Professor Tim Palmer

Professor Tim Palmer: revolutionising weather and climate prediction

Climate physics
Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics

On 6 December, the Department of Physics held a symposium to celebrate the remarkable career of Professor Tim Palmer CBE FRS, who celebrates his 70th birthday later this month. Professor Palmer came to Oxford as a Royal Society Research Professor in 2010 – a scheme that recognises world-class researchers of outstanding achievement and promise.

Following a PhD in general relativity theory, Professor Palmer joined the UK Met Office, the University of Washington Seattle, and then the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), where he spent the majority of his career prior to coming to Oxford. Professor Palmer’s work has been much recognised over the years; in addition to being a fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences, he is an Honorary Member of the Royal Meteorological Society, the American Meteorological Society, and the Institute of Physics.

For 40 years, Professor Palmer’s work on the prediction of weather and climate has revolutionised the field, particularly in the area of ensemble forecasting. The symposium featured talks from a range of contributors who have worked with him over the course of his extensive career, and who shared both their latest work and their reflections on Professor Palmer’s substantial contribution to research. A dozen illustrious speakers came to speak at the Department of Physics covering topics from general relativity and weather regimes to reduced precision computing and human consciousness.

‘It was a fascinating event for a remarkable physicist,’ comments Professor Ian Shipsey Head of the Department of Physics. ‘The range of presentations was testament to the extraordinary breadth of Tim’s career, in the course of which he has expertly blended both theoretical and practical insights. Only Tim could write a book which covers both climate modelling and quantum mechanics. It is wonderful to have him as a member of faculty here at Oxford.’

Professor Palmer's latest book, The Primacy of Doubt, is available now from Oxford University Press.