Dr Joseph Daron Contact Details email
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Position :   Senior Scientist at the UK Met Office; Former Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Cape Town
Institution :   UK Met Office Hadley Centre
Residence :   Bristol, UK


Recent activity
July 2015
"The appropriate development of graphical visualisations to communicate climate data is fundamental to the provision of climate services to guide climate change adaptation decisions". So begins our paper, titled Intepreting climate data visualisations to inform adaptation decisions, that was recently published in the journal Climate Risk Management. The paper presents results from a survey aimed at the African vulnerability, impacts and adaptation community to examine the interpretation of climate data as a function of the style and information content of graphical visualisations. It is shown that choices made when constructing visualisations, such as presenting percentile information versus showing the range, significantly impact on interpretation. Results also show that respondents who interpret a higher likelihood of future changes to climate, based on the visualisation of climate model projections, express greater confidence in their interpretations. The findings have relevance to the climate risk community in Africa and elsewhere across the world, and imply that a naive approach to visualising climate data risks misinterpretation and unjustified levels of trust, with the potential to misinform adaptation and policy decisions. The figure below shows some of the visualisations that were used in the survey. See below for a video summary of the paper.

Highlights from the study:

  • Altering visualisation style and/or information content impacts on interpretation.
  • Respondents who interpret climate changes as more likely express higher confidence.
  • African focused respondents interpret a higher likelihood of drying in the future.
  • Variations in individual interpretations are larger than variations between groups.
April 2015
Concepts of predictability and climate model experimental design were at the heart of my PhD research. Based on some of the results in my thesis, Dave Stainforth and I have published an article in the journal Chaos. The paper, titled "On quantifying the climate of the nonautonomous Lorenz-63 model" explores the predictability of climate and the role of large initial condition ensembles to model the climate under time-varying forcing conditions.

Over the past 50 years, insight from research exploring the behaviour of simple nonlinear systems has been fundamental in developing approaches to weather and climate prediction. The analysis in our paper utilises the much studied Lorenz-63 model to understand the potential behaviour of nonlinear systems, such as the climate, when subject to time-varying external forcing, such as variations in atmospheric greenhouse gases or solar output. Our primary aim is to provide insight which can guide new approaches to climate model experimental design and thereby to better address the uncertainties associated with climate change prediction. We use ensembles of simulations to generate distributions which we refer to as the "climate" of the time-variant Lorenz-63 model. Our results demonstrate that predictability of climate distributions under time varying forcing can be highly sensitive to the specification of initial states in ensemble simulations. This is a result which at a superficial level is similar to the well-known initial condition sensitivity in weather forecasting, but with different origins and different implications for ensemble design. We also demonstrate the existence of resonant behaviour and a dependence on the details of the "forcing" trajectory, thereby highlighting further aspects of nonlinear system behaviour with important implications for climate prediction. Taken together, our results imply that current approaches to climate modeling may be at risk of under-sampling key uncertainties likely to be significant in predicting future climate.

January 2015
Having recently moved back to the UK, I have now taken up a position as a Senior Scientist at the UK Met Office Hadley Centre. I will be working in the Climate Information for International Development team which sits within the Applied Science division of the Met Office. My role will be to work on, and lead, a number of climate change adaptation related projects. Working with various stakeholders and people in national meteorological services in countries across Africa and South Asia, the work will particularly focus on the interpretation of output from the Hadley Centre regional climate model simulations.

One of my first roles is to lead a recently awarded project from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) fosusing on tropical cyclone risk in the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) made landfall in the Philippines in November 2013. The typhoon resulted in over 6,300 deaths, the displacement of 4 million people and approximately USD 8 billion in economic losses. In response, DFID pledged support for the Philippine recovery and reconstruction effort, and is funding a number of projects to help build resilience to future tropical storms in the context of a changing risk landscape. In this project the Met Office will build on their relationship with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to help improve their scientific and technical capability, as well as support DFID by generating information, including high resolution regional climate simulations, to increase the knowledge of climate vulnerabilities in the region. The Met Office will assist PAGASA, and other DOST agencies, to feed into the 'Build Back Better' programme outlined in the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) report, produced by the Philippine government.

