Professor Cathryn Birch

Professor Cathryn Birch


Cathryn is a Professor in Meteorology and Climate in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds. She has expertise in dynamical meteorology and high-resolution modelling of weather and climate. Cathryn works to better understand the causes of high impact weather to improve weather forecasts, flood forecasts and Early Warning System capability. She also provides expertise to scientists from the fields of hydrology, health and agriculture through climate-related projects. Prior to her academic position, Cathryn worked as a Senior Scientist at the Met Office and has continued to collaborate closely with them on a wide range of projects.


  • 2021: University of Leeds Queen’s Anniversary Prize, for Empowering tropical communities to face the challenges of extreme weather
  • 2020: Water Woman Award for Research Funding, Water@Leeds
  • 2019: Best PhD/Undergraduate Final Year Project Supervisor award, Faculty of Environment Partnership Awards
  • 2014: European Meteorological Society Young Scientist Award
  • 2013: L F Richardson Award
  • 2003: William Arthur Crabtree Scholarship

Research interests

Current projects

  • Humid heat extremes in the Global (Sub)Tropics (H2X), NERC Pushing the Frontiers (£1M)
  • Consultation on flood early warning systems, West Yorkshire Combined Authority via WY FLIP (£60k)
  • Developing an Open-source Software Application for Community Level Cholera Outbreak-Risk Prediction and Feedback through Early Warning Systems (CholOut-EWS), Wellcome Trust (£500k)
  • WCSSP SE Asia Systematic Analysis of real time forecasts (FORSEA), Newton Fund via Met Office (£1.3M)
  • Enhanced Surface Water Flood Forecasting (£342k) via the Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP), NERC (£5.9M)
  • Climate, heat and maternal and neonatal health in Africa (CHAMNHA), Belmont Forum (£500k)
  • TerraMaris: The Maritime Continent – Driver of the Global Climate System, NERC large grant (£3.7M)

Past projects

  • K-Scale – Towards km-scale global modelling, Met Office (£176k)
  • GCRF-Africap Climate Smart Agricultural Development, Global Challenges Research Fund (£9.2M)
  • GCRF-African-SWIFT, Global Challenges Research Fund (£8M)
  • WCSSP SE Asia Systematic Analysis of real time forecasts (FORSEA), Newton Fund via Met Office (£1.3M)
  • WCSSP India: Convective-scale regional coupled environmental prediction model evaluation and development (CASPER), Newton Fund via Met Office (£900k)
  • WCSSP SE Asia: Vertical structure of the Maritime Continent, Newton Fund via Met Office (£300k)
  • WCSSP SE Asia: Tropical Cyclones, Newton Fund via Met Office (£300k)large grant (£3.7M)
  • GENESIS of Deep Atmospheric Convection, NERC (£300k)
  • CSSP China: Convection-permitting simulations of East Asian climate, Newton Fund via Met Office (£300k)

Papers in review

  • Ward, N., D. P. Walker, R. J. Keane, J. H. Marsham, A. A. Scaife, C. E. Birch, B. Maybee: Predictability of the East Africa Long Rains through Congo zonal winds, Atmos. Sci. Lett.
  • Smith, J. A., C. E. Birch, J. Marsham, S. Peatman, M. Bollasina, G. Pankiewicz: Applying pySTEPS optical flow algorithms to improve nowcasting over the Maritime Continent, Nat. Haz. Earth Sys. Sci.
  • Maybee, B. C. E. Birch, S. J. Boeing, T, Willis, L. Speight, A. N. Porson, C. Pilling, K. L. Shelton, M. A. Trigg: FOREWARNS: Development and multifaceted verification of enhanced regional-scale surface water flood forecasts, Nat. Haz. Earth Sys. Sci.
  • Crook, J., F. Morris, R. G. J. Fitzpatrick, S. C. Peatman, T. H. Stein, C. E. Birch, S. Hardy, G-.Y. Yang: Impact of the MJO and equatorial waves on tracked mesoscale convective systems over Southeast Asia, Quart. J. Roy. Met. Soc.
  • Aslam, A., J. Schwendike, S. Peatman, C. E. Birch, M. Bollasina, P. Barrett: Mid-Level Dry Air Intrusions over the southern Maritime Continent, Quart. J. Roy. Meteorol. Soc.
  • Scorgie, F., A. Lusambili, S. Luchters, P. Khaemba, V. Filippi, B. Nakstad, J. Hess, C. Birch, S. Kovats, M. F. Chersich: “Mothers get really exhausted!” The lived experience of pregnancy in extreme heat: qualitative findings from Kilifi, Kenya, Social Science and Medicine.

