has produced is exceptional and 100 times higher than last year. It contributed to 20% of all lightning detected on the planet at the time. More lightning means the plume is much higher and carries more volcanic material."

Dr Helen Dacre, a Lecturer in Meteorology at the University, contributed to the research at Reading and recently had a paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres.

Dr Dacre said: "The weather patterns are different to last year. In April 2010 a persistent high-pressure system was located over the UK and the north Atlantic resulting in the ash cloud being transported towards Europe and remaining stagnant in that region.

"Currently the weather situation is very dynamic. There is a deep low pressure system centred in the North Sea and this morning winds were north-westerly bringing ash
directly from Iceland to Scotland and the north of England."


23rd May 2011


Damian Carrington's Environment Blog

How better time travel will improve climate modelling

Improving how time flows in weather and climate models means better results, and illustrates perfectly how science progresses

But in computer models of weather and climate, time has to jump forward in little steps to allow the next set of temperature, rain and other conditions to be calculated from the last. This stepping, Paul Williams at the University of Reading assures me, has the technical name of 'leapfrogging'.

See blog @:

February 2011

Charged particles let the sunshine in

Dust carried high in the atmosphere can align through electrical interactions, contradicting its current representation in climate models. That's according to measurements taken by British researchers Professor Giles Harrison and Dr Keri Nicoll.

In August 2009, Harrison and colleague Keri Nicoll from the University of Reading measured the electrical properties of dust blown from the Sahara into the atmosphere above the Cape Verde Islands using weather balloons. While dust charges have been measured in the atmosphere near the Earth's surface, there is little information from higher altitudes. So the British team exploited two custom-designed instruments mounted aboard a standard meteorological radiosonde.

Department of Meteorology and Earth Systems Science Centre awarded PhD Studentships for 2011

The Department of Meteorology and Earth Systems Science Centre have been awarded 8 PhD studentships from NERC to begin in October 2011.
Applicants should visit for more details and apply as soon as possible in order to be considered for the interview day on March 2nd. Other funding opportunities also exist.

The Earthcare Satellite

Costly Euro space laser reviewed .

By Jonathan Amos,Science Correspondent BBC News

European scientists are being asked whether they still want to go ahead with a pioneering  space laser mission.  The Earthcare satellite would study the role clouds and atmospheric particles play in a changing climate. Professor Anthony Illinworth of Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, is the European chair of the panel of scientists that advises ESA on the Earthcare mission

January 2011

Queensland Flooding January 2011

Dr Nick Klingaman, a Walker Institute researcher funded by the Queensland government discusses the recent Queensland flooding on BBC News

BBC2 Horizon - "What is One Degree?"

Dr Janet Barlow shows Ben Miller the Meteorology Weather Station on top of the BT Tower for Horizon programme "What is One Degree?" on BBC2 on 10th January 2011. The programme focuses on the comedian's exploration of the question

Severe Winters are here to stay

Severe winters could become the norm in the UK according to a report from weather experts at the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading.

7th January 2011

It's that time of year again!

Recent cold weather link to:

It's that time of the year again - a major international climate conference and unusually cold weather over Europe! What's happening? In case the present cold spell in the UK gives the impression that global warming has gone away, it might be worth noting that last week eastern Europe and south eastern Europe had temperatures well above normal

Further east, south-western Russia was up to 8C above normal.

To the west of us, very warm air moved over Greenland. For example, on 29 November a temperature of +11 C was recorded at Sdr Stroemfjord and +9C at Jacobshavn.

This was all part of a huge rather stationary wave pattern that is nicely shown by the average pressure field high in the atmosphere for 26-29 November given in

The pattern is known as blocking. We had a lot of blocking last winter  which gave us the cold winter. When it occurs repeatedly in the right  location in summer we get the very hot weather of 2003 and 2006.