I am thrilled to be taking on a new challenge and I look forward to working with my new colleagues at the UK Met Office. The opportunity was only made possible because of the experience gained while working as a postdoc at the University of Cape Town so I am enormously thankful to my colleagues and friends in South Africa. The next year certainly looks set to be a busy but interesting year!

December 2014
Together with Darryl Colenbrander from the City of Cape Town municipality, we have recently published a paper in the Journal for Environmental Planning and Management exploring the use of a multi-criteria decision analysis tool to aid adaptation decision making along Cape Town's coastline. The paper, titled "A critical investigation of evaluation matrices to inform coastal adaptation and planning decisions at the local scale", draws on interview data and a sensitivity analysis of the evaluation matrix used in the South Peninsular Transport Corridor project. An uncorrected proof version of the paper can be downloaded here. The paper extends from a related paper published earlier this year (see September 2014) but here we delve into the messy world of adaptation and illustrate the realities of the challenges facing decision makers in Cape Town. We show that incorporating and balancing different stakeholder perspectives is not straightforward but that the evaluation matrix used to aid the decision can be a useful "consensus building tool". Nevertheless, the approach could be improved in a number of ways that are outlined in the paper.

September 2014
Over the past two years I have been engaged in a researh project working alongside officials at the City of Cape Town Municipality. The research focused on approaches to dealing with uncertainty in adaptation decision making in the face of multiple climatic and non-climatic stressors. In particular, I followed the progress of project being led by the Environmental Resource Management Department. The project involves a number of stakeholders and is considering the implentation of remedial interventions to protect the railway infrastructure along the South Peninsular Transport Corridor (SPTC) from the increasing risks of coastal erosion and sea level rise. Building on recent studies that have advocated the use of Robust Decision Making (RDM) approaches to address climate change adaptation, I used the SPTC project as a case study to investigate the claim that the RDM approach can be deemed valuable in developing countries. The findings have recently been published in a paper titled, "Challenges in using a Robust Decision Making approach to guide climate change adaptation in South Africa"; a copy of the pre-processed manuscript can be downloaded here. The paper is one of a series of papers that will form a special issue of Climatic Change on uncertainty and climate change adaptation, to be published in full later this year. This special issue emerges from a workshop held at the University of Lisbon in Portugal at the end of 2012, organised through the EU funded CIRCLE-2 initiative.

June 2014
The recent Future Climate For Africa (FCFA) initiative is sponsoring four pilot workshops across Africa to explore different approaches to integrating climate information into adaptation decision making processes. CSAG, along with SEI-Oxford and START, held a workshop in Ghana that brought together scientists and decision makers from Accra and Maputo. I was one of the facilitators and unlike previous workshops I have attended, which follow a typical capacity training agenda of presentations, exercises and group discussions, this workshop adopted a co-exploration approach where the facilitators are as much part of the analysis as the participants. This co-exploration approach of place-based vulnerabilities was tested in a proof-of-concept CDKN-funded workshop held in Dar Es Salaam in 2013.
Although the context of the workshop was climate change adaptation, the agenda didn't introduce climate projections until well into day 2. Prior to this, the focus was on establishing vulnerabilities in real-world settings chosen by the participants from the two cities. The group from Maputo chose to examine the emerging area of the Costa do Sol, and the group from Accra focused on the area of Dansoman. Both areas are vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise, and each contain both formal and informal settlements. The non-climatic challenges facing these communities are profound and it became immediately apparent that only by acknowledging these issues upfront can any suitable adaptation pathways and options be identified. On the final day of the workshop we visited Dansoman to see how the issues we discussed are affecting the communities (see picture above). There are clearly some fundamental development challenges that need to be addressed in considering adaptation to current climate variability and future climate change in such an area. Using a bottom-up vulnerability first approach, and co-exploring the adaptation needs of the communities in an interdisciplinary setting, seems to offer a constructive way forward that could, in the long-term, facilitate a decision making paradigm that improves the livelihoods of such communities. It will be interesting to learn about the other FCFA workshops and I look forward to engaging with FCFA and similar initiatives in the future. I also hope that the work done in Accra will ultimately yield some benefit to the communities and decision making processes in Accra and Maputo, as well other cities in Africa facing similar challenges.

