An external view of the Met Office building at night.

Rick Rawlins

Areas of expertise

  • Operational numerical weather prediction
  • Development of data assimilation methods
  • Validation and diagnostics for NWP
  • Software development for large applications
  • Use of observations in NWP
  • Atmosphere-ocean coupling

Publications by Rick

Current activities

Rick leads a project to combine atmosphere and ocean models into a coupled system with weakly-coupled data assimilation, to replace the current separate systems. Development requires new software connections to enable communication between models, including the adoption of many of the capabilities already created for climate modelling (without data assimilation), and ensuring that these work in an NWP context, where timely assimilation of observations is critical. This will remove the current assumption that sea-surface temperatures remain unchanged during an atmosphere model forecast, and hence allow for more accurate atmosphere-sea interactions, with improved forecasts.  

The focus of Rick's work is to organise project and team activities such that NWP coupled model development is aligned with parallel enhancements by atmosphere and science groups separately, and to ensure that the coupled model achieves its performance objectives. This entails continuing trialling of multiple configurations of the coupled model for comparison with uncoupled equivalents, and monitoring diverse metrics of the model performance. Continued efforts are required for evaluation, to check that upgrades developed in an uncoupled configuration remain viable in a coupled context. A key issue is to remain affordable within the operational schedule, requiring continuing attention to code and suite efficiency.

Career background

Rick began work on satellite radiation observations and cloud physics modelling in the 1970's at the Met Office, later leading a small team responsible for research into solar radiation at the earth's surface and the provision of data for commercial customers.

A spell of 2 years as a forecaster at a defence station was followed by work on cloud and radiation at the Met. Research Flight in Farnborough, becoming manager of the Atmospheric Radiation Research group in 1988.

In 1989, Rick moved into Numerical Weather Prediction, leading a team working on the development of the Unified Model in its earliest stages, becoming the first manager of the Unified Model on its operational implementation in 1991. The next challenge was to enable massively parallel software to exploit the new capabilities of supercomputers. Following his introduction of a new dynamical core into the Unified Model system, Rick moved into a new role in 2002, which included managing the implementation of 4D-Var in the operational global model. The role evolved into managing the introduction of all science upgrades for the global model into the operational suite, with particular emphasis on coordinating Parallel Suite activities from the research side of the Met. Office, but retaining particular personal emphasis on data assimilation aspects.

From 2015, Rick became Head of Data Assimilation and Ensembles, now assuming control of teams covering all aspects of data assimilation for NWP operational models, i.e. including development and monitoring of both global and regional (UK) configurations, as well as research teams contributing to further developments of NWP. This included a research group at Reading University alongside a number of international collaborations. The group also had responsibility for the core software of observation processing and data assimilation as incorporated both for operational systems and for research activities.

In 2017, now part-time, Rick moved to his current role of managing the coupled NWP global model implementation project.