Skip to main content

Dr John Lockwood

The photograph shows John Lockwood on the left and, to his right, Piers Sellers (his doctoral student who became a NASA astronaut), Joe Holden (Professor and Director of Water@Leeds), and Adrian McDonald (retired Professor and co-founder of the Environment Centre).


Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death, on 1 January 2024, of Dr John George Lockwood, former Senior Lecturer in the School of Geography.  The following tribute has been contributed by Geoffrey King (friend and executor), John Stillwell, Robin Butlin, Joe Holden, Mike Kirkby, Adrian McDonald and Phil Rees (Colleagues, School of Geography, University of Leeds).

We are sad to announce the death of Dr John George Lockwood at age 90 on New Year’s Day 2024 at Southlands Retirement Apartments, Roundhay, Leeds. John married Maureen Watts in 1976. Following the death of Maureen in 2003, John’s surviving relatives were a son and daughter in law and a niece and nephew. With no children nearby, John’s ‘family’ became the local church community that he belonged to. John flourished there, enjoying the mild disregard of his previous status that is given by the best families to the ones they love the most. John’s greatest challenge in his later years was how to fit his vast scientific library into his retirement flat and finding room for his collection of photographs, a product of a lifelong love of photography.

John grew up in the family home in the Alverstone area of Gosport. He attended Privett Secondary Modern Boys’ school, Portsmouth and excelled as a student. After schooling, he was recruited to do National Service, where he spent two years with Bomber command as a pilot officer working with Vulcans. There he received his introduction to aviation weather forecasting and to meteorology generally.

After National Service, John entered Queen Mary College of the University of London where he graduated with a BSc in Physical Geography in 1956. He subsequently received a scholarship from The Drapers Company that enabled him to pursue a PhD in Climatology, achieved in 1960. His doctoral thesis was a study of Foehn winds. A Foehn is a dry, relatively warm, downslope wind that occurs in the lee of a mountain range. Foehn winds are a feature of mountain areas such as the European Alps, the coastal and interior ranges of the western North America (Chinook winds) and the English Pennines (Helm winds).

He then spent eight years at the UK Meteorological Office working on upper air monsoon circulations over southern Asia and as an aviation weather forecaster. This period included two years lecturing at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, where he researched extreme rainfall events. He began a career as a lecturer at the University of Leeds in 1965.

Colleagues at the University of Leeds who had known John during his career there were very sorry to learn that he passed away on at the start of 2024. He was a kind and gentle person who contributed fully to the work of the department from 1965 to 1992. From 1965 to 1975 he worked as a lecturer at the Department (later School) of Geography. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer from 1975 to 1989 and then became a Senior Fellow, fully retiring in 1992.

John was a devoted and well respected teacher of climatology and later climate change. He taught both undergraduate and postgraduate students in the School of Geography over three decades and continued writing about the subject until 2009. He contributed to student education well after retirement, in 2005 writing a chapter on ‘Atmospheric processes’ for an undergraduate physical geography textbook edited by Professor Joseph Holden. His chapter has appeared in all four editions since first publication in 2005. Professor John Stillwell, recently retired, commented that John Lockwood “taught me the basics of climatology when I was an undergraduate. I remember his kindness and words of encouragement when I joined the staff in 1976”. Through his books and journal reviews, he also informed the wider world about recent developments in climate science.

John’s first book was World Climatology: An Environmental Approach published by Edward Arnold in 1974. A second followed in 1979, Causes of Climate published by John Wiley. An American reviewer wrote of the book “I judge the work to be an intelligent, comprehensive, well-referenced presentation … a surprising number of topics are covered, which display a commendable grasp of current climatic literature” and suitable for American students, even if written by a Brit. The Causes of Climate is still available from Amazon.

