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Professor of Climatology, Durham University

I joined Durham University in March 2014 and hold the title of Professor of Climatology and Principal of Ustinov College.

I graduated with a BSc and MSc (1st Class) in Geography from the University of Auckland in the mid to late 1970s. Following the completion of my MSc at Auckland (glacial sedimentology) I was awarded a NZ University Grants Committee PhD scholarship which I took up at the Department of Geography, University of Canterbury in Christchurch (South Island of New Zealand) where I undertook research on snow avalanches.

Following completion of the PhD I won a Japanese Government Monbusho scholarship for 2 years postdoctoral research at the Institute of Low Temperature Science, University of Hokkaido, Japan where I followed up on snow avalanche related research. At the end of the postdoc I returned to NZ to work in the environmental consultancy industry for 12 months and then took up my first academic post at the University of Papua New Guinea in 1987 where I worked until 1990 before leaving for Hong Kong to work in the Department of Geography at Hong Baptist College (now Hong Kong Baptist University).

Following three years in Hong Kong, I moved to the University of Birmingham, UK where I worked for 13 years in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences moving from Lecturer at the time of my appointment to Reader just before my departure to take up a Chair in Physical Geography at King’s College London (KCL) in 2005. In 2008 I left KCL and returned to my Alma Mata to take up the position of Director of the School of Environment (2008 - 2013) and Professor of Climatology and Associate Dean International in the Faculty of Science (2013 - 2014).

Research Interests:

Research interests fall into four areas namely synoptic climatology, biometeorology, hydroclimatology and climate and society.

Synoptic Climatology: I have had a long term interest in the relationship between atmospheric circulation and surface environmental processes and the extent to which weather patterns, air mass types and modes of atmospheric circulation such as the Southern Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation, might influence the intra-annual to inter-annual variability a range of natural phenomena and human activities. This interest manifests itself most strongly in the fields of Biometeorology and Hydroclimatology.

Biometeorology: Biometeorology is the discipline concerned with understanding the relationship between atmospheric processes (e.g. solar radiation receipt, heating/cooling, precipitation) and living organisms. Within this broad field, which encompasses phenology, environmental epidemiology, ecoclimatology, urban and forest and agricultural meteorology, I am particularly interested in the impacts of extreme heat and cold events (heat waves and cold waves) on human health (mortality and morbidity) and the extent to which short to medium term weather/climate forecasts can be used in heat and cold event and air pollution risk management.

Hydroclimatology: I define this field as concerned with understanding water resources in a climate context or in other words the impact of climate on the distribution of moisture in the atmosphere and across the earth’s surface. Within hydroclimatology my specific interests are the link between climatic variability and river flow and the inter-annual variability and trend of atmospheric water vapour flux (the direction of and rate at which atmospheric moisture moves horizontally within the atmosphere). Both these areas of research interest bare implications for water resource planning in a climate risk management framework.

Climate and Society: There is no doubt that not only is society influenced by variations and changes in climate, but through a range of human activities society can exert planned or inadvertent influences on climate processes. My interests cover both ends of the spectrum of possible climate and society interactions especially extreme climate event impact assessment and the way in which land surface changes brought about by human activities (for example urbanisation or land clearance) can affect climate at the micro- to meso-scale. Allied with these interests is my "quest" to understand how climate information and the provision of climate services can be used in managing climate risk.


  • –present
    Professor of Climatology, Durham University