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Royal Society Research Professor, University of Oxford

My latest book is The Primacy of Doubt: From climate change to quantum physics, how the science of uncertainty can help predict and understand our chaotic world (Oxford University Press).

My DPhil was in general relativity theory (from Oxford in the mid 1970s) after which I moved into the field of weather and climate dynamics and prediction, first at the UK Meteorological Office and then at the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts. In 2010 I returned to Oxford as a “2010 Anniversary” Royal Society Research Professor, one of the positions created to commemorate the Royal Society’s 350th Anniversary. I have been a visiting scientist at the University of Washington and was a Rothschild Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Isaac Newton Institute at the University of Cambridge.

My research spans a wide variety of areas, from the theoretical to the practical, in issues related to the predictability and dynamics of weather and climate. On the theoretical side, I am especially interested in aspects of the climate system which exhibit nonlinear behaviour, for example where climatic processes on different space and time scales interact. On the practical side, I have developed probabilistic weather and climate ensemble forecast systems, and worked on the application of weather and climate forecasts e.g. for malaria prediction, flood forecasting, and crop yield estimation. Most recently my research has focused on the use of energy-efficient hybrid stochastic/deterministic computer hardware to simulate climate at extremely high resolution.

I have been involved in all five IPCC assessment reports, have coordinated two European Union climate projects, and was co-chair of the international scientific steering group of the World Climate Research Programme project (CLIVAR) on climate variability and predictability. I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2003, and served on the Royal Society Council in 2008-9. In 2011-12 I was President of the Royal Meteorological Society. I have served on a number of government committees looking at issues from climate adaptation to the role of science in helping mitigate the humanitarian impact of natural disasters. I serve on a number of advisory committees, including the Met Office's Scientific Advisory Committee.

I have won prizes from a number of learned societies and academies, in the UK and overseas, including the top prizes of the American and European Meteorological Societies. Amongst recent public lectures, I gave the Bjerknes Lecture at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting: Towards the Probabilistic Earth-System Model, and the 9th Dennis Sciama Memorial Lecture at Oxford and Trieste on applications of nonlinear dynamical thinking to problems in fundamental physics. In 2013 I was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.


  • –present
    Royal Society Research Professor, University of Oxford