Japan Prize awarded to weather scientist Professor Sir Brian Hoskins

In recent years we have all benefitted from improved weather forecasting and although it does not prevent the damage caused, it does help people to be more prepared and in many cases saves lives as people are evacuated to safer ground.

One of Britain’s leading climate scientists, Sir Brian Hoskins has been honoured with the prestigious international prize for science, the Japan Prize for the establishment of a scientific foundation for research into the prediction of extreme weather.

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Emeritus Professor of Meteorology at the University of Reading, and co-chair of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, has been co-awarded the Japan Prize in the fields of Resources, Energy, the Environment, and Social Infrastructure with his friend and colleague, Professor Mike Wallace from the University of Washington, USA. The Prize will be awarded at a Ceremony in Tokyo in the presence of the Emperor and Empress of Japan on 16 April.

Sir Brian, who has been a member of the University of Reading since 1971, was recognised for his contribution to research leading to the establishment of a scientific framework for the understanding and prediction of extreme weather events.

He said: “I am delighted and very honoured to be awarded the Japan Prize. It is an honour that I should like to share with my family (who have loved and supported me and kept my feet on the ground!). I would also like to share this honour with my collaborators and students, and with the University of Reading and its Meteorology department in which nearly all my research has been performed.

“When I started my research in weather and climate more than 50 years ago, it was a time of amazing opportunity. There was a wealth of experience of atmospheric behaviour. Computers and the science of the atmosphere were at the stage that we could develop and use computer models like laboratory models to try to bridge the large gap between the existing theory and observed weather systems and observed planetary scale atmospheric motion.

“There were hints that increased skill in weather forecasting on short and longer time scales may be possible. Also, the idea that there could be significant climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions by human activity was starting to be more widely considered in the climate science community.

“I have always viewed it as very important to try to use the insights of basic research to aid in the development of weather forecasting and climate projection. The remarkable progress made in both aspects is particularly important at a time when the challenge of human-induced climate change and the associated extreme weather are centre stage.”

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, was knighted in 2007 for services to the environment. In September 2022, the University of Reading’s Meteorology building was renamed the Brian Hoskins building in honour of Sir Brian, where he has previously served as the Head of the Department of Meteorology.

A mathematician by training, his research has focused on understanding atmospheric motion from the scale of weather fronts to that of the Earth.

His research spans many areas of meteorology, but he is best best known for his work on understanding the behaviour of middle latitude weather systems, and on the way in which the occurrence of unusual weather in one region can be communicated to other regions, influencing the weather there, the mathematical theory of extratropical cyclones and how weather fronts are produced. His research spans many areas of meteorology, including the Indian monsoon and global warming, and he was a contributor to the Stern Review and the influential UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which itself was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, shared with former US Vice President, Al Gore.

Professor Hoskins has held prominent roles in many significant institutions, including the Royal Meteorological Society, the World Climate Research Programme, the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and as an independent advisor to the Climate Change Committee that advises the UK government on climate science and policy and monitors the UK performance.

Sir Brian lives with his wife Jackie in Pangbourne who are active members of PAWS (Pangbourne and Whitchurch Sustainability) and set a good example of sustainable living and participate in community activities such as helping with the plastic free fete and litter picking. As an educator, Brian has shared his knowledge of climate change issues at many local events, encouraging young and old to become more resilient in the face of the inevitable changes brought by global warming.

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