CESER Academic Hayley Fowler awarded prestigious Wolfson Merit Award @nclceser @nclceser @UniofNewcastle @HayleyJFowler

ncegweb_264580Professor Hayley Fowler, Professor of Climate Change Impacts in CESER, has been awarded a highly prestigious Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award to support her research programme on “Understanding climate change impacts on hydrological extremes.”

Hayley works on interdisciplinary research within the earth system sciences, at the interface between climatology and hydrology. Her  research  aims  to  further  the understanding  of  the  role  of  climate  variability  and  global warming  on  the  occurrence  of  extreme  weather  events,  and  the  societal  impacts. She combines observational, modelling, statistical and theoretical approaches to examine the potential impacts of climate change on heavy rainfall, flood and water resource drought risks. Her work  ranges  from  interpreting  and  understanding  recent  and  historical  changes  and predictions  of  future  changes  in  extremes,  to  using  this  understanding  to  develop  new  downscaling methods  from  climate  models  that  can  be  used  in  climate  change  impact  studies.  Examples of her work include http://www.ncl.ac.uk/sustainability/news/item/heavier-summer-downpours-with-climate-change-copy

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, since its foundation in 1660, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Wolfson Research Merit Scheme aims to help universities retain respected UK scientists of outstanding achievement and potential.

CESER researcher Steve Birkinshaw breaks the 214 peaks challenge record!!! @nclceser @UniofNewcastle #jossnaylor #fellrunning

ncegweb_264540A Cumbrian fell runner has set a new record for tackling all of Alfred Wainwright’s 214 peaks in the Lake District.

Steve Birkinshaw broke the record set by Joss Naylor in 1987,  who completed the challenge in seven days, one hour and 25 minutes. Mr Birkinshaw, 45, ran 320 miles (515km) and ascended 36,000m (118,000ft) in six days and 13 hours. The challenge raised more than £12,000 for two Multiple Sclerosis charities.

Mr Birkinshaw’s sister has the disease and he will be  donation to both the national MS Society and a local charity, the Samson  Centre.

He said: “It’s all a bit overwhelming to be honest. Joss  Naylor is an incredible athlete, so to have beaten his record is an  amazing feeling. There were some really tough times out there, but I was  spurred on every time I reached a Wainwright top and met someone else  who had made the effort to come out and support me.”Threlkeld-based Mr Birkinshaw, who works as a research  associate at Newcastle University, got under way in Keswick on Saturday  14 June at 09:00 BST and finished back in the town on Friday at 22:00  BST. He ran the equivalent of two marathons each day and a GPS tracker recorded his movements.

The 214 fells (hills and mountains) were described in Wainwright’s seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells (1955-66).

More can be found in Steve’s blog: https://stevebirkinshaw-wainwright2014.blogspot.com

Steve was raising money for two MS charities:



Newcastle City Dashboard launched

dashboard2-iconsWe are pleased to announce the beta release of the Science Central Urban Observatory Newcastle City Dashboard, mixing real-time sensor feeds from the Urban Observatory platform, public and social media feeds.  As always this is a work in progress so expect to see some more data streams soon.


The dashboard was developed by Massimo Strano, Neil Harris & Phil James and funded through an EPSRC grant to prototype a Long Term Urban Research Facility (LTURF) held by CESER director Richard Dawson.  The work is also being supported by the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ceg/)

The Urban Observatory now contains over 7 million observations and another 100 sensors are being deployed over the next few weeks.  In the next two years through the Univesrity’s Science Central programme, we have c. £500k to invest in sensor related infrastructure and hope to incorporate many existing, external sensor feeds within the observatory umbrella.

Greening Wingrove project: “When Water Engineers Meet Gardeners”

Claire Walsh and Mark Powell are currently working with the Big Lottery funded, Greening Wingrove community partnership project.  This was established to encourage the people of Wingrove Ward (Newcastle) to ‘green’ their local area and explore more sustainable ways of living.

While much of Claire and Mark’s work has centred on exploring ways to evaluate the project’s success, they have also helped organise workshops that showcase CEG research, especially around flooding. The most recent workshop took place on Wednesday evening of last week, when CEG PhD student Eleanor Starkey presented at a local community event entitled, ‘When Water Engineers Meet Gardeners.’

This workshop was designed to showcase civil engineering approaches to managing urban flood risk and using models, illustrate the potential impact of extreme flood events on both the local Wingrove area and Newcastle City more generally. Eleanor revealed that while Wingrove is not an area particularly badly affected by floods, water runoff from this part of the city significantly impacts on other areas. Eleanor presented a reconstruction of the 2012 ‘Toon Monsoon’ and introduced the concept of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) and their possible multiple benefits. These measures not only slow down the speed of storm water runoff, which benefit the city as a whole, but also provide local householders with a water supply for use in the garden.

