Douglas Parker

I am Professor of Meteorology, in the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science (ICAS) at the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds.

My research covers a broad range of meteorology including, for example, the behaviour of cold fronts over the UK, or the initiation of severe thunderstorm systems over Africa. I try to develop better understanding of weather systems, so that they can be predicted more effectively.

Departmental home page

Research projects

Photo of cumulus congestus clouds over Benin, 17 August 2006. The image was taken during one of the research flights of the AMMA project. From this and other flights, we have found that the generation of these clouds is influenced by the state of the surface beneath, meaning that rainfall patterns can be controlled by the vegetation patterns, and by the amount of moisture in the soil due to past rainfall. See Taylor, Parker and Harris (2007) for details of the soil moisture case.

In my research I make use of many different techniques. I have worked with various ground-based and airborne measurement systems - an example of this kind of work is the AMMA project, in which we deployed extensive ground-based networks of sensors in West Africa, and conducted flights over these with research aircraft. I also make use of numerical models, including the UK Met Office Unified Model, which is the system used to generate most of the UK's weather and climate forecasts. Linking the computational and experimental work, I enjoy developing new theoretical ideas, using simple mathematical models to explain, and to build intuition about, the behaviour of the weather systems which influence our lives every day.

I have a particular commitment to the study of the meteorology of Africa, and I am closely involved in the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA). AMMA is the largest and most extensive multidisciplinary research programme ever conducted in Africa, and arguably the biggest programme of its kind anywhere in the world. I have been coordinator of AMMA-UK since the programme's inception in 2003, and I have led some of its core international activities.

My teaching here at Leeds is all concerned with Meteorology, Climate and weather systems. My research involves a wide range of techniques, including observations, theory and computer modelling, and I bring these tools to my undergraduate and masters-level courses. For instance, on the level 2 and 3 field courses at Leeds we install instrumentation of a similar capability to the instruments used in fieldwork in the UK and Africa. In level 3 theoretical classes, we use models and ideas which come from recent research. Throughout my university teaching I am able to bring first-hand experience of operational meteorology, for instance from flight-planning in airborne campaigns, or from the design of ground-based experimental programmes.

I have also conducted other kinds of teaching and training. I co-led a Summer School in Ghana in 2008 (with the local organiser, Sylvester Danuor). We took a group of Leeds students to the Summer School, where they worked alongside students from all around Africa and Europe: the lecturers also came from around the world, and we set up some experimental work using equipment loaned from Leeds. I have also contributed to training of Met Office forecasters in West African meteorology, and I am currently leading an international programme to develop a "Forecasters' Handbook for West Africa".

I enjoy teaching Meteorology, because it is so easy to explain the everyday relevance of the academic material. We teach high-level and challenging science, which has very direct application to our daily experience, and we handle issues which are of some urgency to the world's population. We keep our teaching rooted in current weather and climate conditions. It's one of the few subjects where looking out of the window during classes is actively encouraged.

Completed installation of one of the ground-based observing systems in AMMA. I'm the one in the light blue shirt.

Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science,
School of Earth and Environment,
University of Leeds,

Tel + 44 113 343-6739
Fax + 44 113 343-6716

Last modified: 20 March 2015