Hazel Thornton

Areas of expertise

  • Climate change adaptation strategies
  • Stratospheric data assimilation
  • General meteorology and forecasting techniques

Publications by Hazel Thornton

Current activities

Hazel leads the Climate Adaptation team which explores the multitude of relationships between society and weather, to help industry, commerce and government understand the risks a changing climate could pose. The team has developed innovative techniques to quantitatively apply climate projections to societal decision making. Through working closely with government departments, individual companies or industrial sectors, the team establishes where their operations or procedures are affected by both mean and extreme weather. Key relationships or decision thresholds are established and climate projections applied to understand future hazard. The team has developed methods to account for model bias, present climate projection uncertainty and to establish useful risk metrics.    

Hazel has worked extensively with many sectors, including energy, water, infrastructure and transport, to help them understand their current vulnerability to today's weather and future changes. Consequently Hazel has been involved with a wide range of projects, employing a diverse set of analysis techniques and using a range of data sources. Flagship projects include an Impacts on energy with the UK's energy companies to fully explore how climate change could impact on both transmission and distribution and supply and generation processes. Hazel led projects looking into the future implications of climate change on wind power generation, network resilience and coastal infrastructure flood risk.

Hazel also led a year long project investigating what climate change could mean for the UK rail industry, investigating how the frequency of key thresholds, associated with industry decisions could change by mid century, considering issues such as rail buckling under extreme heat and track flooding with heavy rainfall.

Hazel is currently investigating whether weather types analysis can be used to help clarify future changes in UK winds and also if they can be used to better predict extreme rainfall out to a month ahead.

Career background

Hazel joined the Met Office in 2002 and spent four years researching how to better use satellite observations of water vapour in the stratosphere to improve daily weather forecasts. Hazel investigated the most appropriate form of the humidity control variable within the data assimilation scheme to make the best use of MIPAS water vapour observations from ENVISAT.

Prior to arriving at the Met Office, Hazel completed an Atmospheric Sciences Masters (DEA) at the University of Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris, and a BSc in Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia which included a year of oceanography in Marseilles, France. As an undergraduate Hazel had the opportunity to spend 6 weeks aboard the James Clark Ross ice breaker, investigating the North Atlantic's ocean and atmosphere in situ.

Hazel also undertook a work placement in the Environment DG of the European Commission. As part of the Air Quality Group she was involved with initialising the Clean Air for Europe Programme (CAFE). The aim of CAFE was to develop a long-term, strategic and integrated policy to protect against the effects of air pollution on human health and the environment.