Tim Palmer (physicist)

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Tim Palmer

Palmer at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos 2013
Timothy Noel Palmer

(1952-12-31) 31 December 1952 (age 70)[citation needed]
Alma mater
Scientific career
ThesisCovariant conservation equations and their relation to the energy- momentum concept in general relativity (1977)
Doctoral advisorDennis William Sciama[2]

Timothy Noel Palmer CBE FRS[1] (born 31 December 1952) is a mathematical physicist by training. He has spent most of his career working on the dynamics and predictability of weather and climate. Among various research achievements, he pioneered the development of probabilistic ensemble forecasting techniques for weather and climate prediction (at the Met Office and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts).[3] These techniques are now standard in operational weather and climate prediction around the world, and are central for reliable decision making for many commercial and humanitarian applications.

Early life and education[edit]

Palmer was born in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey in 1952.[4] He received a 1st Class Joint Honours Degree in Mathematics and Physics from the University of Bristol[2] and a Doctor of Philosophy in General Relativity Theory from the University of Oxford.[5]


Palmer’s research has focussed on the nonlinear predictability and dynamics of the climate system. He co-discovered the world's largest breaking waves,[6] and proposed a nonlinear framework for the regional manifestation of climate change, based on the nonlinear dynamics of quasi-stationary weather regimes.[7] He was among the first to propose the importance of developing unified or "seamless" weather and climate prediction models.[8] As of 2016 Palmer's research is focussed on the development of stochastic parametrisations in weather and climate simulators,[1] and the application of inexact computing[9] techniques for developing ultra-high resolution climate models.[10] Palmer believes strongly that human and computing resources must be pooled internationally to develop reliable climate prediction systems.[citation needed] He remains active in the area of fundamental physics, promoting the synergistic "Cosmological Invariant Set Postulate" as a primitive geometric principle for physics of the large and small.[11]


After a chance meeting with geophysicist Raymond Hide, he became interested in climate and was employed by the Met Office – including a year at the University of Washington.[citation needed] In 1986 he joined the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts where he led the newly formed Predictability and Diagnostics Division, where he led the development of the ECMWF medium-range ensemble prediction system and the European DEMETER multi-model ensemble seasonal climate prediction system.[12] In 2010 Palmer became a Professor of Climate Physics at the University of Oxford,[13] being one of the "2010 Anniversary" Royal Society Research Professors, created to celebrate the Royal Society's 350th Anniversary. At Oxford, Palmer is additionally co-director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Modelling and Predicting Climate[14] and is a professorial fellow at Jesus College, Oxford.[15]

Awards and honours[edit]

Palmer was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2003,[1] and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to science.[16][17] Other awards include:

The Primacy of Doubt[edit]

In October 2022 Palmer published a popular science book on the science of uncertainty called “The Primacy of Doubt”.[30]  Without equations, it described the physics and mathematics of chaos, applying it to weather, climate, economics, pandemics, conflict, human creativity, free will and consciousness. It also discussed the question of whether, at the deepest level, quantum uncertainty is different to chaotic uncertainty - Palmer believes not. The book received favourable blurbs from Roger Penrose, Martin Rees, Syukuro Manabe and Sabine Hossenfelder. Brian Clegg of Popular Science wrote “This is quite possibly the best popular science book I've ever read (and I’ve read many hundreds)."[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Anon (2003). "Professor Tim Palmer CBE FRS". royalsociety.org. London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:

    "All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License." --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

  2. ^ a b "Professor Tim Palmer, CBE, FRS". Honorary Graduates 2016. University of Bristol. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  3. ^ Palmer, Tim (2018). "The ECMWF ensemble prediction system: Looking back (more than) 25 years and projecting forward 25 years". Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. 145: 12–24. arXiv:1803.06940. doi:10.1002/qj.3383. ISSN 1477-870X. S2CID 4944687.
  4. ^ "Tim Palmer".
  5. ^ Palmer, Timothy Noel (1977). Covariant Conservation Equations and their Relation to the Energy-Momentum Concept in General Relativity (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford. OCLC 500534804.
  6. ^ McIntyre, M.E. and T.N. Palmer, 1983:  Breaking planetary waves in the stratosphere. Nature, 305, 593‑600.
  7. ^ Palmer, T.N., 1998: Climate change from a nonlinear dynamical perspective. J.Clim.,12, 575-591.
  8. ^ Palmer, T.N. and P.J. Webster, 1993: Towards a unified approach to climate and weather prediction.  Proceedings of 1st Demetra Conference on Climate Change.  European Community Press
  9. ^ Palem, K.V. (September 2005). "Energy Aware Computing through Probabilistic Switching: A Study of Limits". IEEE Transactions on Computers. 54 (9): 1123–1137. doi:10.1109/TC.2005.145. S2CID 3245545.
  10. ^ Duben, P. D.; Joven, J.; Lingamneni, A.; McNamara, H.; De Micheli, G.; Palem, K. V.; Palmer, T. N. (19 May 2014). "On the use of inexact, pruned hardware in atmospheric modelling". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 372 (2018): 20130276. Bibcode:2014RSPTA.37230276D. doi:10.1098/rsta.2013.0276. PMC 4024232. PMID 24842031.
  11. ^ Palmer T.N. (2020). Discretization of the Bloch sphere, fractal invariant sets and Bell’s theorem. Proc. Roy. Soc. A, 476, doi:10.1098/rspa.2019.0350.
  12. ^ Palmer, T.N.. A. Alessandri, U. Anderson  and co-authors. 2004. The Development of a European Multi-model Ensemble System for Seasonal to Interannual Prediction (DEMETER). Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 85, 853-872.[7]
  13. ^ "Tim Palmer". University of Oxford Department of Physics. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  14. ^ "Professor Tim Palmer Co-Director, Programme on Modelling and Predicting Climate". Oxford Martin School. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  15. ^ "Professor Tim Palmer". Jesus College, Oxford. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  16. ^ "No. 61092". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2014. p. N10.
  17. ^ 2015 New Year Honours List
  18. ^ "Winners of the Norbert Gerbier-MUMM International Award". World Meteorological Organization. Archived from the original on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  19. ^ "Double Success for Dr Tim Palmer". Royal Meteorological Society. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  20. ^ "2014 Dirac medal". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  21. ^ "Newly Elected – April 2015". American Philosophical Society. Archived from the original on 16 August 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  22. ^ "University of Bristol Honorary Degree". YouTube.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. ^ "International member Academy Lincei".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. ^ Karatekin, Özgür; Ferreira, Bárbara (9 October 2017). "EGU announces 2018 awards and medals". European Geosciences Union. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  25. ^ "2019 Awards and Honors Recipients". American Meteorological Society. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  26. ^ "International membership AAAS".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. ^ "2020 NAS Election". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  28. ^ Simion @Yonescat, Florin. "Royal Astronomical Society unveils 2023 award winners". The Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  29. ^ "Admittance Day 2023". www.ria.ie. Royal Irish Academy. Retrieved 27 May 2023.
  30. ^ Palmer, Tim N. (2022). The primacy of doubt : from quantum physics to climate change, how the science of uncertainty can help us understand our chaotic world (First ed.). New York. ISBN 978-1-5416-1971-5. OCLC 1296943687.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  31. ^ "The Primacy of Doubt - Tim Palmer *****". popsciencebooks.blogspot.com. Retrieved 28 February 2023.