We carry out research into the processes that control the evolution and predictability of weather, from hours to days.
Using a combination of numerical weather prediction modelling and field experiments we conduct research into atmospheric dynamics, such as the movement of storms and jet streams, and into physical processes such as clouds, rainfall and land-atmosphere interactions.
We are also developing new research into high resolution modelling and data assimilation at the convective scale as well as ground-based remote sensing. Alongside our core research we also tackle problems of concern to society. For instance, we investigate meteorological processes that determine air quality, from dispersion by urban turbulence in a street, to weather systems that transport pollutants over large distances.
We model and observe severe weather events, such as intense convection and weather systems. Our expertise has recently grown in areas of environmental prediction, such as hydrology and flooding, urban meteorology, and energy meteorology.
We also investigate processes relevant to aviation meteorology, including turbulence and volcanic ash. Reading has a key longstanding academic partnership with the Met Office, which helps us further our research into weather process. Several of our postdoctoral staff are funded by the Atmospheric Physics Weather Directorate of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS).
Turbulence research leads to safer, greener flights
Around 5 billion passenger journeys have enjoyed smoother, safer flights thanks to a turbulence forecasting algorithm that was co-developed by Professor Paul Williams. The algorithm is used daily by the US National Weather Service, flight dispatchers, air-traffic controllers, and pilots to accurately forecast turbulence up to 18 hours ahead. Lower fuel consumption from smoother flights also saves both money and emissions, critical to consider given Professor Williams has calculated that climate change will cause a common form of turbulence to increase by several hundred per cent later this century. Find out more about this research.
Improving urban weather forecasting
In collaboration with the UK Met Office, researchers led by Professor Stephen Belcher have developed a new model for urban temperature forecasting that predicts how heat is captured and lost across the varying urban landscape. The Met Office–Reading Urban Surface Exchange Scheme (MORUSES) model has been used in Met Office operational forecasting since 2016 and has improved temperature forecasting across the UK, including daily fog forecasting at Heathrow airport. It is now also used by city authorities such as Bristol and London to plan for future climate adaptation. Find out more about this research.
Storm assessments no longer ‘all at sea’
Severe windstorms which cause high winds, heavy rainfall, large waves and coastal flooding can be extremely damaging. Over the past decade, University of Reading researchers Professor Len Shaffrey, Professor Pier Luigi Vidale and Dr Kevin Hodges have pioneered research to improve the understanding of risk from windstorms. Their work has led to the use of climate model simulations and the development of storm-tracking tools to assess wind and wave risk from extreme storms in the oil and gas and insurance industries. Find out more about this research.
Tackling volcanic ash damage risk
Volcanic ash causes serious damage to aircraft. Professor Helen Dacre’s research looks at how to build resilience to this hazard by making more confident predictions about the potential harmful effects of volcanic ash from eruptions, such as the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in Iceland which caused closure of European airspace for weeks. Helen and colleagues are working with Rolls Royce, CAA, the Met office and some airline operators on new ash concentration charts to help calculate ash dosage and more accurately predict the risk of aircraft damage after a volcanic ash incident – a new requirement of European Aviation Safety Agency regulations. Find out more about Professor Dacre’s research into volcanic ash hazard or read the case study.
Predicting 'sting jets'
Since 2001, researchers from the Research Division have carried out a retrospective analysis of data from the Great Storm of October 1987. Results have led to identifying and understanding a region of extremely strong winds within some storms - known as 'sting jets' that can cause considerable damage. Working with the Met Office, our researchers have developed ways to identify sting jets in current and imminent weather along with methods to forecast these events up to several days in advance. Our techniques are now used in the UK National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS) and in European storm forecasts. The improved warnings of extreme winds have saved lives, minimised disruption and generated considerable cost savings. Find out more or read the case study.
Flooding from intense rainfall
Tamarin-Brodsky, T., Hodges, K., Hoskins, B. J. and Shepherd, T. G. (2020) Changes in northern hemisphere temperature variability shaped by regional warming patterns. Nature GeoscienceHoskins, B. J. and Hodges, K. I. (2019) The annual cycle of Northern Hemisphere storm-tracks. Part 1: seasons. Journal of Climate
Dance, S. L., Ballard, S. P., Bannister, R. N., Clark, P., Cloke, H. L., Darlington, T., Flack, D. L. A., Gray, S. L., Hawkness-Smith, L., Husnoo, N., Illingworth, A. J., Kelly, G. A., Lean, H. W., Li, D., Nichols, N. K., Nicol, J. C., Oxley, A., Plant, R. S., Roberts, N. M., Roulstone, I. et al (2019) Improvements in forecasting intense rainfall: results from the FRANC (forecasting rainfall exploiting new data assimilation techniques and novel observations of convection) project. Atmosphere
Feist, M. M., Westbrook, C. D., Clark, P. A., Stein, T. H. M., Lean, H. W. and Stirling, A. J. (2019) Statistics of convective cloud turbulence from a comprehensive turbulence retrieval method for radar observations. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Lee, S. H., Williams, P. D. and Frame, T. H. A. (2019) Increased shear in the North Atlantic upper-level jet stream over the past four decades. Nature
- Free Open Online Course: Our Changing Climate: Past, Present and Future
- Free Open Online Course: Come rain or shine: Understanding the weather
- Public engagement
- Weather data from Reading University Atmospheric Laboratory