In the 1980s and 1990s, John applied his encyclopaedic knowledge of global climate and change in four review pieces in the journal Progress in Physical Geography (PPG). In 1994 John wrote on “The southern oscillation and El Niño”, which in 2023 gave an additional and unwelcome boost to global average temperatures. In 1986, he wrote about “The causes of drought with particular reference to the Sahel”. Rainfall deficits continue to affect the region and fuel its current conflicts. In 1987 his theme was “Hydrological interactions between the land surfaces and the atmosphere as a factor in climatic change”. In 1990, he wrote two reviews for PPG covering “Clouds and the atmospheric radiation balance” followed by "Interactions between the Earth’s surface, atmospheric greenhouse gasses and clouds”. In 2001, in the International Journal of Climatology he pointed to “Abrupt and sudden transitions and fluctuations”, including historic evidence and model simulations of the collapse of the North Atlantic circulation, which drives the Gulf Stream. Our comfortable but warming temperate climate could within 10 years turn much colder. Don’t throw out those winter woollies and snow suits yet.

John’s approach to climatic research took a global view in geographical coverage and a long term temporal view covering the Quaternary era and the current Anthropocene. However, in one phase of his career he did adopt a local focus in a study of the contemporary vegetation-surface hydrological system in the small Crimple Beck catchment located between Leeds and Harrogate. His postgrad student, Piers Sellers, carried out his doctoral research there and together they wrote a paper in the journal Climatic Change followed by a book chapter.

John was a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, served on the editorial board of the International Journal of Climatology and on grant committees of the Natural Environment Research Council. Throughout his life John was a committed Christian. In a talk given at the Christians in Science Conference in 2006, he expressed his view that religious belief and scientific knowledge can both be embraced, writing “Thus there is very much a need for Christians to be stewards of God’s creation, and this includes a need for a deeper understanding of the nature and design of the climate system”. His view also featured in a short interview published in the winter 2011/12 edition of Christians in Science (CiS), in which he played an important role.

John’s funeral service will be held at 10am on Wednesday 31st January at Cornerstone Baptist Church, Kirkstall lane, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3LF.



Selected Publications

  • Lockwood JG (1974) World Climatology: An Environmental Approach. Edward Arnold, London.
  • Lockwood JG (1979) Causes of Climate. John Wiley & Sons, New York
  • Lockwood JG (1979) Water balance of Britain, 50,000 yr BP to the present day. Quaternary Research, 12(3) 297-310. DOI:
  • Pollard D, Ingersoll AP, Lockwood JG (1980) Response of a zonal climate-ice sheet model to the orbital perturbations during Quaternary ice ages. Tellus, 32, 301-319. DOI: 10.3402/tellusa.v32i4.10586
  • Sellers PJ, Lockwood JG (1981) A numerical simulation of the effects of changing vegetation type on surface hydroclimatology. Climatic Change 3 (1981) 121-136. 0165-0009/81/0032-0121501.60.
  • Lockwood JG, Sellers PJ (1983) Some simulation model results of the effect of vegetation change on the near-surface hydroclimate. Chapter pp 463-477. In: Street-Perrott, A., Beran, M., Ratcliffe, R. (eds) Variations in the Global Water Budget. Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Lockwood JG (1984) The southern oscillation and El Nino. Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment, 8(1), 102-110.
  • Lockwood JG (1986) The causes of drought with particular reference to the Sahel. Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment, 10(1), 111-119.
  • Lockwood JG (1987) Hydrological interactions between the land surfaces and the atmosphere as a factor in climatic change. Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment, 11 (1), 103-111.
  • Lockwood JG (1990) Clouds and the atmospheric radiation balance. Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment,14 (1), 89-96.
  • Lockwood JG (1990) Interactions between the Earth’s surface, atmospheric greenhouse gases and clouds. Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment,14(4), 549-556
  • Lockwood JG (2001) Abrupt and sudden transitions and fluctuations: A review. International Journal Climatology, 21, 1153-1179 (2001). DOI: 10.1002/joc.630
  • Lockwood JG (2005, 2008, 2012, 2017) Atmospheric processes. In Holden, J. (ed.) An Introduction to Physical Geography and the Environment. Pearson Education.
  • Lockwood JG (2006) Design and Purpose in Climate Change. Christians in Science Conference Presentation.
  • Lockwood JG (2009, 2019, 2020) The climate of the earth. Chapter 1 in Jackson AV & Hewison CN (ed.) Atmospheric Science for Environmental Scientists. Wiley.