Oral history of British science

Slingo, Julia (Part 5 of 6)

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  • Recording locations

    The British Library, London and Meteorological Office, Exeter

  • Interviewees

    Slingo, Julia, 1950- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 5: [2:54:16] Story of successful application for postdoctoral researcher in UK Universities Global Atmospheric Modelling Programme [UGAMP], Department of Meteorology [DM], University of Reading [UOR], UK, 1990 led by Brian Hoskins [BH]. Mentions work on tropical climate variability in UGAMP. Comments on members of UGAMP, UOR: Mike Blackburn [MB], John Thuburn, Glen Carver of UOC; contemporary focus of UGAMP on stratospheric chemistry/ozone depletion; own focus with MB on global climate system, using UGAMP GCM. [4:14] Description of differences between MO GCM and UGAMP GCM. Comments on relatively limited computing infrastructure, DM, UOR, including relatively simplistic ‘plotting packages’ for visualisation of model output. Mentions consultancy work at Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Inter-comparison [PCMDI] (funded by US Department of Energy), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [LLNL], California, US [1989-1994]. Description of work of PCMDI in comparing GCMs, precursor to element of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change); own work in PCMDI, including high resolution simulations of tropical climate. [12:24] Story of persuading BH to include UGAMP GCM in PCMDI, involving running UGAMP GCM on LLNL computer and later the Earth Simulator [ES], Japan. Comments on development of UGAMP to form NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) Centre for Global Atmospheric Modelling [CGAM], UOR, 1993. Mentions role of John Woods in developing coupled atmospheric-ocean modelling. [16:29] Comments on significant GCMs, early 1990s; relative success/sophistication of different GCMs. Description of method of comparing GCMs against observed reality. [20:46] Description of husband’s work at HC, including development of new ‘radiation scheme’. Comments on development of focus of own research on tropical weather in relation to GCMs. [23:20] Comments on nature/extent of daughters’ interest in own/husband’s work. Mentions home in Goring, Berkshire. Brief description of arrangements for working in school hours, UGAMP; division of domestic work between self and husband. [26:14] Brief description of NERC CGAM, basis of later NERC National Centre for Atmospheric Science. Mentions CGAM first Director, Alan O'Neill, 1993. Story of development of work of CGAM, including temporary use of ECMWF model, invitation to begin using HC GCM, mid1990s. [35:19] Detailed comments on process of transferring HC GCM from HC computers to CGAM computers, UOR. Detailed description/discussion of difficulties of (trans)porting GCM codes between computers, due to tendency for code to be written for particular computers, effect of different compilers on ‘bit reproducibility’ of code. [48:21] Comments on use of HC coupled atmosphere-ocean GCM [HADCM3], late 1990s. Mentions role of HADCM3 in IPCC Third Assessment Report [2001]. Comments on success of HADCM3; effect of using HADCM3 on research of NERC CGAM, UOR on natural climate variability. [54:04] Story of own experiments using HAD CM3 to investigate effect of ‘mean bias’ on representation of tropical climate variability, involving MJO and response of Indian Monsoon to El Nino forcing; further experiments on ‘mean bias’ using ES, Japan. [58:37] Description of process of ‘flux correction’ to perform experiments using HADCM3. [1:02:14] Comments on own contribution to IPCC. Story of tensions between HC and CGAM, UOR, including CGAM undertaking not to work on CC problem/avoid phrase ‘climate change’ in publications. [1:08:37] Discussion of role as reviewer in fourth IPCC assessment [2007]. [1:09:25] Comments on effect on view of life of deaths of father (1977)/mother (1978). Mentions death of husband. [1:13:16] Story of decision of self/husband not to move with the MO to Exeter [2003], including husband’s appointment as Professor, Environmental Systems Science Centre, UOR; formation of NERC National Centre for Atmospheric Science [NCAS],UOR, Directed by Alan Thorpe; own Directorship of CGAM (renamed ‘NCAS Climate Programme’ [NCAS CP]), 2002. Description of duties as NCAS CP Director, with related story of NERC review of CGAM, 11th September, 2002. [1:19:51] Comments on relations between CGAM/NCAS CP and HC; development of NCAS CP during own Directorship (2002-2008), including joint NCAS CP/HC project using ES, Japan and HIGEM (High Resolution Global Environmental Modelling) project. [1:24:39] Story of daughters’ education/careers. Comments on time spent together as a family. Mentions own piano playing/choir singing. [1:19:30] Description of the ES, Japan. Mentions David King/Lord Sainsbury. Comments on work involved in porting/optimising HADCM3 code to meet efficiency requirements of ES, Japan; positive effect on global climate modelling of higher resolution. [1:38:16] Description of process of adapting HADCM3 to achieve sufficient ‘scalability’ for ES, Japan. [1:44:12] Discussion of development of scalability in code for GCMs. [1:47:18] Comments on aim/achievement of HIGEM. [1:48:32] Comments on own management of other scientists; role of scientific leadership. [1:52:39] Story of invitation to apply for post of Chief Scientist [CS], MO, 2008; appointment as CS; decision to take up CS post after sudden death of/encouraged by husband; younger daughter’s development of audio/visual communication in MO. [1:57:24] Description of changes made to MO scientific research as CS, including development of ‘seamless science’ between research concerned with weather and climate, long term Strategy covering weather/climate/ ‘foundation’ science. [2:04:05] Comments on efforts to match resolution of GCMs and weather forecasting models, involving arguments for increasing computer power. Story of discussions with UK Transport Secretary concerning prediction of cold winters, including openness about need for higher resolution modelling before such predictions could be made. Detailed comments on focus, since fourth IPCC assessment and Stern Review, on preparedness for local/region effects of climate variability (human induced or otherwise); tendency for popular/political interest in prediction of high impact weather events, rather than global mean temperatures. [2:18:18] Comments on relative importance of computing power/human experience in prediction of these local/regional weather events. [2:20:40] Comments on effects of ‘climategate’ in prompting increasing transparency of MO science. Story of role in political response to volcanic ash cloud, 2011, involving assembly of committee of scientific experts, including Stephen Sparks, Sue Loughlin (British Geological Survey), use of MO aircraft. Description of changes in MO following volcanic ash cloud event. Further comments on role of scientific knowledge/observation in volcanic ash cloud event. [2:34:16] Brief comments on role as MO CS in ‘climategate’ and recent debates over effects of CC on Arctic ice, including evidence to UK Government Select Committees. [2:37:23]

  • Description

    Interview with meteorologist, Julia Slingo

  • Related transcripts

    Julia Slingo interviewed by Paul Merchant: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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