!st December 2010


Pier Luigi Vidale apointed to the Willis Chair in Climate System Science and Climate Hazards

We are delighted to announce that Professor Pier Luigi Vidale has been appointed, with immediate effect, to a new position in the School: the Willis Chair in Climate System Science and Climate Hazards. The new position is jointly supported by the University of Reading, through a gift from the Willis insurance group, and by the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. In his new role Professor Vidale will become Director of a new Weather and Climate Hazards Laboratory, with the remit of addressing the fundamental research challenges concerned with understanding the drivers of variability and change in weather and climate hazards, and the applications of this knowledge, particularly to the insurance industry. Professor Vidale will additionally continue a role as a Senior Scientist in NCAS-Climate. The new laboratory is itself a joint initiative of the School, NCAS, and the Walker Institute; its development will be further supported by a Lectureship in Weather and Climate Risks for Insurance, fully funded by Willis, which will be advertised shortly. These are exciting developments for both the School and NCAS, and we offer our warm congratulations to Pier Luigi
on his appointment.

November 2010

Welcome to the Boffin Bank

The Sunday Times Magazine Sunday 21st November

Dr Paul Williams, Royal Society Research Fellow (NCAS-Climate),  featured in Sunday Times article.  Welcome to the Boffin Bank - The brain drain has finally been plugged. Young scientists like Paul are staying in Britain, fired up with breathtaking new ideas and inspired by a Nobel prize.

The Sun joins the Climate Club

Professor Giles Harrison, Professor Mike Lockwood  and Dr Tim Woollings of Department of Meteorology contribute to New Scientist  article in Issue 2779 .

25 September 2010

Met members featured on BBC Wild Weather TV programme

Members of the Department of Meteorology were featured on BBC TV programme 'Wild Weather '   on Monday  20th September. See  interviews with Prof Anthony Illingworth, Prof Giles Harrison,  Janet Barlow, Keri Nicoll, Roger Brugge on iplayer at

September 2010


Scientists comment on Pakistan Floods

Scientists comment on Pakistan floods, see:

Dr Andy Turner interviewed Radio France International

Brian Hoskins interviewed by ITV News

Dr Mike Blackburn provides information and diagnostics to: Channel 4 news>>

Dr Mike Blackburn interviewed for New Scientist article>>

Dr Andy Turner interviewed by BBC West Midlands


August 2010

Is Climate Change burning Russia

Russia has sweltered under an intense heat wave since mid-july, recording its highest temperatures. The heat has caused widespread drought, ruined crops and encouraged wildfires that have blanketed Moscow in smog.

Weather Kite gets second wind

The red kite is now a commonly-seen bird of prey in the skies of the south-east, but a specially designed artificial blue kite promises a new way to make weather measurements.

Writing in the Review of Scientific Instruments, scientists at the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology describe a high-tech kite developed to measure wind speed. Kites have long been used to transport instruments up into the lower atmosphere, but rather than just offering a convenient "sky hook", the new approach uses the kite itself to detect the wind variations.

The wind speed varies the kite line's tension, which can be measured conveniently at the ground, rather than by carrying a sensor up on the kite aloft.

Kieran Walesby, who developed the instrumentation as part of his postgraduate research work at Reading, said: "This technique allows wind speeds above the ground to be measured without the need for a fixed instrument tower, and is therefore very portable."

The kite used in these experiments was specially built in the Department of Meteorology, and was combined with a tension-measuring system optimised to overcome temperature variations during long kite flights. The kite line tension is found by measuring the small distortions generated on a metal ring used to anchor the kite, using a set of miniature strain gauges.

Professor Giles Harrison, Professor of Atmospheric Physics who supervised the work, said: "Benjamin Franklin's 1752 experiment is a famous early example of using a kite to measure atmospheric properties. Our system reasserts the kite's value in atmospheric science, through offering an easily-implemented method for investigating lower atmosphere air flows, such as those which transport pollution."

August 2010


Russia Lowers Grain Forecast Amid Fires

The scorching temperatures and dry skies threatening Russia's wheat harvests have also been beating down on Western Europe, which is forecasting lower output of crops from French wheat to Italian tomatoes.

