Prof. Tapio Schneider – Our Distinguished PhD Visiting Scientist.


Every year PhD students from the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading welcome a distinguished scientist in the field of environmental sciences. Previous scientists include Richard Rotunno (UCAR), Isaac Held (GFDL) and Susan Solomon (NOAA). This year’s honoured visitor was Professor Tapio Schneider from the climate dynamics research group from California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the academic home of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Tapio is a well-known contributor to our understanding of global climate dynamics and it was a pleasure to welcome him to our department.

Prof. Tapio Schneider with some of the current PhD cohort.

Our visiting scientist programme in the department is an opportunity for PhD students to share and explain their research to an external visitor. It allows for PhD research to be looked at from a completely new perspective which will hopefully improve the PhD studies. In a typical PhD visiting scientist week, the visiting scientist meets students one to one, attends departmental research groups and presents work in departmental seminars.

Tapio Schneider presented two departmental seminars during his time with us titled How low clouds respond to warming: Observational, numerical and physical constraints and Model hierachies: From advancing climate dynamics to improving predictions. The latter of these seminars encouraged a discussion to rethink how we approach advancing our modelling capabilities. Tapio argued that the atmospheric modelling community had not fully engaged in the benefits that observations offer. He suggested that our goal should be a heirarchical system that integrates both observational data and models. We should look into creating “machine-learning” models, those which use observational data to improve our modelling capabilities through altering parameterisation schemes and radiative balance calculations at the top of the atmosphere (as two examples).

As already mentioned, the visiting scientist also meets with students one-to-one and it was highly beneficial for my own project to have a meeting with Tapio Schneider. We discussed papers released by himself alongside his former PhD student Tobias Bischoff (for example, The Equatorial Energy Balance, ITCZ position and Double-ITCZ bifurications) which concentrate on creating a diagnostic framework with which we can estimate the location and structure of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). We discussed conclusions reached from my own aquaplanet simulations and how they relate to the proposed diagnostic framework. Keep an eye on the blog for a post coming soon on the developments in my own PhD project, (titled, what determines the location and intensity of the ITCZ?).

To bring this blog post to a close I would like to thank Professor Tapio Schneider for his time, knowledge and wisdom that he shared with the PhD cohort whilst at Reading. Thank you also to those from the University of Reading who supported Tapio’s visit. Feedback from the PhD cohort is extremely positive and I would highly recommend a similar scheme for other scientific departments.

PhD social with the distinguished visitor.

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