Prof Richard Betts MBE

Areas of expertise

  • Large-scale modelling of ecosystem-hydrology-climate interactions
  • Carbon cycle
  • Land use change
  • Climate impacts projections and risk assessment

Publications by Richard Betts

Twitter: @richardabetts

Current activities

Richard holds a joint position at the Met Office and University of Exeter. Under his Exeter role he is the project director for the writing of the Technical Report for the UK's 3rd national Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3), with his Met Office role ensuring close collaboration with expert colleagues who produced the UKCP18 climate projections. 

Richard leads research on impacts, trade-offs and co-benefits of mitigation in the Hadley Centre Climate Programme, and leads the research on climate impacts and disaster risk reduction in the Climate Science for Service Partnership Brazil (CSSP Brazil).

He is current serving as a Lead Author in the preparation of the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), He is working on the chapter on Water in the Working Group 2 volume (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability).

Richard is a Contributing Author with the Science Panel for the Amazon, working on the chapter on the potential Amazon forest tipping point.

He is chair of the Royal Meteorological Society's Climate Science Special Interest Group.

Career background

  • BSc (Physics), University of Bristol, 1991.

  • MSc (Meteorology and Applied Climatology), University of Birmingham, 1992.

  • PhD (Meteorology), University of Reading, 1998.

Richard joined the Met Office Hadley Centre in 1992 to work on the new land surface scheme of the Unified Model, the Met Office Surface Exchange Scheme (MOSES). His work on the second version (MOSESII) involved implementing the tiled land surface representation and coupling the TRIFFID vegetation model. Between 1994–1998 he also worked on his PhD on modelling the influence of the vegetated land surface on climate, including feedbacks from global vegetation on climate change.

Following his PhD, Richard published an influential paper comparing the impacts of carbon uptake and surface albedo change by forests on climate, and was a member of the team that published the first coupled climate-carbon cycle model, demonstrating the potential importance of carbon cycle feedbacks on climate change. He subsequently published the first formal calculation of radiative forcing of climate due to historical land cover change

In 2002–2003 Richard spent four months at CSIRO and the Australian National University working on landscape fire modelling. In 2003 he became manager of the new Ecosystems and Climate Impacts team, leading the development of this new science area in the Met Office. He led and co-authored a number of papers on potential die-back of the Amazon rainforest and the role of this as a feedback on climate change

In 2007 he became head of the new Climate Impacts strategic area. In 2012, Richard joined the University of Exeter as Chair in Climate Impacts, alongside his Met Office role. In 2013 he became a Met Office Science Fellow.

From 2013-2017 Richard led a major interational EU-funded research programme, HELIX (High-End cLimate Impacts and eXtremes) which quantified the impacts of climate change at 1.5°C, 2°C and 4°C global warming, both globally and in focus regions of Africa, South Asia and Europe. This research has since been extended to Brazil.

His research interests include:

  • Climate change projections for risk assessment and informing adaptation

  • Near-term predictions of atmospheric CO2 rise

  • Climate change impacts on water resources and the role of vegetation in modifying this impact.

  • Climate change impacts on large-scale ecosystems and interactions with deforestation (with a particular interest in Amazonia and other tropical forests).

  • Impacts of land cover change on climate via the carbon cycle, surface albedo and evaporation

External recognition

  • Appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2019 Queen's Birthday Honours list

  • Awarded Science Communciations Prize of the Royal Meteorological Society, 2020

  • Lead Author, IPCC 6th Assessment Report (Working Group 2)

  • Contributing Author, Science Panel for the Amazon

  • Lead Author, IPCC 5th Assessment Report (Working Group 2)

  • Lead Author, IPCC 4th Assessment Report (Working Group 1)

  • Contributing Author, IPCC 4th Assessment Report (Working Group 2)

  • Contributing Author, IPCC 3rd Assessment Report (Working Group 1)

  • Lead Author, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

  • Reviewer, Stern Review on Economics of Climate Change.

  • Editor, Earth System Dynamics.

  • Guest Editor, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

  • Scientific Advisory Committee Member, European Research Course on Atmospheres.