While encouraging individual households to keep a single water butt might appear to offer only minor benefits for larger flood management strategies, this might also encourage a more general interest in gardening and a cultural shift in how individuals choose to engage with their environment.

However, many Wingrove residents live in terraced properties with concrete yards, and therefore have limited access to land suitable for planting and growing.  One challenge for the Greening Wingrove Project is to encourage residents living in these areas to also take up the greening philosophy.  In an effort to identify new planting opportunities, Mark Ridsdill Smith has been running a series of project workshops on how to grow using containers and window boxes.  According to Mark, who writes a column in The Guardian on ‘Vertical Veg,’ a major problem for container growers is securing a reliable water supply. Installing a water butt for gardening use not only reduces costs it also makes for a much speedier watering operation. During the workshop, Mark demonstrated how to build different forms of water reservoir and irrigation systems, all fed from a water butt connected to domestic guttering down-pipe


Eleanor and Mark Ridsdill-Smiths’ presentations revealed how installing a water butt in Wingrove has the potential to provide a range of interdependent benefits.  The water butt not only forms part of a Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), it also offers a ready-made solution to the problem of container growing.  By encouraging local people to cultivate plants and enjoy the greening of previously concrete yards, the Wingrove Project seeks to generate new environmental perceptions and engagements that will have citywide benefits. To find out more about the Greening Wingrove project visit http://greeningwingrove.org.uk/ 

Summer #flooding happens so fast… and will be more frequent according to @nclceser @UniofNewcastle

Extreme summer rainfall may become more frequent in the UK due to climate change, according to new research led by Newcastle University and the Met Office.

The new study, from the joint Met Office and NERC funded CONVEX project which is led by CESER academic Professor Hayley Fowler, uses a state-of-the-art climate model providing the first evidence that hourly summer rainfall rates could increase.

While summers are expected to become drier overall by 2100, intense rainfall indicative of serious flash flooding could become several times more frequent.

The results from the study, published in Nature Climate Change, are the first step towards building a more complete picture of how UK rainfall may change as our climate warms.

Prof Hayley Fowler, from Newcastle University’s School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, said: “We need to understand about possible changes to summer and winter rainfall so we can make informed decisions about how to manage these very different flooding risks in the future.

“The changes we have found are consistent with increases we would expect in extreme rainfall with increasing temperatures and will mean more flash floods.

Dr Lizzie Kendon, lead author of the research at the Met Office, said: “Until now, climate models haven’t been able to simulate how extreme hourly rainfall might change in future. The very high resolution model used in this study allows us to examine these changes for the first time.

“It shows heavier summer downpours in the future, with almost five times more events exceeding 28mm in one hour in the future than in the current climate – changes we might expect theoretically as the world warms. However, we need to be careful as the result is only based on one model – so we need to wait for other centres to run similarly detailed simulations to see whether their results support these findings.”

As the atmosphere warms it can hold more moisture and this is expected to intensify rainfall. However, research is needed to understand what this might mean for extremes and how this might affect the UK.

In winter it is the daily or multi-day rainfall totals that are important, because we tend to get steady, long-lasting periods of rain from large scale weather systems – similar to those seen during the winter floods of 2013/14.

Climate models, which generally work at coarse resolutions, have been able to accurately simulate winter rainfall and have suggested generally wetter winters with the potential for higher daily rainfall rates in the future.

In summer, however, it is the hourly rates that are more important as rain tends to fall in short but intense bursts – as seen during the Boscastle flooding of 2004 and ‘Toon Flood’, otherwise known as Thunder Thursday, in Newcastle in 2012. Climate models have so far lacked the resolution to accurately simulate the smaller-scale convective storms which cause this type of rain.

To deal with this issue, this study uses a climate model with a higher resolution than ever used before to examine future rainfall change –  using 1.5km grid boxes instead of the usual 12km or larger – the same as the Met Office weather forecast model. This model gives a realistic representation of hourly rainfall, allowing us to make future projections with some confidence.

It was so computer intensive that only the southern half of the UK could be studied and even then it took the Met Office supercomputer – one of the most powerful in the world – about nine months to run the simulations.

These simulations looked at two 13-year periods, one based on current climate and one based on expected climate around 2100.

Professor Fowler adds: “The next steps are to see if these changes are consistent with observed trends in summer rainfall extremes and changes projected by climate models in other parts of the world. We will be looking at this over the next five years, jointly with the Met Office and other leading international scientists in the European Research Council funded INTENSE project.”


Read more: “Heavier summer downpours with climate change revealed by weather forecast resolution model.”  Elizabeth J. Kendon, Nigel M. Roberts, Hayley J. Fowler, Malcolm J. Roberts, Steven C. Chan, Catherine A. Senior.  Nature Climate Change. 2014.