I have also written a blog for the CDKN website that extends these observations and discusses the role of climate services in supporting adaptation in an African context.

May 2014
A new article, titled "The role of regional climate projections in managing complex socio-ecological systems", has been published in the journal Regional Environmental Change. Written with colleagues at CSAG, namely Kate Sutherland, Chris Jack and Bruce Hewitson, the paper explores the difficulties and intricacies of using regional downscaled model climate projections to inform adaptation decisions. Although it appears as a review article, the paper was written as more of a "think piece" and we provide a critical perspective on the current thinking around the value of downscaling and how climate information can be incorporated into decisions about complex systems. Using the Dwesa-Cwebe region in the Eastern Cape as a focus for a worked example, we place ourselves in the position of decision makers trying to navigate the complicated landscape of climate information. I hope you enjoy reading the paper and feel free to contact me with any comments you might have.

April 2014
I recently travelled to Botswana to help facilitate a training workshop with colleagues from CSAG as well as climate change adaptation experts from Indigo Development & Change and One World. Organised by USAID, through the Resilience in the Limpopo Basin Project (RESILIM), and the Southern Africa Regional Environmental Program (SAREP), the workshop aimed to improve the climate change knowledge and skills of a technical reference committee appointed by the Government of Botswana to oversee the formulation of the National Climate Change Policy, Strategy and Action Plan. Have a look at a recent article that I wrote for the Adaptation Network website to learn more about the outcomes of the workshop.

March 2014
Visualising Climate Information: results from online survey
I have been working with colleagues at CSAG in a study investigating how different visualisations of historical and future climate information are interpreted. The research used an online survey to gather data from the climate scientist and practitioner communities, with a focus on those working in the African vulnerability, impacts and adaptation communities.

In total, we received 272 complete responses and this has provided us with a wealth of data - some surprising, some less so. I have spent a while analysing the data and we are currently busy writing up the results. If you are interested, please have a look at this presentation on youtube which discusses some of the key findings. At some point in the near future we hope to submit an academic paper presenting the findings from the study and I will share this as soon as it becomes available.

Taking Science To Society: A game on the ethics of providing climate services
Participatory games are a novel way to engage people in discussions around complex problems. I have been working with researchers at CSAG and the Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre to develop a game titled, "Taking Science To Society: A game on the ethics of providing climate services". I recently wrote a news article on the Climate Centre website that documents the experience of running the game at a recent British Council workshop in Cape Town.

February 2014
New article published: Assessing pricing assumptions for weather index insurance in a changing climate
A new article has been published in the journal Climate Risk Management. Based on research undertaken during my PhD, the paper explores a potential method to combine multiple sources of climate information and assess the viability of weather index insurance under climate change. Weather index insurance, which bases premiums and payouts on a proxy for risk (e.g. rainfall), is becoming increasingly available in developing countries for low-income farmers who are vulnerable to drought and excess rainfall. Seen by some as a "soft" form of climate change adaptation, we question whether the products are themselves vulnerable to climate change. We utilise Bayesian Networks and centre our invesitagtion on a case study of insurance for the rice crop in Kolhapur, India. Click play on the presentation below for an overview of the paper:

The journal Climate Risk Management is a new journal that only started to publish articles at the end of last year. The co-editors, William Travis from the University of Colorado and Bryson Bates from the University of Western Australia, have recently published an editorial outlining the concept of climate risk management and how the journal intends to become "a forum of research and applications aimed at understanding and reducing the risks posed by climate variability and change". It is therefore very exciting to be one of the first authors to publish in the new journal.

