Dr Nick Dunstone

Areas of expertise

  • Inter-annual to decadal climate prediction and variability.

  • Assimilation of observations for the initialisation of climate model.

  • Analysis of sub-surface ocean observations.

  • Assessment of forecast skill.

  • Predictability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.

Publications by Nick

Current activities

Nick leads a small group of scientists working to understand the mechanisms that drive regional climate variability in different parts of the globe. A physical understanding of the dynamical processes that drive climate variability can give us increased confidence in our near-term climate predictions and projections.

The group is also particularly interested in exploring what is dynamically possible in the current climate but simply has yet to be observed due to the relatively short historical record. It is now becoming increasingly possible to assess the risk of such unprecedented events using the latest generation of high-resolution climate model simulations. Nick’s group has developed the UNSEEN (‘UNprecedented Simulated Extremes using ENsembles’) method that uses the very large ensembles of initialised climate predictions to provide improved estimates of risk. This methodology contributed to the UK Government National Flood Resilience Review (NFRR, published 2016) and has the potential to be valuable to a wide range of users, e.g. the insurance industry.

Over recent years Nick has published work on seasonal to interannual European climate prediction. In his 2016 Nature Geoscience paper, he showed that the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the prime driver of European winter climate variability, can be skilfully predicted one year ahead of winter. This represented an exciting first step in developing useful winter climate predictions and services beyond the seasonal timescale. In a 2018 paper he showed the first skilful predictions of European summer rainfall from a dynamical climate model and then used this system in real-time to give advanced warning of the very dry European summer experienced in 2018.

Nick has a continuing interest in understanding the relative role of long-timescale ocean circulations versus changes in anthropogenic forcings (e.g. industrial aerosol emissions) in driving historical and future climate variability.

Nick is also the deputy lead scientist on a UK-China joint project, Climate Science for Services Partnership (CSSP-China), which brings together researchers from within the Met Office, the wider UK academic community and China. Here his group works in collaboration to understand the regional and global modes of dynamical climate variability that drive impactful climate events over both East Asia and Europe.

Career background

Nick became the scientific manager of the Climate Dynamics group in 2014 - part of the larger Monthly to Decadal Climate Prediction group led by Prof. Adam Scaife. Prior to this Nick worked mainly in the relatively new area of initialised decadal climate predictions, following the pioneering work by Dr Doug Smith. Nick managed the development of the latest version of the Met Office Decadal Climate Prediction Sytems (DePreSys3). Before joining the Met Office Hadley Centre in 2008, Nick completed a PhD in Astrophysics at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

External recognition

World Meteorological Organization: “Research Award for Young Scientists” in 2017
European Geosciences Union: “Division Outstanding Young Scientists Award” in 2014.