An external view of the Met Office building at night.

David Thomson

Areas of expertise

  • Atmospheric turbulence, especially boundary layer turbulence
  • Dispersion of pollutants in the atmosphere
  • Lagrangian models of dispersion
  • Large-eddy simulation

Publications by David Thomson

Current activities

David’s current activities lie in two main areas. The first involves leading the development of the Met Office’s “Numerical Atmospheric-Dispersion Modelling Environment” (NAME). This is a computer model which is used to simulate the dispersion, transformation and removal of atmospheric pollutants. The second area is the development of “source inversion” techniques, i.e. methods of using dispersion models with measurements of pollutants to understand the pollution sources, in particular to estimate how much is emitted and where it is emitted from.

Career background

David received a BA in mathematics from Cambridge University in 1980 and, after a further year in Cambridge leading to an MMath, joined the Met Office in 1981. He worked initially on Lagrangian dispersion models and on methods of overcoming problems in these models associated with unphysical accumulations of “model particles”. The Met Office supported him towards a PhD supervised by Professor Philip Chatwin at Brunel University, in which he considered the use of so-called “two-particle” Lagrangian models and their use for predicting the statistics of turbulent fluctuations in pollutant concentrations. He worked with Dr Paul Mason on large-eddy simulation techniques, and in particular on the use of stochastic parametrizations to represent the effect of the unresolved eddies. From the 1990’s onward he has also worked on the development of applied dispersion modelling systems, initially the Atmospheric Dispersion Modelling System (ADMS) in conjunction with Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants and the University of Surrey, and later the Met Office’s “Numerical Atmospheric-Dispersion Modelling Environment” (NAME).

External recognition

  • 1985: Royal Meteorological Society's L. F. Richardson prize, won jointly with Anne Kite (née Ley) for a paper on atmospheric dispersion.
  • 1994-95: Chair of the European COST action 710 on Harmonisation in the Pre-processing of Meteorological Data for Dispersion Models.
  • 1993-2002: Met Office representative on the Atmospheric Dispersion Modelling Liaison Committee
  • 2008: Royal Meteorological Society's Quarterly Journal Review Award (one of two such awards in 2008).
  • 2010: Member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) in connection with the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull.
  • 2011: Civil Service Awards 2011 – The Science, Engineering & Technology Award, awarded to the Met Office Atmospheric Dispersion Group.