Ben Lloyd-Hughes, a climate scientist at the University of Reading's Walker Institute in England, says pockets of Western Europe also are being affected by drought, but that Southwest Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are hardest hit.

4th August 2010

Attack of the vapours - how jet trails block out the sunshine

If you are jetting off for an exotic holiday this summer, spare a thought for those youleave behind.

These vapour trails create clouds which, experts claim, can block out sunlight for millions. This is the reason that our skies appeared unusually blue when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull was erupting, and all flights over Britain were banned.

The phenomenon occurs when aircraft fly above 25,000ft, where the air temperature is around minus 30C. This causes water vapour emitted by the engines to crystallise and form the familiar white streaks across the sky, known as contrails.

These can be short-lived. But if there is already a significant amount of moisture in the atmosphere they can linger for hours, as the excess water vapour from the engines tips the surrounding air past its saturation point.

This acts as a catalyst to speed up the natural process of cloud formation. Cirrus clouds the wisp-like formations seen at high altitude begin to form around the contrails.

Scientists say these grow into thin layers of cloud and can cover up to an astonishing 20,000 square miles of sky or about a fifth of the UK.

The level of moisture in the air at high altitudes is unrelated to weather conditions at ground level, which is why it is possible to see contrails on a clear day.

Reading Universitys Professor Keith Shine, an expert in clouds, said that those formed by aircraft fumes could linger for hours, depriving those areas under busy flight paths, such as London and the Home Counties, of summer sunshine.

See full article at:

June 2010

BBC Interviews at Department of Meteorology

Dr Bethan Harris interviewed by BBC Meridian, Reading 107 radio and BBC Radio Berkshire regarding volcanic plume

University weather balloon measures volcanic plume

More accurate data about the potential danger to aircraft from volcanic plume is being gathered by scientists from Department of Meteorology, University of Reading. Giles Harrison, Professor of Atmospheric Physics and Keri Nicoll, whose PhD project included developing the charge sensor, set up a ground station at Stranraer under the dust cloud.

20 April 2010


Professor Mike Lockwood examines Low solar activity link to cold UK winters

The UK and continental Europe could be gripped by more frequent cold winters in the future as a result of low solar activity, say researchers.

They identified a link between fewer sunspots and atmospheric conditions that "block" warm, westerly winds reaching Europe during winter months.

But they added that the phenomenon only affected a limited region and would not alter the overall global warming trend.

The findings appear in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

"By recent standards, we have just had what could be called a very cold winter and I wanted to see if this was just another coincidence or statistically robust," said lead author Mike Lockwood, professor of space environment physics at the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, UK.




BBC website


New Scientist

Physics World

Daily Express

Daily Mail


April 2010

Professor Anthony Illingworth Awarded RMS Mason Medal

Professor Anthony Illingworth, Emeritus Professor of Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, has been awarded the Mason medal of the Royal Meteorological Society. The Mason medal is the premier award bestowed by the Society for "outstanding contributions to the understanding of the fundamental processes that determine the variability and predictability of weather and climate".

March 2010

RMS L.F. RICHARDSON Award for Andy Turner

Dr Andy Turner has been awarded the LF Richardson Award of the Royal Meteorological Society. It is awarded annually for an outstanding paper published in the preceding four years in the Quarterly Journal, International Journal of Climatology, Meteorological Applications or Atmospheric Science Letters by a member of the Society who was under the age of 35 at the time of submission. Andy's citation says that:
"....It is generally regarded that the most serious impacts of climate change will be felt through the volatility of the monsoon system rather than through changes in the mean rainfall. Dr Turner's contribution in this challenging area has been outstanding and he has made a very significant contribution to the literature through a series of outstanding papers in the Quarterly Journal and ASL...."

