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UCL partners with the Met Office on weather and climate science

22 April 2020

UCL has joined the Met Office Academic Partnership, with the University of Bristol, to work collaboratively on transforming data sciences to secure the UK's world-leading position in weather forecasting and climate prediction.

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The partnership aims to make the outputs of weather and climate models more meaningful by using innovative approaches, including machine learning, to accelerate and enhance fully realistic atmospheric models at a reduced cost.

The Met Office Academic Partnership (MOAP) is a cluster of research excellence that brings together the Met Office and institutions who are among the leading UK Universities in weather and climate science through a formal collaboration to advance the science and skill of weather and climate prediction.

UCL and the University of Bristol join the Universities of Exeter, Leeds, Oxford and Reading, which are existing MOAP partners. UCL’s contribution, which spans a wide range of disciplines, including environmental sciences, planetary physics, mathematics and statistics, will be led by Joint Chair, Professor Serge Guillas (UCL Statistical Science).

Based in the Faculty of Mathematical & Physical Sciences and the Alan Turing Institute, Professor Guillas is an environmental statistician and an expert in the science of uncertainties in complex computer models.

Professor Serge Guillas, UCL Joint Chair, said: “I feel very privileged that an exceptional team of data scientists, machine learners, mathematicians and environmental scientists at UCL are enthusiastically collaborating with the Met Office. The fields of data science and machine learning have recently matured to a point where this partnership will concretely transform the way we understand and model weather and climate and their impacts,  for instance by fusing rich sets of observations with simulations or providing new ways of quantifying uncertainties in climate predictions.”

Through the partnership, UCL will build on existing projects with the Met Office by bringing together an interdisciplinary team of researchers from at least three faculties and eight departments to energise and modernise data science in weather and climate modelling to help tackle global issues.

This includes sharing expertise in computer simulations, spatial data, trends and extremes, as well as research on space weather, including the development of techniques and data analysis for model validation, weather forecasting and climate projections.

The partnership also draws on UCL’s diverse strengths in data sciences and AI – spanning its fundamentals, applications, as well as social and environmental implications – which are brought together by UCL’s 2019 AI for People & Planet Strategy.

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research), commented: “This partnership exemplifies the UCL Research Strategy’s aims regarding research leadership, collaborative engagement and impact for public benefit. Our unique combination of cross-disciplinary expertise in data sciences for weather and climate are the basis for a close and productive relationship with the Met Office, with the intent to advance research in weather and climate for positive impact nationally and globally.”

Professor Guillas and colleagues will co-develop new methods and tools, and explore new opportunities to fuse simulation and data science, in line with the Met Office Strategy. In doing so, UCL will provide opportunities for students through new PhD studentships and joint MSc projects co-supervised by the Met Office, as well as academic positions including a new Research Fellow in Machine Learning for Climate.

Professor Ivan Parkin, Dean of UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences, said: “UCL and the Met Office ideally complement each other scientifically and the timing of the partnership could not be better. We are investing in UCL’s major strength in data science through expanding our supercomputer capabilities, our recently opened Centre for AI and our newly established UCL Institute for Mathematics & Statistical Science, which will be located in premises close to UCL’s main campus and will serve as the future home for the Partnership.”

Professor Stephen Belcher, Met Office Chief Scientist, said: “I am delighted that UCL and University of Bristol are to join the Met Office Academic Partnership. They bring a wealth of talent and expertise to this thriving partnership that will ensure the Met Office delivers its research and innovation strategy, and improves weather and climate science and services.”

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Media contact

Bex Caygill

Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 3846

Email: r.caygill [at] ucl.ac.uk