Why did I become a scientist?

This is a question I love to ask other people – I love to find out why they first embarked on their career, or project, or why they chose a specific degree, etc. Some people have a story you can tell they love to talk about, and some people I’ve asked have kind of just fallen into their career through a series of decisions and opportunities.

If you’ve read even one of my blog posts before, you probably already know that I am just a little (read: a lot) obsessed with the weather, particularly severe weather. But how did I get so interested in the weather? And why did I become a scientist (more specifically, a meteorologist)?

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When I was 12, my family flew out to Florida for an amazing summer holiday (can you see where this is going yet?). It was so much fun – we visited beautiful beaches, screamed at the top of our lungs on some crazy rollercoasters, and saw dolphins playing in the wild from a boat (actually, that might’ve been 2005 – but you get the idea)! But on Friday 13th August 2004, Hurricane Charley tore through Florida, and we experienced the full force of a Category 4 (verging on Category 5) tropical cyclone (wait…what’s a tropical cyclone/hurricane?). Hurricane Charley is one of the strongest hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S., and would also be the first of 4 hurricanes to impact Florida during that infamous summer.

Charley_2004-08-13_1745Z Continue reading

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PhD Update: 3 months to go!

Wait… but it hasn’t been 3 months since your “6-months-to-go” update?! No, it’s only been 2 months (and it feels like it’s only been about 2 weeks!). I promise I can count! It turns out that the “what’s next?” part of my plan has changed a little, and so I need to submit my thesis early. So although I my funding doesn’t run out until mid-January 2019, and I had hoped to submit just before Christmas, I now plan to submit my thesis in November – eek! My supervisors and I decided that an end-of-November aim was feasible, and if I can finish earlier then that would be a bonus! Continue reading

How can we forecast river flow around the globe, months in advance?

My PhD research looks into how we can provide earlier indications of flood hazard at the global scale. One way of doing this is through seasonal forecasts of high (or low) river flow. Seasonal forecasts are designed to provide an early indication that a given variable, such as temperature, rainfall or even river flow, will differ from normal in the coming weeks or months.

While many operational centres produce seasonal forecasts of meteorological variables, operational seasonal forecasts of hydrological variables, particularly at large or global scales, are few and far between. Over the past couple of years, I’ve worked with scientists at ECMWF and the University of Reading to develop the first global-scale seasonal hydro-meteorological forecasting system; this blog post talks about why we implemented such a system, how it works, and the new forecast products it provides. This research has just been published in Geoscientific Model Development.  Continue reading

Natural Hazards: Hurricanes, Typhoons & Cyclones

Ever wondered what the difference is between a hurricane, a typhoon and a cyclone? If so, you’re not the only one! And I can answer this one pretty quickly for you: there’s no difference at all! Hurricane, typhoon and cyclone are all different names for the same natural hazard: tropical cyclones. In the Atlantic, they’re usually called hurricanes, in the western Pacific, typhoons, and in Australia and the Indian Ocean, cyclones.

In this blog post, I’ve answered a few questions about tropical cyclones – what they are, how, where and when they happen (& can we get them in the UK?), and what the dangers are. I personally think that they’re one of the most fascinating (and frightening!) types of weather out there and I can talk about them all day – so feel free to ask me questions in the comments below! More on why I’m quite so interested in tropical cyclones another time…

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Hurricane Sandy. Image via NASA

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PhD Update: Less than 6 months to go!

So I’ve now been working on my PhD for ~3.5 years – which means only one thing – I have to submit my thesis within the next 6 months! (Well, 5.5 because I’m a little late writing this…) Time is a funny thing; in some ways the past few years have flown by, but when I think of everything I’ve achieved during my PhD, and see PhD students that started at the same time as me submitting their thesis, I realise how long it’s been!

I’ve previously written about what I’m researching (My Research – Minus the Jargon), but I’ve not really written any PhD updates, which I had planned to do! So I figured I’d start now, with the “6 months to go” milestone, and write a brief update on how my PhD is going and what I’ve got left to do! Continue reading

What is El Niño? (And can it really impact coffee & chocolate prices?)

You may have seen the infamous El Niño mentioned in the headlines as the cause of floods, droughts, fires, storms, expensive coffee & chocolate etc etc. But if El Niño is the cause of all of these different hazards, what actually is El Niño?

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Psst! Keep reading to see a fantastic cartoon of El Niño and La Niña by Louise Arnal!

What is El Niño?

While often assumed to be a storm or a weather event, El Niño is actually Continue reading

Natural Hazards: Volcanoes

So if you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’m in no way a volcanologist… I’m a hydro-meteorologist. But I do have an interest in (read: obsession with) natural hazards of all different varieties, so over time I’m going to be writing a series of posts on various natural hazards. You can read my previous post about tornadoes (and storm chasing!) here, and in this post I’m going to talk a little bit about volcanoes!

Eruption in Holuhraun, Iceland 2014.

Eruption of the Holuhraun volcano in Iceland, 2014. Photo via Sparkle Motion on Flickr.

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#SciComm at EGU 2018

Last month, I attended the European Geosciences Union annual conference in Vienna. I wrote about my experience chairing a session and presenting a PICO on my research in a recent post, but this year, I also attended more science communication events and sessions than I had in previous years – so I wanted to mention some of my #scicomm highlights from this year’s EGU!

SciComm Sessions at EGU

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Keep reading for the story behind this photo of us dressed as Unicorns at one of the world’s largest scientific conferences!

Over the past year or so, I’ve really enjoyed getting more involved in science communication, and EGU was a great opportunity to explore new ways of communicating complicated scientific research. Continue reading