March 2010

Scientists in Climate Change Sign Up

Many scientists from the Department sign up to statement from the UK science community issued (9/12/10): "We, members of the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities........" Read full statement


Quote on 'Wall Street'

Professor Nigel Arnell of The Walker Institute for Climate System Research quoted in the Wall Street Journal (16/02/2010)

"The IPCC has also cited a study by British climatologist Nigel Arnell claiming that global warming could deplete water resources for as many as 4.5 billion people by the year 2085"

Letters to the Newspapers

Kathy Maskell of  Walker Institute for Climate System Research  has letters in The Observer  and the Reading Evening Post

Climate change: Sceptics fiddle while the planet burns


The Burning Issue of Climate Change



Britain's Big Freeze

Professor Anthony Illingworth of Department of Meteorology, interviewed on Channel 4 'Britain's Big Freeze' programme

January 2010

Reaching for the sky

Dr Janet Barlow, Dr Curtis Wood and Rosy Wilson of Department of Meteorology will set up an Advanced Climate Technology Urban Atmospheric Laboratory on London's BT Tower in Maple Street for a long-term study into how large buildings affect the city's weather patterns

Reading Midweek - Wednesday 3 February 2010

Why was it cold in the UK, but not across the world?

Dr John Methven interviewed for the BBC news website about the cold January conditions in the UK.

January 2010

Dr John Methven features on BBC Inside Out

Dr John Methven of Department of Meteorology has been filmed by BBC Southwest Inside Out programme on the Met Office/NERC research aircraft mission gathering observations which could help to improve numerical models and weather forecasts. Link to feature on BBC I Player


January 2010


The Big Freeze

Dr Pete Inness quoted in the Times about the cold and snowy conditions over Europe.

Dr Pete Inness talks to the Observer about the latest cold weather over the UK and explains why it doesn't disprove global warming.

January 2010


Congratulations to Dr Valerio Lucarini

Valerio Lucarini has been awarded the Outstanding Young Scientist Award of the European Geosciences Union:

This award covers achievements obtained in any section of Geosciences, so competition was fierce. He will be given a medal and will give a plenary lecture at the next EGU assembly to be held in Vienna on May 2-7 2010.


January 2010

Sydney Dust Storm

Dr Peter Inness of Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, was interviewed by Channel 4 News about the weather conditions which led to the Sydney dust storm, and whether climate change related drought made such events more likely in future.

23 August 2009

Dr Richard Allan joins Department as new reader in Climate Science

We're very pleased to welcome Dr Richard Allan as the new Reader in Climate Science in the Department of Meteorology. Richard comes to us from NERC's National Centre for Earth Observation where his research focussed on the fundamental question of how much the Earth will warm this century and the implications for the global water cycle. He has an extensive list of peer reviewed publications and contributed to the most recent assessment by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change.

Richard's expertise is in the use of Earth Observation data to explore fluctuations in clouds, water vapour and the Earth's radiative energy balance and using this information to assess the realism of climate prediction models and improve our understanding of the climate system. Richard completed his PhD in the Department in
1998 after which he joined the Met Office. He has spent time as a visiting scientist at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton and returned to Reading to join the Environmental Systems Science Centre in 2003.

1 October 2009

Why didn't it turn out to be a BBQ summer?

Dr Mike Blackburn of Department of Meteorology, University of Reading interviewed on Radio 4's Material World on the wet summer of 2009 and why it didn't turn out to be quite the BBQ summer forecast by the Met Office.
Listen at

30 September 2009

Countdown to Copenhagen

Professor Nigel Arnell of The Walker Institute for Climate system Research at the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading is quoted in the Guardian on the impacts of climate change

Power stations behind surprising snowfalls

Dr Curtis Wood  along with Professor Giles Harrison from the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology have concluded that emissions from industrial smoke could be the cause for sudden and probably hazardous snowfalls in their vicinities.

29 September 2009

Natural Selection

Designers from three disciplines have collaborated on the Science of survival, the latest peripatetic exhibition to emerge from the Science Museum, London

The exhibition content was researched in consultation with UK Scientists including Dr Tim Wheeler of the Walker Institute for Climate Change Research at the University of Reading.

