Dr Linda Speight
Dr Linda Speight is a hydrometeorologist whose research seeks to develop early warning systems to improve disaster risk management, particularly for flooding. She is interested in global flood forecasting, surface water flood forecasting, ensemble forecasts, impact-based forecasts, risk communication, decision making and climate resilience.
Linda joined the University of Oxford in 2021, moving from the University of Reading where she was a postdoctoral researcher. Prior to joining the University of Reading, Linda was a Senior Scientist at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) where she was involved in operational flood forecasting and led the scientific development of the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service. Linda has a BSc from the University of Bristol (2005) and an MSc from Newcastle University (2006). Her PhD research, completed at the University of Newcastle in 2013, sought to develop a methodology for understanding dependencies in flood risk exposure in the UK. Linda has also held associate lecturing positions at the University of Lincoln and the University of Portsmouth. She started her career as a flood risk analyst at JBA Consulting.
Working at the interface between research and practice, Linda regularly works with partners including the Environment Agency and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), UK Met Office, UK Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the Red Cross Climate Centre.
Linda is an editor for the Journal of Flood Risk Management and an affiliate of the UCL Warning Research Centre. She is a member of HEPEX (which stands for Hydrologic Ensemble Prediction EXperiment), the British Hydrological Society and the Royal Meteorological Society.
Linda is involved in interdisciplinary research improving the operational use of risk-based flood forecasting science. Her research falls under three main topics.
Global flood forecasting: Exploring the application of global forecasts to support anticipatory response, Linda works with partners, such as the Red Cross Climate Centre, to strengthen forecast-based humanitarian action in advance of major events. At the University of Reading Linda worked on the NERC/FCDO funded FATHUM project. One of Linda's key roles was the development and provision of real time flood bulletins to the UK Government Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to support humanitarian response to major tropical cyclones.
Surface water flood forecasting: Linda has had a long involvement in the development of surface water flood forecasting capabilities in the UK. She played a central role in developing a surface water forecasting system for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The system combined probabilistic numerical weather prediction with hydrological modelling and flood risk and impact assessment. The project was subsequently awarded the Royal Meteorological Society Innovation Prize in 2018.
At the University of Reading she carried out a policy and practice review of the NERC-funded Flooding from Intense Rainfall (FFIR) programme, interviewing subject matter experts to bring together the technical developments and identify recommendations for changes in policy, practice and further research for flood forecasting.
Linda has recently published a review paper on operational and emerging capabilities in surface water flood forecasting and continues to be involved in the development of surface water flood forecasting systems. She is currently working with the University of Leeds and the iCASP project to test enhanced surface water flood forecasts for Yorkshire.
Climate resilience: Linda's research seeks to demonstrate the value of forecasting and warning as one tool (amongst many) to improve resilience to extreme weather events. She recently published a briefing report on the projected impacts of climate change on flood risk in the UK. During the exceptional flooding across Europe in 2021, Linda provided expert commentary to UK and international media, articulating the need for continued international investment in flood forecasting systems.
- Flood forecasting and warning
- Climate change
- Impacts of extreme events
- Extreme weather
- Adaptation, loss and damage
- Development of forecast information for institutional decision-makers: landslides in India and cyclones in Mozambique. Geosci. Commun., 5, 151–175. (2022)
- Understanding the impact of climate change on flood risk in the UK. Weather, 76: 330-331. (2021)
- Operational and emerging capabilities for surface water flood forecasting. WIREs Water, e1517. (2021)
- Emergency flood bulletins for Cyclones Idai and Kenneth: A critical evaluation of the use of global flood forecasts for international humanitarian preparedness and response. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 50. (2020)
- Recommendations for Improving Integration in National End-to-End Flood Forecasting Systems: An Overview of the FFIR (Flooding from Intense Rainfall) Programme. Water 11(4), 725. (2019)
- Developing surface water flood forecasting capabilities in Scotland: an operational pilot for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. J Flood Risk Management, 11: S884-S901. (2018)
- Multi‐scale framework for flood risk analysis. J Flood Risk Management, 10: 124-137. (2017)
Dr Linda Speight has extensive media experience providing expert commentary on the 2021 floods in Germany and the UK, discussing the challenges of effective flood warning and flooding in urban areas. Notably, she wrote a well-received commentary for CNN which generated a lot of follow on interest and was quoted widely in other newspaper articles. Following summer 2021, Linda has continued to provide commentary on extreme events including several UK floods and Hurricane Ian in the USA. She is also regularly asked to discuss the contribution of climate change to extreme weather events. Linda has given television interviews, both live and pre-recorded, with media including Channel 4 News, BBC News, Sky News, NBC News, ABC News, and DWD News and radio interviews with BBC World Service, Radio 5 Live and a Naked Scientist podcast How do floods happen in cities? which was broadcast across BBC Radio channels. She has also been invited to write a number of editorials and articles across various publications (examples opposite).
Recent media work
- Flood warnings that don’t break the banks (360info.org, 2022)
- Europe’s flood tragedy didn’t have to be this severe (CNN Opinion, 2021)
- German floods: As climate warms ‘these events will become more likely’ (Channel 4 News, 2021)
- How do flash floods happen in cities? (The Naked Scientists, 2021)
- Weather crisis as seasons set to switch with flooding in summer (Daily Express, 2021)
- Are Europe’s floods a wake-up call on climate change? (Panel TV discussion, TRT World)
- Flash flooding is a serious threat in the UK – here’s how scientists are tackling its prediction (The Conversation, 2019)