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Tim Osborn to take over leadership of CRU

Prof Timothy Osborn has been announced as the next Research Director of the Climatic Research Unit, UEA’s world-leading climate research centre.

Prof Osborn will take over the role from distinguished climatologist Prof Phil Jones, who is stepping down after 18 years leading the centre.

Established in 1972, the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences is widely recognised as one of the world's leading institutions concerned with the study of natural and anthropogenic climate change. CRU was first led by Prof Hubert Lamb, who helped to establish the study of climate change as a serious research area.

Prof Osborn will succeed Prof Jones from January 2017. Prof Osborn has worked at UEA since 1990 and his research focuses on identifying variations in climate and understanding their causes in terms of natural and anthropogenic climate processes, providing the basis for projecting possible future climate change. 

He said: “UEA provides a superb environment for climate research and so it is a privilege for me to become the Climatic Research Unit’s next Director of Research. I’m looking forward to leading our pioneering climate research, establishing with greater certainty the details of how and why the Earth’s climate is changing and the consequences for the future. Climate research at UEA continues to play a vital role in the global scientific endeavour to more fully understand climate change and humanity’s response to it.”

Prof Osborn was a Research Associate in CRU for five years while studying part-time for his PhD, under the supervision of CRU’s second director, Prof Tom Wigley. He then began working with Prof Jones and other colleagues on the HadCRUT global temperature record and on the changing occurrence of extreme rainfall, research that helped earn him the Royal Meteorological Society Hugh Robert Mill Medal in 2002.

Prof Osborn was a Lead Author of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and has authored or co-authored more than 100 papers. He was appointed as Professor of Climate Science in 2014 and continues to lead research while also teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Outgoing CRU research director Prof Jones is one of the most highly cited scientists in the world and his work has featured prominently in all of the IPCC’s assessment reports. With more than 400 research papers over 35 years, Prof Jones has spent his career at UEA working across the field of climate, including detection and attribution of climate change, climate extremes and weather generators. He is perhaps best known for his work on monitoring the global temperature of the Earth.

Prof Jones has been recognised with a number of awards: the first Hans Oeschger Medal from the European Geophysical Society in 2002, two prizes from the Royal Meteorological Society (1994 and 2002), fellowships of the American Meteorological Society (2007) and the American Geophysical Union (2010), and two honorary degrees (from the University of Rovira I Virgili in Tarragona in 2012 and the University of Stockholm in 2016).

Prof Jones said: “Research in climate change has come on in leaps and bounds during my career. When I joined CRU in 1976, research in the subject was just beginning, but today it is an essential consideration for any future planning. It is good to know that the leadership of CRU is in excellent hands. I am not leaving UEA, but will continue my research on a part-time basis.”

He will step down from the role of Research Director at the end of 2016, but will be a Professorial Fellow at UEA from 2017.

Prof Sir Robert Watson, Director of Strategic Development for the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia and former chair of the IPCC said: “The University of East Anglia and its Climatic Research Unit (CRU) have an excellent new director in Tim Osborn whom will continue the renowned work of Phil Jones.  Tim is an outstanding climate scientist, in particular his research on climatic extremes, and will provide the leadership that CRU requires to remain a world leader.”

UEA is making a further investment in climate research with recruitment at a senior level. In early 2017, the School of Environmental Sciences will be seeking an outstanding climate scientist to appoint at a professorial level to the Climatic Research Unit.

Image: Phil Jones (left) and Tim Osborn (right)