Present and past members of the African climate group at Oxford University.

Professor Richard Washington

Richard leads the African climate research group.

He is Professor of Climate Science at the University of Oxford and has taught previously at three African universities. He is the Principal Investigator of the Fennec and DO4Models projects and is lead of the climate science component of the UMFULA and Reach project. He leads the model evaluation workpackage of IMPALA and the ground-based instrumentation in the CLARIFY project. BoDEx is his all-time favourite project.

He teaches climate science to first year, second year and third year undergraduates at Oxford and teaches on the Water MSc and the doctoral training programme. The African climate research group typically consists of 10 researchers.

Dr Sebastian Engelstaedter

Sebastian Engelstaedter is a trained geologist with a Diplom (equivalent to Masters) degree from the Friedrich-Schiller University Jena (Germany). He did a D.Phil. at the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford studying atmospheric processes that control the emission and transport of desert dust. His research combines the analysis of ground-based, airborne and remotely sensed observations and numerical model simulations on regional to global scales. Sebastian has been involved in various projects over the last decade including DIRTMAP (Dust Indicators and Records of Terrestrial and Marine Palaeoenvironments), BoDEx (Bodele Dust Experiment), AMMA (African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses), Fennec – The Saharan Climate System, DO4Models (Dust Observations for Models) and CLARIFY (CLouds and Aerosol Radiative Impacts and Forcing). At  the School of Geography and the Environment he teaches courses on climate computing and the analysis of large datasets.


Dr Ian Ashpole

Ian is a postdoctoral researcher on the Fennec climate project, working with Professor Richard Washington. He completed his DPhil in summer 2013, which focussed on identifying and explaining spatial and temporal variability in the distribution of Saharan dust. He has a BA (Hons) in Geography from the University of Oxford (completed in 2008), with special subjects in Climate Dynamics and Dryland Environments. Prior to starting his DPhil, he undertook a research placement at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) where he worked with Dr Simon Dadson.

Dr Rachel James

Rachel’s research addresses change in African climate systems. She is interested in how anthropogenic forcing might be influencing precipitation in the present day, and how regional climate systems might change in future. Such information could be highly valuable for adaptation planning, however large and poorly understood uncertainties associated with climate model results make them difficult for decision makers to utilise. Rachel is interested in improving the usefulness of climate model experiments through process-based assessment to inform confidence assessments. She is currently working to develop a suite of metrics for model evaluation, targeting processes relevant to African climate, as part of the NERC/DFID funded IMPALA project.

Dr Neil Hart

Neil Hart focuses on understanding weather and climate variability and predictability, with a curiosity about interactions between processes across spatio-temporal scales. He joined the School of Geography in November 2015 as a researcher in African climate science on the UMFULA project.

His PhD research, completed at the University of Cape Town in 2012, investigated the role of tropical-extratropical cloud bands in southern African summer rainfall variability. This work included contributions to the dynamical understanding of tropical-extratropical interactions over southern Africa, and mechanisms by which the frequency and intensity of these events can be modified by large-scale modes of variability.

Neil then spent three years working on the dynamics, predictability and climatology of sting jet wind storms, which form within intense extratropical cyclones. This was done in the mesoscale meteorology research group in the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading. During this time he developed strong interests in mesoscale processes operating in a range of environments including extratropical cyclones and mesoscale convection.

On UMFULA Neil has thus far focused on the structure of convection over central Africa and the wave dynamics associated with tropical-temperate cloud bands over southern Africa.


Dr Ellen Dyer

Ellen is the climate scientist on the Reach programme. Her doctorate featured work on the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Earth System Model (CESM) and involved using water tracers to establish sources of water vapour to the central African convective system.

Dr Babatunde Abiodun, Dr Joseph Mutemi and Dr Wilfried Pokam

are all working on the IMPALA project through the University of Oxford. Babatunde holds a post at Univ of Cape Town, Joseph at the Univ of Nairobi and Wilfried at the Univ of Yaounde.


Dr Karsten Haustein

Karsten worked on the NERC-funded project DO4Models (Dust Observations for Models) with Prof Richard Washington. He participated in the development and validation of model mineral dust emission schemes, which was also the subject of his PhD thesis (Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Spain). Karsten holds a MSc degree in Meteorology (University of Leipzig, Germany).

