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propagation (C) M. Ambaum

Contact info

:-) Prof. Maarten H. P. Ambaum
Department of Meteorology
University of Reading
PO Box 243
Reading RG6 6BB
United Kingdom


phone: +44 (0)118 378 6609
fax: +44 (0)118 378 8905


Professor of Atmospheric Physics and Dynamics
Head of Department (Finance, Support staff, and Infrastructure)
Associate Editor of the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society

Google Scholar profile
Linked-in profile

Latest news

Making rain in the Middle East

Giles Harrison, Keri Nicoll and myself just got a US $1.5M grant to investigate the response of clouds to charge injection and its potential for rain formation in the Middle East. The proposed research was based on our joint paper in the QJRMS. It was funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science. It seems to be quite a prestige project for the UAE and the awards ceremony was suitably grand. The project itself kicks off March 2017.

Link: R. G. Harrison, K. A. Nicoll and M. H. P. Ambaum (2015). On the microphysical effects of observed cloud edge charging. Quart. J. Roy. Met. Soc., 141, 2690-2699. doi:10.1002/qj.2554

Link: UoR press release

Storm track variability and baroclinic instability models

My student Lenka Novak and I have just published a paper on a nonlinear oscillator which describes aspects of storm track variability. In it we argue that we should rethink our usual understanding of baroclinic instability in the atmosphere. In our view, naturally occurring baroclinic instability is always forced (not adiabatic as in the usual viewpoint) and close to marginal stability (not absolutely unstable as in the usual viewpoint). Instead of exponentially growing perturbations the system produces oscillatory behaviour.

Link: A nonlinear oscillator describing storm track variability

Creativity and skill in science

An essay which recently appeared in the e-journal Creativity & Human Development.. Because the journal is subscription-only I provide the preprint of the essay here. It is a plea against target driven research and points out the role and significance of technical skill in science.

How I learned to walk

See the bottom of this page for video evidence + a nice clip on the meaning of life.

Significance Tests in Climate Science, some fall-out from a paper

A summary of the key point of this paper can be found as a guest post on John Cook's SkepticalScience blog.

A reaction to my paper on significance tests also appeared on a climate sceptic blog. It also seems to start doing the rounds in some discussion forums as well, for example, here. I need to add a disclaimer to those using this paper to bolster a climate-sceptic cause: this paper provides no evidence whatsoever that climate science is flawed.

It highlights a frequently occurring, technical misuse of significance tests (essentially, the error of the transposed conditional - read the paper if you want to know more).

It is not clear to what extent this misuse has muddied the waters of discussions in climate science, although I admit there may be a risk: significance thresholds are being used to give an air of quantified credibility to certain statistical results. The significance test clearly quantifies something, but it does not quantify the credibility of a result.

Update (30 Mar 2011; 20 May 2011) Another chapter has been added to this story: Peter Guttorp and Olle Häggström wrote a nice comment on this paper to which I wrote a reply. Unfortunately, the Journal of Climate reviewers didn't find this exchange useful enough to warrant publication, so this is the only place where you can find this exchange (with the permission of Peter and Olle).

Update (14 Feb 2012) By now I have had quite a bit of feedback on this paper, often of a rather agitated kind, but mainly from people who, on reading this paper, realized in what way significance tests are being misused as a poor proxy for the relevant hypothesis test. So I am very pleased with the impact it has had. In the meantime, it is also slowly being picked up in the refereed literature. I was particularly pleased to see its Bayesian formalism of odds ratios being applied in the search for extra-terrestial life. See the paper by Jacob Haqq-Misra and Ravi Kumar Kopparapu, doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2011.10.010.

Update (23 Oct 2012) One of the reviewers of my original paper asked me to include a discussion of the differences between Bayesian and frequentist statistics. I resisted this as this was beyond the scope of the paper. I have now put a short essay about frequentist vs Bayesian statistics on arXiv, where I argue that Bayesian statistics is the most natural way to think about real questions in science, as opposed to artificial questions from maths.

Link: Significance Tests in Climate Science

Link: Comment on Significance Tests in Climate Science

Link: Reply

Link: Frequentist vs Bayesian statistics – a non-statisticians view

Thermal Physics of the Atmosphere

is now for sale. RMetS members now get 25% discount on the rrp.

Link: Official book site

Chaos podcast

Here's a podcast about chaos, including a clip from our analog computer. It was produced by Jane Reck from Reckord Media. Ignore the cheesy Walker Institute jingle; that was stuck at the front by error.

Link: Podcast

Art & Science

The namer of clouds lived here
An event at Tate Britain, organized by artist Serena Korda.

The humiliation is provided by the physicist Ambaum, who brutally lays into positivism and celebrates the unpredictability of clouds, the instability and eccentricity of complex forms made from simple parts and patterns, and rejoices in the humbling acceptance of a non-mysterious inaccessibility, of NOT knowing how simple beginnings might turn out: chaos, in other words. (Phil Smith)


The Spring group
Analog computer (prototype) for the Lorenz 1963 system. Designed by myself and Dr Giles Harrison. Built in the Meteorology Department laboratories by Steven Tames. This work is part of an exhibition presented by the Spring group at the Meteorology Department's 40th anniversary. The Spring group brings together scientists and artists from Reading and Brighton and is led by Prof. Charlie Hooker (Brighton Unversity).

Go to this webpage for more info and a sound clip.

Cloud Dynamics: Perspectives from art and science
Panel discussion with Charlie Hooker, Maarten Ambaum, Giles Harrison, Inman Harvey, John Thornes and Michael O'Shea at the Sussex Arts Club, Brighton.

And finally ...

The final nail in the coffin of creationist loonies. With his name and all the further similarities I conclude that he must be distant family. Darwin would of course agree:

Must see: the meaning of life according to Alan Watts. If ever you feel you got caught up in the usual rat-race of your career this presents a nice antidote (apologies: the version I posted before had broken audio near the end; this is a working version):

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