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Personal profile

Academic Background

I was a Research Associate in the Climatic Research Unit for five years while studying part-time for my PhD under the supervision of Professor Tom Wigley, using computer-based models of the global ocean to study natural variability of the thermohaline circulation.

After being awarded my PhD in 1995, I became a Senior Research Associate working with Professors Mike Hulme, Keith Briffa and Phil Jones.  We developed the first estimates of the uncertainty in the HadCRUT global temperature record.  We identified an increase in the occurrence of heavy winter rainfall in the UK, subsequently confirmed and updated in more recent studies, and which contributed to the Royal Meteorological Society awarding me the Hugh Robert Mill Medal in 2002.  We used an extensive network of tree-ring measurements from across the Northern Hemisphere to reconstruct summer temperatures over the last few centuries, to detect the widespread cooling that follows explosive volcanic eruptions, and to document an apparent decline in the maximum density of tree-rings during recent decades.  These latter studies have now been cited more than 300 times each.

In 2005, I was awarded an RCUK Academic Fellowship, a scheme designed to provide a more stable career path for future research leaders.  During my fellowship, I led a number of projects to investigate natural climate variability over the last millennium, the changing occurrence of extreme rainfall, and the generation of scenarios of future climate change using simulations with both simple and complex models of the climate system.

I was appointed as a Reader in 2010 and as Professor of Climate Science in 2014, within the School of Environmental Sciences. My inaugural professorial lecture can be viewed here. I have continued to lead research across a broad range of pressing climate science issues while also teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, organising the final-year undergraduate research projects within the School from 2010 to 2013, and being Director of Admissions for the School from 2015 to 2018.  

PhD Positions

Click here for current PhD opportunities in the School of Environmental Sciences. However, feel free to email me to discuss projects outside these areas and alternative sources of funding.


I am Director of the Climatic Research Unit (www.cru.uea.ac.uk) and a Professor of Climate Science in the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA, where I have worked since 1990.  For the first 15 years I was a research scientist and then I was awarded an Academic Fellowship in 2005, which provided a five-year transition to my current academic role that combines teaching, research and academic leadership.

My research and teaching are concerned with identifying variations in climate (as observed, modelled and recorded in climate proxies) and understanding their causes (in terms of natural and anthropogenic climate processes).  This understanding provides the basis for making projections of possible future climate change.

I have authored or co-authored over 120 papers that have appeared in peer-reviewed journals or books.  These include high-impact journals such as "Nature" and "Science".  According to Scopus, forty-nine of my papers have been cited at least 50 times, thirty at least 100 times, and the average citations per listed paper is more than 100.

I was a Lead Author of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), contributing to the chapters concerned with palaeoclimatic information and with the detection and attribution of climate change, as well as the overall Summary for Policymakers. I am a Review Editor for the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report, due for completion in 2021.

I communicate about my scientific research via the following social media sites.  Their content does not represents the views or opinions of the University of East Anglia.

Twitter: @TimOsbornClim (my twitter feed)

Website: http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/~timo/

Blog: Interpreting Climate Change


Education / Qualifications

  • 1987 to 1990: University of East Anglia.  BSc (Hons) Geophysical Sciences (First Class).
  • 1991 to 1995: School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia. PhD.


  • 1990 to 2005: Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia. Research Scientist.
  • 2005 to 2010: School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia. Academic Fellow.
  • 2010 to 2014: School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia. Reader in Climate Science.
  • 2014 to present: School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia. Professor of Climate Science.
  • 2017 to present: Director of Research, Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia.

Key Research Interests

My main research interests are concerned with identifying variations in climate (as observed, modelled and recorded in climate proxies) and understanding their causes (in terms of natural and anthropogenic climate processes).  This understanding provides the basis for making projections of possible future climate change.

I have investigated natural climate variability over the last 1000 years or so, using measurements of tree-rings and other climate "proxies" to estimate past changes in temperature across the Northern Hemisphere.  By analysing this information in conjunction with climate model simulations, these past climate changes can be related to natural forcing factors such as variations in volcanic activity or solar irradiance.

During the more recent period, with instrumental observations of climate, my research has focussed on the study of rainfall and atmospheric circulation changes, particularly over the UK.  Changes in the occurrence of heavy or extreme precipitation, as well as drought events, have been identified.  I have also investigated changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation, finding that greenhouse-gas-induced climate change is likely to be associated with a strengthening of the westerly circulation over the Atlantic and European region that may have begun to influence our climate already.

I have developed the ClimGen software application for generating spatially-detailed climate change scenarios based on many general circulation model simulations, to enable users to explore the uncertainty range of possible future climate change.  ClimGen has been used to provide consistent climate scenarios to multi-sectoral, global-scale impacts assessments and integrated analyses of future climate policies (such as within the NERC QUEST project, the DECC/Defra-funded AVOID project, the Tyndall Centre's Community Integrated Assessment System, and the EU-funded HELIX, ERMITAGE and TOPDAD initiatives).

My current projects include the continued development and improvement of the global temperature record and the CRU TS climate dataset, with support from NCAS and the NERC SMURPHS project, and the investigation of climate variabiltiy in southern and eastern Asia on long timescales, with support from the NERC Belmont Forum/JPI-Climate INTEGRATE project.

Publications: EPrints Digital Repository

Professional Activities

Higher education 

  • External examiner (2020-present), University of Cambridge

Outreach, engagement and public communication

  • Member (2014-present) of the Steering Group of the Teacher-Scientist Network, a science education charity that supports teachers to deliver up-to-date, relevant science and encourages scientists to interact with teachers, thereby enhancing science teaching across schools in Norfolk and north Suffolk. http://www.tsn.org.uk/
  • Scientific reviewer member of Climate Feedback (2015-present), bringing scientific peer-review and assessment to the mainstream online media. Using new web annotation technology, Climate Feedback allows scientists from around the world to comment on the accuracy of online media articles and assess their credibility. http://climatefeedback.org/about/
  • Contributing Editor for Carbon Brief (2015-present), a UK-based website covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy and energy policy. http://www.carbonbrief.org/

Engagement with policy-makers and decision-makers

Scientific community activities

  • Member (2012-present) of the NERC Peer-Review College.
  • Member (2000-present) of the editorial board of the International Journal of Climatology.


  • Awarded the Hugh Robert Mill Medal by the Royal Meteorological Society (2002)

Areas of Expertise

Climate; recent UK climate variations; possible future UK climate; UK rainfall extremes; natural climate variations; North Atlantic oscillation.

Teaching Interests

I teach at both undergraduate and postgraduate (Masters) levels, focussing on our scientific understanding of the climate system and the basis for our concern about global warming.  My teaching includes the Earth's energy budget, natural and human-related drivers of climate change, and the role of the oceans in the climate system.  I also cover many of the tools needed to monitor and predict climate changes, such as data analysis and climate modelling.

Administrative Posts

  • Director of Research for the Climatic Research Unit

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action


Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or