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I am a Professor in the Department of Physics.
I am an atmospheric physicist, specialising in the fluid dynamics of atmospheric and ocean circulation, on Earth and on other planets.
I was recently Head of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics in Oxford, and was also Joint Met Office Chair in the Department (having worked for the Met Office before coming to Oxford).
I have tutored Physics at Trinity for 29 years, and greatly enjoy the close engagement with students throughout their course, enabled by the tutorial system in Oxford.
With a background in atmospheric physics, I tend to focus on teaching the more ‘classical’ parts of physics in my tutorial teaching. This includes topics such as electromagnetism and electronics in the first and second year, and thermal physics (e.g. statistical mechanics) in the second year. I also tutor the third-year optional course in fluid dynamics for Trinity and St John’s colleges.
For the Department, I lecture part of the fourth-year specialist course on the Physics of Atmospheres and Oceans on dynamics and circulation. In my research group I currently supervise three DPhil research students and co-supervise a fourth student with colleagues in Physics, the Mathematical Institute and the Met Office.
My research focuses on understanding the dynamical processes that determine the climate and circulation of the atmosphere and oceans, for the Earth of course, but also more generally for any planet that has a substantial atmosphere or ocean, such as Mars, Venus, Jupiter or Saturn. All planetary atmospheres and oceans are governed by the same basic physical laws, so it makes sense to study their dynamical behaviour at a fundamental level, using a combination of observational measurements (many from spacecraft visiting other planets in our solar system), numerical model simulations and even laboratory experimental analogues of atmospheric fluid flows. This has led me to take part in several NASA space missions, including the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn (via Jupiter) and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
My group has collaborated with other scientists in the UK, France and Spain on developing a detailed numerical climate and weather prediction model of the Martian atmosphere which we also use to analyse measurements of temperature and other variables on Mars. We have also studied the turbulent motions in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn using images and infrared measurements from the Cassini orbiter, and are currently trying to compare these measurements with a new numerical model of Jupiter’s cloudy atmosphere. These studies have also inspired us to study dynamically similar processes on a laboratory scale, by running fluid flow experiments in tanks of water on rotating tables in order to emulate the effects of planetary rotation on the circulation. The work is highly interdisciplinary, connecting the results of planetary exploration with the fundamental theory of highly nonlinear fluid motion and turbulence – still regarded as one of the last great unsolved problems of classical physics!
I am currently Editor in Chief of the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Planetary Science – an online publication by Oxford University Press (New York) that publishes articles reviewing all aspects of planetary research, involving both the physical and social sciences aspects of the subject.
You can find out more about my work here.
Read, P. L. & Lewis, S. R., The Martian Climate Revisited (Springer-Praxis, Chichester, UK, 2004)
R. M. B. Young and P. L. Read, ‘Forward and inverse kinetic energy cascades in Jupiter’s turbulent weather layer’, Nature Physics, 13 (2017), 1135-1140
Scolan, H. & Read, P. L., ‘A rotating annulus driven by localized convective forcing: a new atmosphere-like experiment’, Exp. In Fluids, 58 (2017) 75
Read, P. L. and Lebonnois, S., Superrotation on Venus, on Titan, and Elsewhere, Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 46 (2018), 175-202
T. Ruan, N. T. Lewis, S. R. Lewis, L. Montabone & P. L. Read, ‘Investigating the Semiannual Oscillation on Mars using data assimilation’, Icarus, 333 (2019), 404-414
Galperin, B. & Read, P. L. (eds), Zonal Jets: Phenomenology, Genesis, and Physics (Cambridge University Press, 2019)
Read, P., D. Kennedy, N. Lewis, H. Scolan, F. Tabataba-Vakili, Y. Wang, S. Wright & R. Young, ‘Baroclinic and barotropic instabilities in planetary atmospheres: energetics, equilibration and adjustment’, Nonlin. Processes Geophys. 27 (2020), 147–17