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. A major current project entails the development of novel ensemble data assimilation techniques to create initial conditions for ensemble predictions. The research group works very closely with the post-processing groups that develop probabilistic forecast products that are based on outputs from MOGREPS

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 ensemble forecasting and the  THORPEX programme. THORPEX was 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 was our contribution to TIGGE: The International Grand Global Ensemble. Global forecasts from many international NWP centres are made available to the research community via the TIGGE archive centres. The TIGGE data set has proved an invaluable resource for research on ensemble prediction methods and predictability science, and is being continued even though THORPEX was completed at the end of 2014.

In 2012 Richard co-chaired the organising committee of the ICDM workshop on Dynamics and Predictability of High-impact Weather and Climate Events. A book based on the workshop, entitled "Dynamics and Predictability of Large-scale High-Impact Weather and Climate Events" is due to be published at the beginning of 2016.

External Recognition

Last updated: 17 August 2015


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