From: FX Magazine - 1st September 2009


Rainspotting in Bangalore

How our changing climate is, and will be, affecting the Indian Monsoon

Dr Andy Turner, The Walker Institute for Climate System Research at the University of Reading is quoted in Independent's on-line journal, full article at:

24 September 2009

Cost of Adapting to climate change significantly under-estimated

Scientists will today warn that the UN negotiations aimed at tackling climate change are based on substantial underestimates of what it will cost to adapt to its impacts.

In a new report, they suggest that the real costs of adaptation are likely to be 2-3 times greater than estimates made by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and UN Climate negotiations should aim for substantially more funding. The report has been produced by a group of leading scientists from around the UK, including Professor Sir Brian Hoskins from the University of Reading

27th August 2009

Targeted investments in climate science could present enormous economic savings for the UK and Europe


Targeted investments in climate science could lead to major benefits in reducing the costs of adapting to a changing climate, according to new research published by scientists from the UK's National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS). Published in the scientific journal, the Bulletin for the American Meteorological Society, the study shows that investments made now, can lead to as much as 10-20% improvement in climate predictions for the UK and Europe in the coming decades, and up to 20% across the rest of the globe.

Professor Rowan Sutton and Dr Ed Hawkin's work on investment in climate science extensively quoted : the news.htm

19th August 2009

Why raindrops come in many sizes

Why raindrops come in many sizes
By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News

Dr Ewan O'Connor, a scientist from the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, who studies clouds - taking measurements to improve weather modelling and forecasting - described this as a very nice way of showing exactly what happens.
"But this is unlikely be what happens all of the time in the UK (for example), as we don't get raindrops of this size that often," he told BBC News.
"When raindrops get to a certain size... you will get this break-up. And this is likely to happen often in the tropics."
But, Dr O'Connor added, "this doesn't explain drizzle, where the droplets are much smaller, but there are many more of them."

July 2009

Award of Distinction for Keith Shine

We are delighted to announce that  Professor Keith Shine has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. This is a huge mark of distinction as only a handful of new Fellows are elected each year across the whole of science. It is a fitting reward to Keith who has become a world leading expert on atmospheric radiation and its role in climate change. Amongst other things his expertise gave him a central role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for which he took a share in the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Keith has also been a key figure in the Department of Meteorology

Many congratulations to Keith!

15 May 2009

Awards for MMP School

Good news of School of Maths, Meteorology and Physics

Adrian Simmons , of ECMWF, Visiting Professor, University of Reading, has been awarded the Symons Gold Medal by the Royal Meteorological Society, its highest award for outstanding research.

Lennart Bengtsson of ESSC has not only been elected  an honorary membership of the Royal Meteorological Society but has also won the Alfred Wegener Medal and awarded  honorary membership of the EGU. 

Peter Clark, Head of Joint Centres, Met Office, has been elected a visiting Professor of University of Reading.

Many congratulations to all!


Indian Monsoon rains could become less reliable as a result of climate change

Work published by the Walker Institute in March shows how the summer monsoon rains over India could become less reliable as a result of Climate Change.  Dr Andy Turner who led the work says: 'Our study shows that climate change is likely to bring heavier rainfall bursts over India, increasing the risk of the sort of devastating flooding we saw in Mumbai in July 2005 when nearly 1 metre of rainfall fell and many hundreds of people died

Amanda Maycock wins prize for MSc Project

*Amanda Maycock wins prize for MSc Project*

Amanda Maycock has been awarded the Fugro GEOS Postgraduate Award for Students in Meteorology and Oceanography for her MSc project on the role of the stratosphere in seasonal forecasting.

Amanda said: "I was delighted to learn that I had won the award for my work. The most important conclusion from my thesis was that in some seasonal forecasting models the representation of the circulation in the stratosphere is unrealistic. This is potentially important for improving the skill of seasonal forecasts, given evidence from other studies which have shown that the circulation in the stratosphere can influence that in the troposphere."

After completing her MSc, we're very pleased that Amanda has remained with the Department and is now studying for a PhD investigating the impact of stratospheric water vapour anomalies on climate.