Boipelo Tshwene-Mauchaza

Boipelo is a doctorate candidate, researching on biodiversity and climate change. The study aims at designing intervention strategies and policy that will enhance optimal management of ecosystems within protected areas under changing climatic conditions, including increasing resilience and adaptability. The case study is of Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Botswana). Boi holds an MSc in Environment and Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Recently, she has developed academic and practitioner interests in application of  Climate Change Modelling and Species Distribution Modelling for natural resources conservation & management, adaptation, persistence  and resilience to changing climate, for purposes of informing policy formulation.


Amy Creese

Amy is a second year DPhil student in the climate research lab investigating the climatology of the Congo basin using numerical model products. She graduated from the University of Oxford with a BA in Geography (First Class) in 2014, specialising in physical geography, with a particular focus on contemporary climate change and variability. Her 12,000 word dissertation, entitled “Congo Rainfall in Coupled Climate Models: Links to water vapour transport”, investigated climate model performance across a suite of CMIP5 models in central Africa. In 2014, Amy completed a summer internship as a researcher in the University of Oxford’s Centre for the Environment, with funding from the Met Office Academic Partnership. She conducted a more thorough investigation of the fidelity of global climate models in central Africa, with a particular focus on the representation of moisture convergence in individual models. She has recently been awarded a Met Office CASE Studentship, and will conduct some of her research in collaboration with the Met Office. As of 2015, Amy is the Meteorological Observer at the Radcliffe Meteorological Station in Oxford, which has the longest daily temperature and rainfall records in the UK.

Callum Munday

Callum graduated with a first class degree in Geography from the University of Oxford in 2014. In the latter two years of his degree, he specialised in issues surrounding climate change. This included the understanding and modelling of the climate system as well as the impacts of and adaptation to climate change. This interest in the climate system is reflected in his final year dissertation entitled ‘The external controls on southern African precipitation biases in the CMIP5 ensemble’. During the course of his degree, he also completed a module in desert landscape dynamics, and is especially interested in the interaction between desert dust and the climate system on a number of timescales.

In the summer following his graduation, Callum completed a research internship with the Met Office Academic Partnership (MOAP) which built on the findings from his dissertation. In particular, he investigated the role of moisture transport into southern Africa and subsequent convergence in the continental interior in differentiating between model simulations of precipitation across a range of CMIP5 models.

In 2015, Callum took  up a joint post as Radcliffe Meteorological Observer at the Oxford Radcliffe Meteorological Station, run by the School of Geography and Environment (SoGE). Follow twitter updates from the weather station @RMO_Oxford.

In his DPhil project, Callum will continue his research on model representation of the southern African climate system using a range of climate models and observational datasets. He hopes that his research will be of instrumental value to climate modellers and policy makers in the region.

Josie Mahoney

Josie is in the first year of her DPhil as part of the NERC funded DTP programme. She is studying climate-ecology links in East Africa.


Thomas Caton-Harrison

Thomas is  a new doctoral student who is continuing the Fennec related work on mineral aerosol production in the central Sahara. He is working with SEVIRI satellite data to define dust events and mechanisms.


David Crowhurst

David has recently started his doctorate under the NERC DTP programme. He is working on land-surface fluxes as represented by coupled climate models in central Africa. The work is aligned with the NERC UMFULA project.


James King

James is a new doctoral student on the NERC DTP. He is working on the East African climate system.


Past members

Dr Said Al Sarmi

Said did his DPhil at Oxford on the mechanisms of Oman / Arabia climate variability. He now works for the Oman Met Service.

Dr Christopher Allen

Chris’s doctorate focused on understanding the wind mechanisms that cause dust storms in the Sahara. It was undertaken as part of the Fennec project and used new ground-based observations, satellite retrieval and dynamical models. Chris developed the African Climate Oxford website. He now works at Risk Management Solutions.

Dr Matt Hawcroft

Matt worked in Oxford on the CCAFS project before doing a PhD in the Department of Meteorology at Reading University on latent heat release in extratropical cyclones. He now works on the IMPALA project.

Dr Gillian Kay

Gillian’s DPhil examined how climate models simulate variability and change in southern African rainfall. She now works at the Met Office, on regional impacts of climate and land-use changes, feedbacks between the two, and interaction with ecosystem health.

Dr James King

James is now Assistant Professor of Geomorphology at Montreal University. While at Oxford he was a researcher on the DO4 Models project, focusing on field measurements of dust emission and surface geomorphic processes.

Dr Helen Pearce

Helen did her DPhil on climate change in East Africa, under the supervision of Richard Washington. She now works for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Dr Anthony Preston

Anthony pioneered work on non-ENSO controls on southern African rainfall. His work featured several intriguing idealised experiments with the Unified model.