Susan Ballard

Susan leads the Data Assimilation @ Reading Group based at MetOffice@Reading Unit at the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading. The group undertakes collaborative research and development into use of novel observations such as radar reflectivity, refractivity and ceilometers backscatter and improved data assimilation for convective-scale data assimilation and numerical weather prediction-based nowcasting and flash flood prediction.

Current activities

Manager of Data Assimilation @ Reading Group .

  • Member of Met Office Weather Radar Network Renewal project board.
  • Member of UKV 4DVAR project board.
  • Management Committee member of  COST concerted research action ES1303- Towards operational ground based profiling with ceilometers, doppler lidars and microwave radiometers for improving weather forecasts.
  • Met Office supervisor to CASE student at the University of Reading, working on ceilometer backscatter
  • Met Office coordinator for collaboration with  NERC on  Flooding from Intense Rainfall programme and Co-Investigator for work including assimilation of radar reflectivity and  refractivity data, correlated observation errors and investigations of moist control variables and balance in convective scale data assimilation

Career background

Susan obtained a first class degree in physics from the University of Durham and then undertook post-graduate research at the University of Oxford on remote sensing of the atmosphere of Venus.

She joined the Met Office and worked on vortex dynamics for fundamental fluid dynamics, before moving to work on the development of the formulation of the 15 km nonhydrostatic mesoscale model, particularly the dynamics and physical parametrizations, and training forecasters on the interactive mesoscale initialization.

Susan then had a short time at the Met Office/Oxford University Hooke Institute at the  University of Oxford working on use of satellite data in NWP. She was promoted to lead that group before leading the Met Office group responsible for the development of the operational mesoscale NWP system, introducing first the original nonhydrostatic model and then the hydrostatic unified model for 15 km NWP forecasts over the UK.

She then worked at the JCMM at the  University of Reading on development of a mixed phase microphysics scheme and led a group using mesoscale NWP in field study campaigns to validate and improve the model formulation, as well as to understand mesoscale processes.

Susan then lead the final development of the Met Office operational global 3D and then 4D-variational data assimilation schemes, and the development of the linear model for use in 4D-variational data assimilation.

In 2003 Susan returned to JCMM to lead the development of the convective scale data assimilation and nowcasting systems and exploitation of novel remote sensing data such as radar. In 2010 JCMM merged with Met Office climate science staff at University of Reading to become MetOffice@Reading.

Since 2003 Susan has been Met Office supervisor to three CASE students at the University of Reading, working on radar refractivity data and  ensemble techniques for data assimilation.  Susan has also collaborated  with the  University of Reading  FREE project on use of radar insect radial Doppler winds and refractivity data, the  University of Reading NCEO data assimilation staff on ensemble methods and derivation of improved background error covariance, with UK universities funded by  NERC on  DIAMET  and  COPE  projects and with  KMA and  BMRC on radar data assimilation.
Susan led the development of the Nowcasting Demonstration Project was run in real-time from March 2012 til April 2013 using hourly cycling  4DVAR plus 6 hour forecasts at 1.5km resolution over Southern England and Wales.

External recognition

  • Twice member of the Royal Meteorological Society Council.
  • Former Associate Editor of Atmospheric Research Letters.
  • Former Lead for  SRNWP convective scale/variational data assimilation theme.
  • Member of organising committee for many international meetings and conferences.
  • Former Management Committee member of COST concerted research action 731 - Propagation of uncertainty in advanced meteo-hydrological forecast systems.
  • Former Advisor to COST EG-CLIMNET - European Ground-Based Observations of Essential Variables for Climate and Operational Meteorology.

Last updated: 27 March 2015


Susan Ballard

Sue Ballard

Areas of expertise:

  • Mesoscale and convective scale NWP
  • Variational data assimilation
  • Use of conventional and remote sensing observations for NWP

Susan's publications