Congratulations to Amanda!

1 April 2009

Congratulations to Lois Steenman-Clark

The Department of Meteorology has great pleasure in announcing that Lois Steenman-Clark has been promoted to Professor.

Lois is Head of Computational Modelling Support within the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS). Her team have responsibility for supporting models and the High Performance Computer provision for NCAS. Lois is known to us in Met for her deep knowledge of getting models working on difficult computer environments.

This promotion is a fitting reward for Lois's central role in the UK community. Many congratulations to Lois

March 2009

Dr Chris Westbrook wins prestigious Royal Meteorological Society prize

Many congratulations to Chris Westbrook of Meteorology, who has been awarded the 2009 L.F. Richardson Prize by Royal Meteorological Society. This prize is awarded by the Royal Meteorological Society to the best research by a meteorologist under the age of 35. Chris received the award for his innovative work on properties of ice crystals in the atmosphere. He follows a very distinguished line of meteorologists who have won the prize, many of whom in Department of Meteorology.

Congratulations Chris!

Dr Peter Inness interviewed by BBC Radio after heavy snowfalls in the UK

On the 2nd of February the heavy snow led to a barrage of enquiries to the University Press Office from radio stations looking for an expert to discuss the severe weather. Using the newly installed ISDN radio studio in the Press Office, Dr Pete Inness was able to give interviews to BBC Radio 4, BBC Wales, 2-Ten FM and radio 5 Live. The Radio 4 interview was subsequently re-broadcast on Australian radio networks by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Dr Inness discussed the historical context of the snow and how unusual a snowfall of this magnitude is, particularly in the south-east of England which was the hardest hit area.

Research Gains top rating in RAE 2008



Our weather, climate and environmental science gains top rating in RAE 2008.

Our reputation as a world leader in climate and weather research is reflected in our high ranking in the Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences category in the recent Research Assesssment Exercise (RAE). The Meteorology Department and the Environmental Systems Science Centre were rated together as the top environmental sciences department^1 in a unit of assessment that mixed geology and meteorology.

Keith Shine, Professor of Physical Meteorology, said: The University of Reading's climate, weather and earth observation research is leading the way in addressing some of the most crucial environmental issues facing society today, such as climate change, air quality and hazardous weather. Our emphasis is on developing a fundamental understanding of the physics of the atmosphere and oceans and this makes our contribution particularly significant at an international level.

See University press release


for full results.

The University ranked fourth in the Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences category (behind Oxford, Cambridge and University College London). However, the three institutions ahead in the ranking are predominantly geology departments.

New NCAS-Climate Director appointed

We are delighted to announce that Professor Rowan Sutton, from the Department of Meteorology, has been appointed as the new Climate Director for NCAS (National Centre for Atmospheric Science).


Rowan has an international reputation in climate prediction, leads a thriving research group at Reading and is the Climate System Theme Leader for the Natural Environment Research Council. Rowan's appointment follows the departure of Professor Julia Slingo to take up the position of Chief Scientist at the Met Office.


The Meteorology Department and the Walker Institute for Climate System Research here at the University have an international reputation in climate and weather research. Continuing to host the climate directorate of NCAS emphasises our strong position and will maintain the productive research collaborations that exist.


Professor Rowan Sutton said:  "With its base at the University of Reading, NCAS-Climate benefits hugely from a vibrant research environment and numerous opportunities for collaboration both within the School, and - facilitated by the Walker Institute - throughout the University".





Is Water the New Oil?

It's the world's most precious commodity, yet many of  us take it for granted. But that's all about to change Special report by Juliette Jowit:  Professor Nigel Arnell, Walker Institute for Climate System Research, balances all the impacts in his modelling at the University of Reading

University of Reading Interviews by BBC Radio Berkshire

Curtis Wood, Researcher;  Ross Reynolds, Senior Teaching Fellow;  Dan Peake , Phd Student  and Kathy Maskell of Walker Institute for Climate System Research , University of Reading, interviewed by BBC Radio Berkshire about climate, weather, research and teaching at the University of Reading.

