Dr Richard Swinbank

Richard leads the ensemble forecasting research group.

Current activities

Richard manages the ensemble forecasting research group, which is part of the Data Assimilation and Ensembles strategic area. The ensemble research group is focused on research and development of ensemble forecasting techniques. The group is responsible for the development of the operational Met Office Global and Regional Ensemble Prediction System (MOGREPS) for short- and medium-range predictions covering both the UK and the rest of the world. The research group works very closely with the post-processing groups that develop probabilistic forecast products that are based on outputs from MOGREPS. Much of Richard's work is related to the Observing system Research and Predictability Experiment (THORPEX), which is an international research programme to accelerate improvements in the accuracy of short- and medium-range weather forecasts. A major part of the Met Office involvement in THORPEX is our contribution to TIGGE: THORPEX Interactive Grand Global Ensemble.  Global forecasts from MOGREPS are made available to the research community via the TIGGE archive centres, along with medium-range ensemble forecasts from other NWP centres. The TIGGE data set is an invaluable resource for research on ensemble prediction methods and predictability science. A particular area of interest is the use of multi-model ensembles. Met Office research has shown that forecasts of surface temperature, surface wind and rainfall that are based on a grand ensemble of predictions, using multiple numerical models, are more skilful than forecasts based on a single ensemble system.

Career background

Richard joined the Met Office from the  University of Cambridge in 1978. Richard has worked on several research projects concerned with atmospheric dynamics, initially based on data collected during the first GARP global experiment. One project was a study of the angular momentum budget of the atmosphere that eventually led to a pioneering orographic gravity wave drag scheme developed in collaboration with Tim Palmer and Glenn Shutts. Another project was focused on the influence of moisture on the propagation of the tropical Madden-Julian Oscillation. Next Richard worked on the assimilation of satellite sounding data, which was key to the initial development of the Met Office stratospheric data assimilation system. Assimilated data from this system was invaluable for the scientific interpretation of measurements from the  NASA UARS satellite. UARS was launched in 1991 to study stratospheric chemistry and dynamics relevant to the formation of the ozone hole. Richard was a visiting fellow at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from 1997 to 1999. In collaboration with Jim Purser (of NCEP, USA), Richard developed a novel framework for global numerical models, known as a Fibonacci grid. This avoids the computational problems associated with the poles and converging meridians in a conventional latitude-longitude grid. On his return to the Met Office Richard continued to manage the middle atmosphere research group for several years. In 2003 Richard was co-director of the NATO Advanced Study Institute on Data Assimilation for the Earth System. In 2005 he transferred to work on THORPEX and ensemble forecasting. In 2012 Richard co-chaired the organising committee of the ICDM workshop on Dynamics and Predictability of High-impact Weather and Climate Events.

External Recognition

  • Richard is currently co-chair of the THORPEX GIFS-TIGGE working group. This working group is responsible for the TIGGE project, and also the development of a future Global Interactive Forecast System (GIFS), implementing improvements to forecasting methods based on THORPEX research.
  • Richard is president of the International Commission on Dynamical Meteorology - one of the scientific commissions of the IAMAS: International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science.
  • Richard received the WMO Norbert Gerbier Mumm award in 2003, jointly with other members of the SPARC Stratospheric Temperature Trends Assessment panel.

Last updated: 21 July 2014


Richard Swinbank

Richard leads the ensemble forecasting research group.

Areas of expertise:

  • Ensemble forecasting
  • Data assimilation
  • Atmospheric dynamics
  • Predictability of high-impact weather

Richard's publications