Latest CSAG blog post
At the end of last year colleagues at CSAG expressed their interest in calculating the carbon footprint of the research group. Our location in Cape Town means that in order to engage in the international climate research community, and attend international conferences, we usually need to travel over long distances. Even attending national and regional meetings requires us to make use of carbon-intensive air travel. In addition, our research is heavily dependent on high-performance computing and we house a computational cluster that is energy thirsty. So if you are curious to know the carbon footprint of CSAG, take a look at my latest post on the CSAG blog.

December 2013
A new paper titled "Interrogating empirical-statistical downscaling" has been published in Climatic Change. Click here to access the paper - it is open access and available to download for free. The paper, led by Bruce Hewitson, examines the conceptual foundations and assumptions of statistical downscaling methodologies, and articulates a framework for evaluating and integrating downscaling output into the wider landscape of climate information. We argue that any downscaled climate information must address the criteria of being plausible, defensible and actionable. Furthermore, the paper asserts that climate scientists cannot absolve themselves of their ethical responsibility when informing adaptation and must, therefore, be diligent in ensuring any information provided adequately addresses these three criteria.

November 2013
Last week, a number of researchers from CSAG atteneded the CORDEX 2013 International Meeting on Regional Climate, held at the European Commission in Brussels. The conference had an excellent mix of science and policy discussions and more details on CSAG's experience can be found in an article that I have written and posted on the CSAG blog. I presented a poster on my preliminary results from the climate visualisations survey (see September post) and was lucky enough to be awarded a best poster prize.

September 2013
As part of my research, I am looking at how we might improve the use of visualisations to communicate climate information. I am running an online survey which can be found here. Please have a look and I'd be especially grateful if you could complete the survey.

August 2013
Video abstract for paper: On predicting climate under climate change. Environmental Research Letters, 8(3) 034021
You can also read this article on the website Environmental Research Web that discusses the implications of the paper for science and society.

June 2013
I have written a blog on the CSAG website titled, "The location, variance and shape of statistical climatology". The blog reports on the 13th International Meeting of Statistical Climatology, recently held in Jeju, South Korea. Click here to have a look and join the discussion.

April 2013
I recently came back from an interesting and productive trip to Zomba in Malawi. I was there to help facilitate a training workshop for the final part of a year-long World Bank funded collaboration between CSAG and the Malawi Department for Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS). The primary objective of this project was to develop and support training and capacity development within DCCMS with the goal of enhancing DCCMS's production and delivery of climate information to end users. To meet this objective, we worked with key personnel in DCCMS to address a number of issues related to existing infrastructure, skills, methods and tools.

In the initial stages of the project, a number of DCCMS staff attended a two week Winter School hosted by CSAG here in Cape Town. During this time, a meeting was held to begin articulating the key topics that would be relevant in building the skills of other DCCMS staff. In September 2012, I travelled with Dr Chris Jack to Blantyre in Malawi to speak to the Director of DCCMS and other individuals working on issues related to climate change. In this two day inception meeting, we brought DCCMS staff together with stakeholders to discuss the needs and desires of DCCMS and the user community in Malawi regarding the provision of climate services. In the following November, a "training of trainers" workshop took place, again in Blantyre where DCCMS have their headquaters. DCCMS nominated ten members of staff to attend the week-long workshop; these people were then responsible for facilitating subsequent training throughout the rest of the organization. Dr Peter Johnston and I developed training materials which included presentations on the priority topics, group exercises and focused discussion sessions. The final phase of the project was the roll-out of internal training. At the first training session in April 2013 in Zomba, around 60 participants attended (see picture below); some having travelled 2 days to be there.

The participant feedback suggests that the project was a great success. Further capacity support is still needed and will hugely benefit DCCMS, but through this project CSAG colleagues and I have been able build a lasting relationship with DCCMS. The project has left the organization is in a stronger position to support Malawians in responding to the changing risks associated with climate variability and climate change.