Meteorology and Climate

Californian wildfires

Researchers within this area have a unique international reputation for a broad range of pure and applied atmospheric research, including significant knowledge transfer to the international meteorological market place.

Modeling is a particular strength of the group from small scale street canyon turbulence models (used for revealing the key mechanisms that affect urban climate and pollution level) to Earth System Models (used for predicting future climate change). These models are used to quantify the impact of weather and climate on the economy, society, the biosphere and the built environment.

Researchers in the group work extensively with other areas of the school and there are many collaborative research links across the Environmental Health SciencesGeosystems and Physical Geography research themes, and with the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research.

There are presently five key areas of research within the group:

Urban climatology 

The study of urban areas is a key area of research across much of the school and forms a significant component of atmospheric research. The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES) is home to the Birmingham Urban Climate Laboratory, a unique network of over 200 air temperature sensors and 30 weather stations across the city. The laboratory is the centrepiece of urban climatological research in the school and is used to quantify the impact of the urban heat island (UHI) effect in Birmingham and beyond, as well as a testbed for other high resolution measurement campaigns based on innovative low-cost sensing approaches.

Modelling research in this area includes meso-scale modelling of UHI and large-eddy simulations of turbulent flows in the urban atmospheric boundary as well as smaller scale urban canyon processes. There are many collaborative projects in this area evaluating the impact of urban heat on human health and air pollution which requires the coupling of chemistry and turbulence models at both the city scale and the street scale.

Associated project: CityFlocks aims to directly address the data sparsity issue by developing and deploying meteorological instrument payloads on birds, primarily on pigeons.

Key Staff: Dr Xiaoming Cai, Professor John Thornes, Dr William Bloss, Dr Lee Chapman

Infrastructure meteorology 

Weather forecasting and climate prediction for industry is a major strength of the group. A portfolio of projects exist between the group and colleagues in civil engineering which look at the impact of weather and climate on infrastructure, often with the long-term aim of making hard infrastructure more resilient to the future effects of climate change. Examples of work include exploring the role of the Internet of Things in providing novel high resolution weather observations on linear infrastructure.  This high resolution data is then assimilated into a new generation of forecasts for road and rail networks (e.g. winter road maintenance, railway buckling), investigating the impact of urban heat on electricity supply and demand and assessing the impact of climate change on surface transportation networks.

Key Staff: Dr Lee Chapman, Professor John Thornes

Extreme events

Other applied research investigates meteorological and climatological extreme events with the estimation of natural hazards damage potentials. Examples of ongoing work include the analysis of storm tracks and associated impacts for the insurance industry and the impact of heat waves in urban areas for use by city planners.

Key Staff: Dr Gregor Leckebusch, Dr Ian Phillips

Associated projects:

Past and future climate change

This collaborative research with the Geosciences Group includes numerical modelling of past global climates, analysis of proxy data, statistical downscaling (in order to derive regional climate change from large-scale changes), as well as regional climate modelling. Combining these methods leads to innovative, statistically rigorous consistency tests between climate simulations and proxy data, which are needed for reducing uncertainties in climate reconstructions as well as for testing climate models that are used for predicting future climate change. Geoengineering solutions, hydroclimatology and teleconnections across Europe and North America are also being investigated.

Key Staff: Martin Widmann, Francis Pope

Biosphere-climate interactions

Understanding and projecting how the terrestrial biosphere will respond to a changing environment is the focus of this group. Particular foci are the response of forests to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations, the effect of climate change on forest mortality, and future changes in crop yields. A variety of methods are employed, from large experimental manipulation of real forests, to statistical analysis of large observational datasets, and global scale modelling of the terrestrial biosphere. The work of this group is closely linked to the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research.

Key Staff: Rob MacKenzie, Zongbo Shi, Francis Pope, Thomas Pugh