Geography and Environment


Professor Rob Wilby B.Sc., Ph.D. (Loughborough)

Photo of Professor Rob Wilby

Professor of Hydroclimatic Modelling

Academic career:

2011 – 2013: Associate Dean for Research, School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences
2010 –: Honorary Professor, Federation University, Australia
2008 –: Professor of Hydroclimatic Modelling, Loughborough University
2004 – 2008: Honorary Professor in Physical Geography, Lancaster University
2001 – 2002: Lecturer and Reader in Physical Geography, King’s College London
1997 – 1999: Seconded to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, US
1996: Visiting Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, US
1993 – 2001: Senior Lecturer, then Reader in Physical Geography, University of Derby
1992: Post-Doctoral Research Fellow of the National Rivers Authority, Loughborough University

Professional responsibilities:

2010 – 2014: External Examiner MSc, University of Oxford
2009 – 2014: External Examiner MSc, University of Ireland Maynooth, Ireland
2008 – : Chair of EDF/British Energy Climate Change Working Group
2007 – 2010: External Examiner MSc, Newcastle
2007: Independent Climate Change Science Advisor, Nottingham
2007 – : Editorial Board International Journal of Climatology
2005 – 2010: Associate Editor Hydrological Sciences Journal
2003 – 2007: Climate Change Science Manager, Environment Agency of England and Wales
1997 – : Review Editor Climate Research
1990: Assistant Water Quality Information Officer, Severn Trent Water, Derby

My research is about the management of freshwater environments under climate variability and change. This includes reconstruction of drought and flood indices to assess the severity of recent extreme events ( or detailed monitoring of river temperatures for ecological purposes ( Time spent in the water industry, government, and consultancy has given me a very practical and pragmatic approach to this work.

Following secondments to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado I co-developed the Statistical DownScaling Model (SDSM). This freely available climate scenario tool has underpinned many climate change impact assessments including for water supplies, flood risk (fluvial and tidal surge), air quality and urban heat island intensity in countries as varied as Canada, China, Morocco, Tajikistan and Yemen.

My latest research is exploring smarter approaches to climate risk assessment and decision making under deep uncertainty about the future climate. This shifts the focus onto better understanding then managing the climate vulnerability of human and natural systems. Ongoing projects include seasonal river flow forecasting for hydropower plants in Central Asia, modelling urban water and sanitation hazards in East Africa, and strategies for keeping rivers cool in the UK. 

Wilby, R.L., Noone, S., Murphy, C., Matthews, T., Harrigan, S. and Broderick, C. 2015. An evaluation of persistent meteorological drought using a homogeneous Island of Ireland precipitation networkInternational Journal of Climatologydoi:10.1002/joc.4523.

Poff, N.L., Brown, C.M., Grantham, T.E., Matthews, J.H., Palmer, M.A., Spence, C.M.,Wilby, R.L., Haasnoot, M., Mendoza, G.F., Dominique, K.C. and Baeza, A. 2015.Sustainable water management under future uncertainty with eco-engineering decision scalingNature Climate Change, doi:10.1038/nclimate2765.

Matthews, T., Murphy, C., Wilby, R.L. and Harrigan, S. 2015. A cyclone climatology of the British-Irish Isles 1871-2012International Journal of Climatology, doi: 10.1002/joc.4425.

Yates, D., Miller, K.A., Wilby, R.L. and Kaatz, L. 2015. A decision-centric approach to climate adaptation options appraisalClimate Risk Management, doi:10.1016/j.crm.2015.06.001

Johnson, M.F. and Wilby, R.L. 2015. Seeing the landscape from the trees: Metrics to guide riparian shade management in river catchmentsWater Resources Research51, 3754-3767.

Wilby, R.L., Dawson, C.W., Murphy, C., O’Connor, P. and Hawkins, E. 2014. The Statistical DownScaling Model – Decision Centric (SDSM-DC): Conceptual basis and applications.Climate Research61, 251-268.

Wilby, R.L., Johnson, M.F. and Toone, J.A. 2014. Nocturnal river water temperatures: Spatial and temporal variationsThe Science of the Total Environment482-483, 157-173.

Wilby, R.L. and Quinn, N.W. 2013. Reconstructing multi-decadal variations in fluvial flood risk using atmospheric circulation patternsJournal of Hydrology, 487, 109-121.

My teaching examines the relationship between the climate system and society.

Current postgraduate research students

  • Simon Parry: Drought termination in the UK: Mechanisms and modelling for improved management.
  • Jenny Armstrong: Evaluating the meaning of successful climate adaptation in the neighbourhood of new nuclear build.
  • Chanita Duangyiwa: Combined impacts of climate change and land subsidence on flood risks in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region.
  • Sam Dixon: Seasonal forecasting of reservoir inflows using remotely sensed precipitation estimates in data sparse regions.
  • Naomi Kelly: The water-energy nexus: challenges and opportunities for England and Wales.

Recent postgraduate research students

Tom Matthews (2013): Glacier - Climate Interactions a Synoptic approach.
Joanne Parker (2014): Assessing the sensitivity of UK water demand to climate changes .