Dr Rachel James
BA (Hons), DPhil
I'm a climate scientist focusing on African climate, future climate change, and climate policy. I spend a lot of time analysing climate model data, and collaborating with colleagues from other disciplines and outside academia.
- Climate change
- Climate modelling
- Climate change adaptation
- Global South
- Climate services
- Climate policy
- Model evaluation
- Climate data
Associate Professor in Climate ScienceSchool of Geographical Sciences
Press and media
Many of our academics speak to the media as experts in their field of research. If you are a journalist, please contact the University’s Media and PR Team:
Following my PhD, I was a Research Fellow at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford. There I became interested in the possible application of climate change attribution science for emerging policy discussions on “Loss and Damage” from climate change. This led me to more interdisciplinary research, including interviewing stakeholders to better understand their view of the policy context and where science might be relevant. I also continued my work into African climate, as part of the Future Climate for Africa programme, focusing on changes in southern African weather systems, particularly tropical-temperate cloud bands, and developing information for agriculture and water resource planning in Malawi and Tanzania. This research was co-led by University of Cape Town (UCT), and I was privileged to spend 18 months at UCT as a Visiting Researcher.
In 2018 I began a Career Development Fellowship at St John’s College, Oxford, where I continued my research on African climate, climate change adaptation, and Loss and Damage, and led an initiative to develop a Climate Model Evaluation Hub for Africa, with colleagues from universities in Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, and South Africa.
I have recently been awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship. My research programme, “Climate futures science for adaptation”, seeks to transform our ability to develop climate information for climate change adaptation planning. In recent decades, there has been significant progress in the ability to model future climate change, and “climate services” research and practice has emerged to support decision-makers in adaptation to climate change. Yet it remains very challenging to communicate climate risk to decision-makers. My research programme seeks to change this, through two complementary elements. The first element involves novel climate science research, which is designed with adaptation at the forefront. The second element is to bring in insights and methods from behavioural science to design and test communications with stakeholders, to better understand the most effective approaches to communicating risk.
The first four years of the programme will focus primarily on southern Africa. If successful, I will use the following three years to apply lessons and frameworks developed in southern Africa to other regions and across scales.
This work is inherently collaborative! I am currently building a team to work with me on this at University of Bristol, and we will be collaborating with colleagues in southern Africa, as well as working with an Advisory Board of professionals involved in national or regional planning. I am also seeking to link the work with related research programmes and networks. I am keen to be in touch with those interested in African climate, mechanisms of future climate change, quantifying uncertainty, climate science for climate policy, loss and damage, novel approaches to developing climate information, and application of behavioural science approaches to climate change adaptation.
01/10/2022 to 31/07/2023
UKRI FLF Climate futures science for adaptation: re-orienting climate analysis and utilizing communications research to transform climate change outlooks
01/08/2022 to 31/07/2026
DescriptionNERC funded six-month project supporting the COP26 Adaptation and Resilience theme. Led by the University of Bristol with partners in the UK, South Africa and Zambia, the FRACTAL-PLUS project aims…
Managing organisational unitScience Faculty Office
01/10/2021 to 31/03/2022
01/04/2021 to 31/03/2024
- Other contribution
Weather and Climate Extremes
- Accepted/In press
Representation of land–atmosphere coupling processes over Africa in coupled model intercomparison project Phase 6
Clinical Microbiology and Infection
- E-pub ahead of print