Current group members

  • Simon Peatman: Postdoc in the TerraMaris project, 2018 - present.
  • Ben Maybee: iCASP Impact Translation Fellow in Enhanced Surface Water Flood Forecasting project, 2022 - present.
  • Molly Asher: Adaptation strategies to pluvial urban flood risk under UKCP18 climate change scenarios, PANORAMA NERC DTP, 2019 - present.
  • Joseph Smith: Development of Novel Rainfall Nowcasting Techniques for Southeast Asia, SENSE CDT, 2021 - present.
  • Ashar Aslam: Severe weather over Southeast Asia, SENSE CDT, 2021 - present.
  • Isaac Tan: Monsoon cold surges, based at Monash University, Australia, 2020 - present

Past group members

  • Hellen Msemo: Bridging the Gap between Numerical Forecast Evaluation and Value to Decision Makers in Climate Sensitive Sectors, GCRF funded, 2018 - 2022.
  • Emmanuel Likoya: Agricultural Water Modelling Under Different Future Climates and Irrigation Intervention Appraisals for Building Resilience in Malawian Food Productions Systems, GCRF funded, 2018 – 2022.
  • Sarah Chapman: Climate Science Postdoc in GCRF-Africap and CHAMNHA projects, 2018 - 2022.
  • Dean Walker: Seasonal Forecasts of East African rainfall, NERC Industrial CASE award, 2016-2020.
  • Beth Woodhams: Severe Weather over East Africa, NERC DTP Studentship and Convective-scale ensemble forecasting Postdoc in GCRF-Africa SWIFT project, 2015 - 2021.


  • Scientific Steering Group member for the Met Office K-scale project
  • Executive Management Group member for the Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP)
  • Steering committee member for the Centre for Excellence for Modelling the Atmosphere and Climate (CEMAC)
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • PhD, Atmospheric Science, University of Leeds
  • BSc, Environmental Science, University of Leeds
  • Mountain Leader, National Mountain Training Association

Professional memberships

  • Associate Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society

Student education

Teaching responsibilities

  • Co-lead of MRes Climate and Atmospheric Science programme
  • Module leader of Data Analysis and Visualisation (computer programming in Python)
  • Climate science teaching in Global Development module within MSc Climate Futures
  • Undergraduate and post-graduate project supervision
  • Personal tutoring for MRes Climate and Atmospheric Science

Examples of past undergraduate and taught postgraduate projects

  • The effects of the lake-land breeze on convective storms over Lake Victoria
  • Impact of Nepalese cold waves
  • Atmospheric drivers of Indonesian coffee yields
  • Characterising the structure of the East Asian monsoon
  • Rare hailstorms over Singapore
  • The urban heat island effect in Chinese cities

Possible future undergraduate and taught postgraduate projects

  • Quantifying the drivers of humid heat extremes using in-situ surface flux and weather station observations
  • Future changes in African heat extremes in CMIP6 and convective-scale climate models
  • Developing a humid heat extreme Early Warning System
  • Assessment of the current capability for issuing Early Warning Systems in various countries around the world
  • Case study of the 17-19th July 2022 UK heatwave: either meteorologically, or society's response
  • Creating an evidence base for the impacts of surface water flooding in the UK
  • Applying machine learning techniques to climate and weather science problems
  • Climate Monitoring using a 10-year observational dataset around the base of two glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park
  • Use UKClimbing website user logs of winter climbing route ascents to investigate the link between in-condition routes (i.e. routes that have sufficient build-up of ice to climb) and weather conditions
  • Analysis of weather stations on Mt Everest and/or weather forecast evaluation for the region (data from National Geographic)

Research groups and institutes

  • Atmospheric and Cloud Dynamics
  • water@leeds
  • Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science
  • Met Office Academic Partnership