Personal profile


I am Director of the Climatic Research Unit ( 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 (with one part-time year at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego) 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 150 papers that have appeared in peer-reviewed journals or books.  These include high-impact journals such as "Nature" and "Science".  According to Scopus, forty-four of my papers have been cited at 100 times each, and the average citations per listed paper is more than 135.

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 was a Review Editor for the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report, completed 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)


Blog: Interpreting Climate Change

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.

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.

Climate variability and tree-rings. 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.

Observations of climate change. During the more recent period, my research has focussed on instrumental observations of climate. This includes the development of global climate datasets such as the HadCRUT global temperature record (and its land-only component CRUTEM) and the CRU TS climate dataset. I also study rainfall and atmospheric circulation changes, particularly over the UK.  My work has identified changes in the occurrence of heavy or extreme precipitation, as well as drought events.  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.

Future climate. 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 GloSAT project, and the investigation of climate variability in southern and eastern Asia on long timescales, with support from the NERC Belmont Forum/JPI-Climate INTEGRATE project.

Publications: EPrints Digital Repository

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 policy-relevant projections of future climate change.  I also cover many of the tools needed to monitor and predict climate changes, such as data analysis and climate modelling.


Education / Qualifications

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


  • 1990 to 2005: Research Scientist. Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia.
  • 1994 to 1995: Research Scientist. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.
  • 2005 to 2010: Academic Fellow. School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia.
  • 2010 to 2014: Reader in Climate Science. School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia.
  • 2014 to present: Professor of Climate Science. School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia.
  • 2017 to present: Director of Research, Climatic Research Unit. University of East Anglia.

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 600 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, and being Director of Admissions for the School from 2015 to 2018.

In 2017, I became the Director of Research for the School's Climatic Research Unit following the retirement of the previous director, Phil Jones. In 2022, we celebrated 50 years since the founding of the Climatic Research Unit.

Areas of Expertise

Climate; global observational climate datasets; tree-ring research; observed climate changes; drought; future climate projections; rainfall variability and extremes; natural climate variations; North Atlantic oscillation.

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

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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