BBC Radio Berkshire Interview at Reading

Ross Reynolds, Senior Teaching Fellow,  Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, interviewed by BBC Radio Berkshire on 29th October about the unseasonal snowfall and how unusual it was for October.



Aircraft Emissions are Bad, but How Bad?

Aircraft emissions are Bad, But How Bad, Professor Keith Shine, University of Reading, says that while there is a great deal of research being conducted on the role of NOx in climate change, nothing is conclusive at this point, i art because the gas seems to both harm and help.

The Science of Survival

FX Magazine Monday 1st September 2008 :   Designers from three disciplines have collaborated on The Science of Survival the latest peripatetic exhibition to emerge from the Science museum. The exhibition content was researched in consultation with UK scientists, including  Dr Tim Wheeler of the Walker Institute for Climate Change Research at the University of Reading.

Air turbulence tests 'improved'

BBC News channel Monday 6th October 2008:

A more accurate way of predicting air turbulence for aeroplanes has been developed by researchers

Dr Paul Williams from University of Reading  was part of a global team of academics who have developed a new forecasting technique.



Dr Janet Barlow Wins Prestigious Award

Dr Janet Barlow wins prestigious EPSRC Challenging Engineering award.

Dr Janet Barlow has won an award worth 1 Million pounds from the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council).

The Challenging Engineering awards provide talented researchers at an early stage in their careers with funding to develop their research groups.

Janet was one of only five researchers who received the awards from 55 applications. She plans to use the award to develop an Advanced Climate Technology Urban Atmospheric Laboratory (ACTUAL).

Many congratulations to Janet.

The Decade after Tomorrow

New Scientist Saturday 16th August 2008

How is the Climate is going to change over the next few years?  Predicting the climate of the next decade is a grand challenge problem, but we are making real progress,  says Professor Rowan Sutton,  University of Reading, Walker Institute for Climate System Research

Prof Julia Slingo appointed as Met Office Chief Scientist

22nd July 2008

Many congratulations to Julia on her new appointment

Met Office Chief Scientist is in many ways the meteorological equivalent of the Astronomer Royal, and is a pivotal position in the UK and international weather and climate communities.

This is very good news for us that one of our own has moved into such a senior position. It is also very good news for UK meteorology that someone with such drive and vision has taken this important role.

We wish Julia every success with her future role.

the University press release:


Climate documentary 'broke the rules'

1 July 2008

The Great Global Warming Swindle attracts complaints

Better to Stay at Home

New Scientist, 28th June page 8.

Want to save your conscience and offset your holiday carbon emissions?

You might want to rethink that trip to the tropics according to  Professor Keith Shine's calculations at University of Reading.

Storm Warning Ahead

The Times (A Career Guide to Opportunities) Wednesday 4th June 2008

John Plummer examines how insurance is adapting to the risks of weather incidents:

'Hurricane Katrina was the big wake-up call' says Professor Julia Slingo Director of  the NCAS-Climate programme. 'It had a significant impact on the industry and the threat of Atlantic hurricanes remains a big worry.

Malaria threat from Climate Change

Reading Evening Post - Monday 2nd June 2008

Deadly tropical disease malaria could kill people in Britain if the average temperature rises by six degrees.  That was the caution issued by The University of Reading's Professor Sir Brian Hoskins in a lecture given at Imperial College London on 22nd May. 



Professor Julia Slingo, Director of the NCAS-Climate programme has been awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours  list on Saturday 14th June, for her services to Environmental and Climate Science.

Reading wins Silver Award at Chelsea Flower Show


The University's stand at Chelsea sees researchers from the School of Biological Sciences collaborating with the University's Walker Institute for Climate System Research. The Walker Institute aims to bring together climate related research at the University to improve knowledge of climate change impacts


Professor Julia Slingo, of Walker Institute for Climate System Research, interviewed for BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Tuesday 6th May and Dr Pier Luigi Vidale of Walker Institute, interviewed for BBC Newsnight on Tuesday 6th May, about next week's Climate Modelling summit being held at ECMWF and the high resolution climate modelling work at the Walker Institute.

