Professor John Thornes

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Professor of Applied Meteorology

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


The atmosphere has always been my main research focus and the dialectic between the atmosphere and society on a variety of spatial and temporal scales has constantly fascinated me. I have developed three main areas of inter-related research in the fields of transport meteorology, landscape meteorology and the commodification of the atmosphere/verification of weather forecasts and climate prediction. I have always tried to put my ideas into action and this has led to the setting up of two University Companies (Thermal Mapping International 1984-89 and Entice Technology 2002-06). I have been the President of the Standing International Road Weather Commission on two occasions (SIRWEC is linked to PIARC the Permanent International Association of Road Congresses) and I am currently Secretary, helping to organise the next conference in Quebec in 2010.

Postgraduate supervision

Research Students since 2001

S. Du Self Funding Climate Emissions Trading and Climate Uncertainty PhD 2008 -

S. Khan School Studentship Monet and the London Series PhD 2006 -

S. Keeling PhD 2008 Self funding Public Perception of Weather Forecasts

Sam Randalls PhD 2006 NERC/ESRC Firms, Finance and the Weather – Weather Derivatives.

Lee Chapman PhD 2002 School Studentship A Blueprint for 21st Century Road ice prediction.


Research interests

  • Cultural Climatology
  • Atmospheric Management
  • Road Weather Forecasting
  • Environmental Art
  • Adaptation to Climate Change

Current and recent research

KTP (Knowledge Transfer Programme) grant for £120k to develop a new road sensor with Campbell Scientific Ltd. (2005-07)

Research into the paintings of Constable and Monet with Jacob Baker is continuing with recent work concentrating on Monet's 'London Series' of 95 paintings of the London Fogs 1899 -1904.

Working closely with WSI (Weather services International) to develop our OpenRoute weather forecast products for Highway Authorities. We are determined to set new standards for road weather forecasts.

CREW (Community Response to Extreme Weather) EPSRC £1.5m grant (2008-2011) Co-PI

Member of Birmingham Environmental Partnership Adaptation Committee


Key Publications since 2001

Thornes, J.E. (2008) A rough guide to environmental art, Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 33, 391-411

Chapman, L., Thornes, J.E., Huang, Y., Cai, X., Sanderson, V.L. and White, S.P. (2008) Modelling of rail surface temperatures: a preliminary study, Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 92. 121-131

Thornes, J.E. and Chapman, L. (2008) XRWIS: a new parardigm for road and rail sever weather prediction in the United Kingdom, Geography Compass, 3, 1012-1026

Thornes, J.E. and Randalls, S. (2007) Commodifying the Atmosphere: Pennies from Heaven? Geografiska Annaler Series A, Physical geography, 89(4), 273-285

Pollard, J., Oldfield, J., Randalls, S. and Thornes, J.E. (2007) Geography, firm, finances, risk and weather derivatives, Geoforum, 39, 616-624

Thornes, J.E. (2007) Cultural Climatology and the Representation of Sky, Atmosphere, Weather and Climate in selected art works of Constable, Monet and Eliasson, Geoforum, 39, 570-580

Chapman, L., Thornes, J.E., Muller, J-P and McMuldroch, S. (2007) Potential Applications of Thermal Fisheye Imagery in Urban Environments, IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters, 4, 56-59

Hammond, D.S., Chapman, L., Baker, A., Thornes, J.E. and Sandford, A. (2007) Fluorescence of road salt additives: potential applications for residual salt monitoring, Measurement Science and Technology, 18, 239-244.

Chapman, L. & Thornes, J.E. (2006) A Geomatics Based Road Surface Temperature Prediction Model, Science of the Total Environment, 360, (1-3), 68-80

Baker, J. and Thornes, J.E. (2006) Solar Tracks over Monet's Houses of Parliament, Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 462, 3775-3788

Chapman, L., Thornes, J.E. & White, S. (2006) Thermal Imaging of Railways to Identify Track Sections Prone to Buckling. Proc. Of the Instit Mech Eng. Part F: J. of Rail and Rapid Transit, 220, 317-327

Thornes, JE. , Cavan, G. & Chapman, L. (2005) XRWIS: The use of geomatics to predict winter road surface temperatures in Poland, Meteorol. Appl., 12, 83-90

Dyras, I., Dobesch, H., Grueter, E., Perdigao, A., Tveito, O.E., Thornes, JE, Van der Wel, F. & Bottai, L. (2005) The use of Geographic Information Systems in Climatology and meteorology: COST 719, Meteorol. Appl., 12, 1-5

Chapman, L. & Thornes, JE. (2005) The Influence of Traffic on Road Surface Temperatures: Implications for Thermal Mapping Studies, Meteorol. Appl., 12, 371-380

Thornes, JE. (2004) The Visual Turn and Geography, Antipode, 36, 787-794

Chapman, L. & Thornes, JE. (2004) Real time sky-view factor calculation and approximation. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology 21: 730-741

Chapman, L. & Thornes, JE .(2003) The use of GIS in Climatology and Meteorology, Prog. In Phys.Geog., 27, 313-330

Bradley, AV, Thornes JE, Chapman, L, Unwin, D and Roy, M 2002 Modelling spatial and temporal road thermal climatology in rural and urban areas using a GIS, Climate Research 22, 41-55

Chapman, L, Thornes JE and Bradley, AV (2002) Sky-view approximation using GPS receivers, Int. J. of Climatology, 22(5), 615-62

Thornes JE, Bradley, A and Chapman, L (2001) A method to assess the variation of urban canyon geometry from sky view factor transects, Atmospheric Science Letters, 1, 1-11

Chapman, L, Thornes JE and Bradley, AV (2001) Rapid determination of canyon geometry parameters for use in surface radiation budgets, Theor. & App. Met., 69, 81-89

Chapman, L, Thornes JE and Bradley, AV (2001) Modelling of road surface temperature from a geographical database: Part 1 Statistical, Met. Apps., 8, 409-419

Chapman, L, Thornes JE and Bradley, AV (2001) Modelling of road surface temperature from a geographical database: Part 2 Numerical, Met. Apps., 8, 421-436

Weller, J and Thornes JE (2001) An investigation of winter nocturnal air and road surface temperature variation on the West Midlands, UK under different synoptic conditions, Met. Apps., 8, 461-474

Thornes JE and Stephenson, D (2001) How to judge the quality and value of weather forecast products, Met. Apps. 8(3), 307-314

Thornes, JE (2001) Constable and the Beaufort Wind Scale, in Fields of Influence, ed by J. Hamilton, University of Birmingham Press, Birmingham, 93-109

View all publications in research portal


Environmental Art, Constable, Turner, Monet, Landscape Meteorology