Dr Rachel James


Research Groups


Dr Rachel James

College Lecturer


Rachel James is the ECI's Research Fellow in Climate Modelling for Climate Services, and a Course Animator for the MSc in Environmental Change and Management. She has a doctorate from the University of Oxford, focusing on African climate change.

Rachel is currently based in the OUCE Climate Research Lab, working with Myles Allen and other scientists in the climateprediction.net group, as well as Richard Washington and the African climate research group; and promoting greater collaboration across the ECI, directed by Jim Hall.

During 2017/18 she will be working at the Department of Oceanography, University of Cape Town, as a visiting researcher.


Rachel is interested in how climate science can better support decision making, particularly for climate change adaptation, and with a focus on African climate systems. Part of her research involves analysis of climate model data, to deliver process-based understanding and ultimately improve the quality of climate information for adaptation. Another part focuses on better understanding of decision analysis and decision making, to explore the relevance of climate information in these contexts.

Evaluating climate models to provide better quality climate information

Rachel is investigating change in African climate systems. She is interested in how anthropogenic forcing might be influencing precipitation in the present day, and how regional climate systems might change in future. Such information could be highly valuable for adaptation planning, however large and poorly understood uncertainties associated with climate model results make them difficult for decision makers to utilise. Rachel is interested in improving the usefulness of climate model simulations through process-based evaluation to inform confidence assessments. She is currently working with scientists at the UK Met Office, ACMAD, and Universities of Nairobi, Yaounde, and Cape Town, to develop a suite of metrics for model evaluation, targeting processes relevant to African climate, as part of the NERC/DFID funded IMPALA project. More recently, her work has focused on southern Africa, particularly modes of tropical-temperate interaction, and she will be continuing this research as part of the UMFULA project.

Exploring the role of climate information in decision making

Rachel has been working with researchers across the ECI and beyond to better understand the role of climate information in climate change impacts and risk analysis, decision analysis, and climate services. One way to improve climate services is through better integration of climate science with research in hydrology, ecosystems, food, and infrastructure systems. Rachel has been working to connect research relating to climate services and climate change adaptation across the university as well as externally, and has developed a summary of relevant research in Oxford as a means to facilitate collaboration.

A particular interest is the relevance of climate science for international climate policy. Rachel has a long running interest in the discussions surrounding the Long Term Global Goal under the UNFCCC, including the 1.5°C and 2°C targets. Her DPhil research focused on identifying changes in African climate associated with 1.5°C, 2°C, 3°C, 4°C and beyond. She has recently been working on a review of methods to extract regional climate changes at 1.5°C and 2°C of global warming, which will hopefully be useful for those planning new research for the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C, and points to the importance of new research initiatives such as HAPPI.

Rachel has also become increasingly interested in UNFCCC discussions of 'Loss and Damage'. This began through her work with the ACE-Africa project, investigating the relevance of extreme event attribution science for policy-makers, including interviews with key stakeholders, and participatory games. This work emphasised ambiguity surrounding Loss and Damage (L&D), and prompted an interdisciplinary project to investigate stakeholder perspectives, in collaboration with Emily Boyd (LUCSUS), and Richard Jones (Met Office/Oxford). Following interviews with almost 40 key actors in science, policy, and practice, they have now identified four typologies of L&D, and are working with stakeholders to enhance understanding of these perspectives, including a recent expert briefing to the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism on L&D.


Rachel is Course Animator for the Earth System module of the MSc in Environmental Change and Management, and takes classes and reading groups on climate modelling and regional climate projections. She also runs a lecture and tutorial on African climate change for the undergraduate Climate Change and Variability option. She tutors geography students in climatology and climate change, and was previously a Lecturer at St Catherine's College.

Current research projects



James, R. (2013) Implications of global warming for African climate. DPhil Thesis, University of Oxford. [This thesis will soon be available on the Oxford Research Archive. In the meantime please contact me if you would like access to an electronic copy.]

Download a complete list of publications and citations on google scholar.