This website uses cookies. Read about how we use cookies.

Dr Claire Witham

Claire leads research on dispersion models for emergency response

Claire leads the Volcanic and Chemical team in the Atmospheric Dispersion and Air Quality group and conducts research into improving the use of dispersion models for emergency response.

Current activities

Claire leads the Volcanic and Chemical group, which contributes to Atmospheric Dispersion Research and Response in the Atmospheric Dispersion and Air Quality Team.  The group's focus is on research in the field of atmospheric dispersion and the development and application of the Met Office's Met Office Dispersion Model (NAME) for emergency response events including industrial fires and volcanic eruptions.  Examples of such events include the eruptions in Iceland of Eyjafjallajokull in 2010 and Grimsvotn in 2011.  This work is essential to the activities of many UK and international organisations.

Claire's own research focuses on improving the representation of volcanic eruptions in dispersion models, which involves collaboration with many Universities and Institutions.  Claire is currently leading work under the EU FP7 project FUTUREVOLC, which is led by the University Of Iceland.

Career background

Claire joined the Met Office in 2005 and worked in Atmospheric Dispersion Research developing air quality and trace gas modelling in the NAME model.  In 2009 she moved to the Met Office Hadley Centre to work as a Climate services consultant on climate change impacts for national and international government departments.  During this time Claire was involved in a range of high-profile climate science projects for the UK Government including Impacts of 'high-end' climate change for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Foresight "International Dimension of Climate Change" project. She also led a regional climate modelling workshop using the Met Office's PRECIS (Providing Regional Climates for Impacts Studies) system to build in-country capacity in Climate modelling in Bangladesh

In 2011 Claire moved back to Atmospheric Dispersion Research following the Eyjafjallajokull eruption the previous year.  Her work focused on the development of the representation of volcanic ash and eruption plumes in the Met Office atmospheric dispersion model.  This included improving the underpinning science through collaboration with many UK and international research groups.

In 2007, Claire was awarded a British Science Association Media Fellowship and was based at the BBC for 7 weeks where she gained hands-on experience of the reporting of science in the media.

Prior to joining the Met Office, Claire did a PhD at the University of Cambridge investigating the dispersion, chemistry and human and environmental impacts of volcanic eruption plumes.  During this time she had the opportunity to work at a number of volcanoes and see first hand the impacts of these natural events.  Claire has an MPhil from the University of Cambridge and an undergraduate degree in Geophysical Sciences from the University of East Anglia.  

Last updated: Dec 8, 2015 4:15 PM