An external view of the Met Office building at night.

Prof Chris Folland

Areas of expertise

  • Applications of modelling climate variability.

  • Observed climate variability and change.

  • Seasonal to interannual forecasting.

  • Climate data set construction.

My Publications - Folland, C

Current activities

Chris carries out research on observed and modelled climate variability and into practical seasonal to annual long-range forecasting and predictability. He also contributes to the regular seasonal long-range forecasts. He has a number of international collaborations, particularly with USA, South Korea, Australia, China and Sweden.

Chris's current work is focused on the predictability of winter climate over Europe and elsewhere, understanding links between European summer climate and its predictability and forcing factors, the predictability and operational prediction of average global temperature a year ahead, and causes of the recent pause in global warming. Chris is a member of the Climate Science for Service Partnership China  project that started in 2014.

Chris also provides more general advice to the Heads of Monthly to decadal prediction and Climate Monitoring and Attribution in the Hadley Centre. In addition, he was a member of the AMS Climate Variability and Change Committee from 2010-2016, for which he was awarded an Outstanding Service Certificate in 2016.

Career background

After obtaining a BSc(Hons) in Physics at Reading University in 1966, Chris joined the then National Institute of Oceanography working on deep ocean currents, including two spells at sea. Joining the Met Office in 1968, after training he went to the Operational Instrumentation Branch in 1969. He became the manager of its Sensor Development group in 1970 developing surface instruments including the earliest usable humidity measurements on ocean buoys.

Chris joined the Synoptic Climatology Branch in 1974, working on climate change and operational monthly forecasting. Promoted in 1976, he became a manager in the Agriculture and Hydrometeorology branch of hydrometeorological research and related commercial activities. Most important was serving as Met Office representative 1976-1980 on the National Working Group on the Hydraulic Design of Storm Sewers, involving interactions with leading civil engineers. He rejoined the Synoptic Climatology Branch in 1980, managing the development of UK monthly long-range forecasts, the global sea surface and night marine air temperature data sets, and some work on climate change. He introduced tropical seasonal forecasting into the Met Office in 1986.

After an exchange visit to the Climate Analysis Centre in Washington DC, USA in 1988-1989, he joined the Met Office Hadley Centre in 1990 as an Individual Merit scientist (Met Office Science Fellow) and Head of Climate Variability, later Climate Variability and Forecasting. His main activities, many collaborative, were in climate change and variability, data set development and applied climate modelling. He served four times as a Lead Author for the IPCC.

Throughout his career, Chris has been involved in a wide range of WMO activities. He carried out field experiments for the WMO Working Group on the Reference Psychrometer in the early 1970s, followed in the late 1970s and early 1980s by membership of the WMO Working Group on Precipitation and Soil Moisture. He was a member of the WMO Working Group on Long Range Forecasting in the late 1980s and a member of the WMO GCOS committee around the turn of the millennium. Chris also served as Deputy Chair of the WMO Working Group on Climate Change Detection for about a decade to 2007. He retired in April 2008 to take his current part time Science Fellow position the following June.

External recognition

  • Chris was a member of the Council of the Royal Meteorological Society from 1978 to 1981 and of its Education Committee from 1976 to 1981.
  • Chris received the 1985 RMetS Hugh Robert Mill prize, mainly for developing a quantitative theory of raingauge exposure and a new raingauge. Jointly with David Parker, he won the 1991 L.G. Groves Memorial Prize for Meteorology for developing sea surface temperature data sets and applying them to climate problems. Chris also shared the 1996 WMO International Norbert Gerbier-Mumm prize for leading research and applications in tropical seasonal forecasting.
  • In  2016 Chris was given an Expert Scientist Award and Honorarium by the Korean Meteorological Agency and the Korean National Institute of Meteorological Sciences to  present, in South Korea,  a set of ten lectures on seasonal to decadal forecasting and climate variability.
  • Chris was a Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC 1990 Report (FAR), its 1992 Supplementary report and the 2001 Report (TAR). He was also a Lead author of the 1996 Report (SAR), a contributing author and reviewer of the  2007 Report (AR4) and a reviewer of the 2013 Report (AR5). As a lead IPCC author, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to IPCC in 2007. 
  • Chris created and chaired an early form of the CLIVAR International Climate of the Twentieth Century (C20C) project in the mid 1990s and continued as co-chair when it restarted in 2000 and after its formal inception as a CLIVAR project in 2003. He retired from this position in 2014. Chris was also a member of the AMS Climate Variability and Change Committee from 2010-2016, for which he was awarded an Outstanding Service Certificate in 2016.
  • Chris has been a Fellow of the AMS since 2003, Fellow of the Institute of Physics since 1996, Fellow of the RMetS since 1967 and Fellow of the Link Foundation of New Zealand since 1993 from whom he had grants for research visits to New Zealand in 1994 and 2000. He is a Chartered Scientist and Chartered Physicist through the Institute of Physics. In 2011, Chris became a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union; only 1 in 1000 AGU members are elected to Fellow in a given year.
  • Chris has been an Honorary Professor at the School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia since 2003, and an Adjunct Professor at the Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments, University of Southern Queensland since 2009. In 2011 he also became a Guest Professor of Climatology at the Department of Earth Sciences, at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and was formally inaugurated in 2012.