An external view of the Met Office building at night.

Dr Jonathan Wilkinson

Areas of expertise

  • Cloud Microphysics

  • Lightning and atmospheric electricity

  • Ground-based and spaceborne radar and lidar

  • Cloud-aerosol interactions

  • Numerical modelling and parametrization development

Publications by Jonathan

Current activities

Jonathan is a senior scientist working in the fields of cloud microphysics and thunderstorm electrification.

Jonathan is particularly interested in the processes which produce lightning activity in UK thunderstorms, with the aim of trying to understand why some storms produce lightning while others do not. Using the Unified Model, Jonathan has been able to develop an operational lightning scheme, allowing lightning forecasts to come directly from the model, which is available routinely to Met Office forecasters. To try and understand thunderstorm activity better in reality and high-resolution models, Jonathan works in collaboration with academics based at Reading University.

More recently, Jonathan has been working in collaboration with scientists from the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences as part of the Newton-funded WCSSP-India programme. Lightning strikes account for the largest number of deaths due to natural hazards in India and this project aims to improve the forecasting of lightning activity over the Indian subcontinent, with the aim of reducing the number of lightning-related deaths in the future.

Since 2011, Jonathan has been involved with commercial consultancy for the UK Civil Aviation Authority. Jonathan has investigated instances where helicopters serving the UK Oil and Gas industry have triggered a lightning strike. Jonathan has been able to link this phenomenon to cold-air outbreak thunderstorms which occur over the North Sea during winter. This means that forecasts can be produced showing when strike conditions are likely. This in turn improves safety for those working in the oil and gas industry.

The other focus of Jonathan's work is to improve the warm-rain, mixed-phase and ice microphysical processes within the Unified Model. To carry out these tasks, Jonathan uses recently published research, results from Observation Based Research cloud physics and cloud radar and lidar data. Jonathan has been heavily involved with developing the new CASIM microphysics scheme in collaboration with Leeds University. The aims of this work are to see what level of complexity of aerosol-cloud interactions are required for NWP forecasts. Using data from the PICASSO project collected by Manchester University, Jonathan has been able to evaluate the forecasts made by the new CASIM scheme.

Jonathan is also the code owner of the Unified Model microphysics scheme, meaning he is responsible for the development and upgrades made to the microphysics code within which is used for both climate and weather forecasts.

Career background

Jonathan has been a member of the Atmospheric Processes and Parametrizations group since starting at the Met Office in 2007. Prior to joining the Met Office, Jonathan completed a PhD in evaluating cloud and microphysics parametrizations in numerical models using radar and lidar at Reading University. Jonathan also obtained a BSc in Meteorology from Reading University in 2003 with first-class honours.