Prof Nigel Arnell, Interviewed by BBC Radio Berkshire

Professor Nigel Arnell, Director of the Walker Institute for Climate System Research,, was interviewed by BBC Radio Berkshire on 4th April about Walker Institute involvement with Reading Borough Council's climate change activities


Sign up for a big debate on Environment

Join experts and community leaders as they debate the issues affecting our environment and ideas for a greener future.

The Great Environment Briefing, which will be chaired by Professor Sir Brian Hoskins of University of Reading, is being organised by IET Berkshire Network and the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. The debate takes place on Wendesday April 9th at the Town Hall, Blagrave Street, Reading. Booking required at or call 01297 442218

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins appointed to the New Committee on Climate Change

University of Reading Press Release 3rd March 2008:  The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have announced that University of Reading Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, will be one of the experts to sit on the new Climate Change Committee, established as part of the Government's Climate Change Bill

Dr Andrew Charlton Perez wins prestigious Royal Meteorological Society Prize

Dr Andrew Charlton Perez has been awarded the prestigious Richardson Prize for 2007 by the Royal Meteorological Society. This prize recognises outstanding research achievement in atmospheric science by a young researcher. Andrew has been awarded this prize for his work on the role of the stratosphere in influencing weather.

NERC goes to work on 1 billion pound cimate change partnership

Research council aims to integrate science and policy in flagship programme. Rowan Sutton NCAS, is currently working with academics, government departments and industry to develop an action plan for NERC on exactly which areas of climate change research it should be concentrating its efforts.

Agribusiness Crop updates draws a crowd

Dr Tim Wheeler from Walker Institute for Climate System Research speaks at 2008 Agricrop Forum about the impact of climate change on wheat production.

The changing climate of tourism

International Journal of Tourism 1st February 2008: The tourism industry is a main contributor to and also a victim of climate change. Dr Jane Strachan tells us how and why travel patterns are likely to change in the coming years.

Antarctic ice riddle keeps sea-level secrets

Irish Times (Dublin) 1st February 2008:

Reuters Business Report Wire 31 January 2008:

TROLL STATION , Antarctica. A deep freeze holding 90 percent of the world's ice, Antarctica is one of the biggest puzzles in debate on global warming with risks that any thaw could raise sea levels faster than U.N. projections. 

Reading MP visits Walker Institute

28th January - Reading Evening Post

Reading East MP Rob Wilson visited the Walker Institute for Climate System Research at University of Reading, Department of Meteorolgy.


Climate science gets boost of new academic supercomputer

17 January 2008:

University of Reading Press Release: Climate science gets boost of new academic supercomputer. Scientists from the Walker Institute at the University of Reading will be studying the problem of climate change in more details than ever before using the new UK academic supercomputer (HECToR) which was launched on Monday 14th January in Edinburgh by the Chancellor, Alistair Darling.

Why wood stoves can be carbon-neutral

29 December 2007:

The Independent: Letters to the Editor. Why wood stoves can be carbon-neutral - for some of us. Dr Paul Williams, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading.

The Times: Global Warming

14 December 2007:

The Times: Global Warming. This decade breaks records in table of world's hottest years. Paul Williams a climate modeller at the University of Reading said "This is further evidence that the pace of global warming is accelerating at an alarming rate".

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins named today as the first Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change

10 December 2007:

Imperial College London: Professor Sir Brian Hoskins FRS, A renowned meteorologist and climate scientist has been named today as the first Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College., Denver:  World leading  climate expert to direct Imperial College London\u2019s new climate change Institute.

Science of Regional Climate Change, Variability and Impacts

28 November 2007 UK-India Links: British Council organise UKIRI climate change event.

Science of Regional Climate Change, Variability and Impacts research programme being implemented by University of Reading and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology Pune.

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