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Climate centre boosted by new professorial appointments

Press release

Three new high-level appointments are set to consolidate the reputation for world-leading climate research at the University of Leeds and open new routes to policymakers.

The Priestley International Centre for Climate welcomes Dr Jason Lowe, Head of Climate Services at the Met Office Hadley Centre, as the first Priestley Chair. Dr Lowe, who is also Deputy Director of the Hadley Centre, will take up his professorial role on a part time basis on 10 March.

Jason Lowe will be joined in August by two full time Priestley Chairs, Dr Lea Berrang Ford and Dr James D Ford, both of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Lea Berrang Ford brings expertise in climate change and health while James Ford specialises in adaptation to climate change and its impact on vulnerable communities.

The three new professorial signings are the first dedicated senior academic leads to be recruited by the Centre, which opened formally in June 2016. The Chairs will inspire and steer new interdisciplinary collaborations to produce novel research that will underpin robust and timely solutions to climate change.

Professor Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, said: “Jason, Lea and James are three great appointments for the Priestley Centre. They fill important research gaps in our portfolio and bring a wealth of experience that will help cement our reputation for unbeatable climate research.  We are queuing up to work with them on building practical solutions to climate change, so their arrival can’t happen soon enough.”

For Jason Lowe, joining the world-leading team at Leeds means wider opportunities to explore interactions between the physical climate system and other aspects, such as energy systems, climate impacts and human behaviour – and, as importantly, to translate that research into policy.

“I hope to bring my broad experience across climate science, and my systems view. This will allow me to look at a wider range of climate issues and adapt techniques from one area of science to new questions. My knowledge of how climate information is received and used in policy will help provide focus on the most important questions and ensure the information is used most effectively.”

An example of this is Dr Lowe’s work for the Hadley Centre on uncertainty in extreme sea-level rise, which was used to assess future upgrades for the Thames Barrier.

A Met Office Fellow, Jason Lowe’s work on multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary science includes leading the AVOID1 and 2 projects for DECC (now BEIS), both of which provided a major boost to the evidence base used by UK Government in international climate negotiations. He continues to perform and publish widely in climate science and is lead scientist on the project to update the UK’s climate projections for Defra, called UKCP18.

Canadian recruits

Also taking up professorships at the Priestley International Centre for Climate are Dr Lea Berrang Ford (Chair in Climate and Health) and Dr James Ford (Chair in Climate Adaptation), who join the team in August. Like Jason Lowe, they specialise in working at the interface of science and policy, which is central to the Priestley Centre’s commitment to working at “policymakers’ speed”.

Dr Berrang Ford brings expertise in climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation related to public and global health. She is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair at McGill University and has worked previously for the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Climate and Health unit as well as with national institutions on planning and priorities for public health adaptation for the US and the UK.

An epidemiologist, Lea Berrang Ford is co-editor of the book “Adaptation in Developed Nations: from Theory to Practice,” and her research on climate change adaptation is widely cited in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report.

“The UK is a leader in climate research, and in climate and health research, but integrating expertise in climate science with public health and the social sciences remains a global grand challenge and important research gap for climate change adaptation research,” Dr Berrang Ford said.

“Planning for adaptation will require an understanding of how we can adjust existing health and social systems to be more climate-resilient. That means understanding how health and social systems interact with climate and weather. We know surprisingly little about those interactions. That will be one of my key areas of focus at Leeds.”

Dr James Ford is currently an Associate Professor and CIHR Chair in the Department of Geography at McGill University, where he leads the Climate Change Adaptation Research Group. His work focusses on understanding what makes Indigenous communities vulnerable or resilient to climate change and has a strong Arctic focus.

Dr Ford’s work also evaluates adaptation policy at regional to global levels, including tracking adaptation progress, linking with the stocktaking process through the UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change. He is a lead author on national and international climate change assessments, including the Arctic Council’s Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic, and is also a lead author for the upcoming IPCC Special Report on 1.5C of warming.

“A lot of my work takes places in Indigenous communities, with specific emphasis on the Arctic, while my adaptation tracking work is global in scope,” Dr Ford said. “These are both areas where there is significant potential for leadership at the University of Leeds and the UK more generally, and I will be seeking develop an internationally known hub for such work at the Priestly Centre.

“The Priestley Centre offers an excellent opportunity to build interdisciplinary collaborations across campus and beyond to address some of the most pressing issues facing society, and for bringing cutting edge research to undergraduate and post-graduate students.”

On a personal note, he added: “We are excited to move back to the UK. Having been born in the north, I have always appreciated the beautiful landscapes and the outdoors, and in anticipation of the move back I am dusting off my mountain bike and Ordnance Survey maps!”

For interviews, contact Kate Lock, Communications Officer, Priestley International Centre for Climate

email  tel +44 (0) 113 343 9767


Further information

The Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds brings together world leading expertise in all of the key strands of climate change research. As well as forging new international partnerships, the Priestley Centre’s focus is on interdisciplinary research that better links our physical, technological, economic and social understanding of climate change with strategies for mitigation and adaptation. The Priestley International Centre for Climate is the University’s flagship strategic investments in response to the global challenge of climate change, with £7m invested over five years. The director is Piers Forster, Professor of Physical Climate Change in the School of Earth and Environment. @priestleycentre #climateleeds

Climate research at the University of Leeds:

·         Leeds is the top UK university for impact of its environmental research and eighth in the world (THE, 24.11.16)

·         Ranked first in the UK for the power of its world leading environmental science research (REF 2014)

·         Over 150 experts working on climate and related research

·         Over £100m in research income between 2010 and 2015

·         Leeds had five authors contribute to the most recent IPCC report (2014) and 40 papers published in Nature and Science 2010- 2015

·         Is a key partner in the development of our national climate modelling capability, making use of extensive local and national high performance computing resources

·         Leeds has unique laboratories researching fundamental processes in the Earth’s atmosphere, transport simulation, engineering and air quality.

·         Partnerships include National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) (hosted by Leeds); ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) (run by Leeds and London School of Economics); Met Office; UK Energy Research Centre and the Center for International Climate Research – Oslo.


Dr Jason Lowe – further information:


Dr Lea Berrang Ford – further information:


Dr James Ford – further information: