School of Engineering

Staff Profile

Dr Xiaofeng Li

Reserch Scientist in Rainfall Extremes and Tibetan Climate Dynamics


I'm a research scientist in rainfall extremes and  the Tibetan climate dynamics, which are under the research theme of Climate Impacts and Adaptation of Water Group in School of Engineering. I have broad research interests in multiple fields of climate research. My researching experiences are mainly in atmospheric physics and dynamics, regional climate change, rainfall extremes, tropical air-sea interaction, Polar climate, General Circulation Modelling and the Asia summer monsoon.  My expertise are including the theoretical diagnosis, the numerical modelling and the data analysis.  I'm loving and enjoying my climate research. 

I'm one of the key researchers who recently discovered a new large-scale atmospheric circulation system, the “Western Tibetan Vortex” (WTV) – also termed the "Karakoram Vortex" – dominates the middle-to-lower troposphere and the near-surface air temperature variability above the western Tibetan Plateau (TP). It changes the traditional views in explaining the climate changes over the Tibetan Plateau, which has simulated large interest internationally from multiple disciplines. As climate research fields tend to be divided according to different atmospheric circulations systems, the discovery of the WTV has potential to open a new research field in global climate research.

Previously, I and my colleagues also found and theoretically demonstrated the 1/4 phase lag relationship between changes of the Ferrel Cell and the Arctic oscillation. We discovered the decadal rainfall pattern shifting over the mid-lower valley of Yangtze River in China and over the northern Australia, respectively, and revealed the physical mechanisms behind them. We found that the thermal forcing of the Tropical Indian Ocean and Tropical Western Pacific warming are the underlie mechanisms, which were both verified by numerical sensitivity experiments. Especially, we found the Northern Australia was cooling in contrast to the rapid warming climate, which is an example of independence of the regional climate change relative to the global warming in the tropics. 

"Feel the Climate in Person"

Although computing from the data and simulating in the numerical models are my general ways of exploring the climate and weather, my favorite way of "understanding" them, i.e. the weather and climate, at somewhere else is still by traveling there to "feel it in person". I worked in Fairbanks, Alaska, USA from a spring to summer, where I experienced the real polar climate and the Polar Day, and saw the fast heavy snow occurs and disappears just like the behaviors of heavy rainfall in my hometown. Then, I traveled to Perth, Western Australia and worked there for a whole year, where I experienced the tropical and Mediterranean climate there, saw how the coastal rainfalls and the hot waves from inland desert are competing to each other, and enjoyed the beautiful beaches and islands by the way. I also worked in Beijing, China for a couple of years, where I experienced both the Polar and the Tropical climate in a single place. Warm moist tropical atmosphere comes in summer, and dry cold polar atmosphere controls in winter, which make Beijing a place with huge differences between its four seasons. Now, I'm working in Newcastle, UK, where is facing the strong westerly jet blowing from the Atlantic. I'm enjoying the windy but mild year-round climate here, especially when it is accompanied with the incredibly fast changing weathers from day to day. 

"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."  — Wernher von Braun 

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”  — Mark Twain

"Look up at the stars and not down at your feet." — Stephen Hawking


  • Ph.D (July 2009) in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, National Key Laboratory of Numerical Modeling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (LASG), Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing 100029, China (Sep. 2005 – July 2009)
  • M.S. in Atmospheric Science (2005), School of Atmospheric Science (SAS), Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology (NUIST, named as the Nanjing Institute of Meteorology before 2004), Nanjing, China (Sep. 2002 – Jul. 2005). 
  • B.A. in Atmospheric Science (2002), Department of Atmospheric Science, Nanjing Institute of Meteorology (Renamed as NUIST after 2004 ), Nanjing, China (Sep. 1998 – Jul. 2002).

CAS has been consistently ranked as the top research institution around the world by the Nature Index tablesSAS/NUIST was ranked as the NO. 1 atmospheric science school in China in the third round of national discipline evaluation conducted by the Ministry of Education (MOE) of China in 2012.


  • Research Associate (July 2015-present), School of Engineering (Previous name was “School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences”), Newcastle University (NCL), Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, United Kingdom
  • Assistant Scientist (Jun. 2009-June 2015), National Key Laboratory of Numerical Modeling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (LASG), Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing 100029, China
  • Visiting Scientist (Mar. 2010-Jun. 2010), International Arctic Research Center (IARC), University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks 757340, Alaska, USA
  • Visiting Scientist (Nov. 2011- Oct. 2012), CSIRO Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics, Leeuwin Centre, Floreat 6014, WA, Australia.

 Research interests

  • Tibetan Climate
  • Numerical Modeling
  • Regional Climate Change
  • Tropical Air-sea Interaction
  • Polar Climate and Climate Dynamics
  • Global Monsoon and Thermodynamics
  • Global rainfall extremes and Hydrological Cycle

 Professional Memberships and Services

  • Co-Chair, Heat-waves, An International Commission on Dynamical Meteorology (ICDM) workshop 2012 on "Dynamics and predictability of high-impact weather and climate events", August 6-9, 2012, Kunming, China.
  • Life Member, American Geophysical Union (AGU) (2011-).
  • Life Member, European Geosciences Union (EGU)(2015-)
  • Reviewer for Journal of Climate, Climate Dynamics, Geophysical Research Letters, Environmental Research Letters, and Scientific Reports. 
  • Reviewer for book proposal of ELSEVIER.

Selected Funded Research Projects

  • Xiao-Feng Li (PI). Impacts of Sub-monthly Northern Hemisphere Annular Mode to Wintertime Circulations over China. National Science Foundation Youth Project. ¥210,000.00, 2010-2012, National Science Foundation of China.  
  • Xiao-Feng Li (Co-I). Influence of the thermal forcing between the Tibet Plateau-South Asia and the Indian Ocean on the inter-annual and inter-decadal variation of the outbreaks of the Asian Monsoon. Sub-project of the "Influence of the Tibetan and Indian-Pacific on inter-annual and inter-decadal variation of the Asia monsoon system". Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Project. ¥180,000.00, 2009-2012, Science Foundation of Chinese Academy of Sciences.  
  • Xiao-Feng Li (Co-I). Propagation theory of planetary waves in the horizontal non-uniform basic flow and interactions with Aisa-Australia Monsoon, National Science Foundation Key Project, ¥150,000.00, 2011-2014. National Science Foundation of China. 
  • Xiao-Feng Li (Co-I). Numerical modeling and prediction theory of the Asian air-land-sea coupling system. Sub-project of the "Mechanism of air-sea interaction in Asia and its role in global climate change". The National Key Research Program on Global Change Study of Ministry of Science of Technology China: “Air-Land-Sea (ALS) interactions in Asia and their role in the global climate change”. ¥625,000.00, 2011-2015, Ministry of Science of Technology China. 

Selected Conference Presentations

Invited Talks

  • Xiao-Feng Li, David Pritchard, Nathan Forsythe, Hayley J. Fowler , Increased Cycling of Moisture in Mountain Systems, GEO-GNOME Workshop “Essential Climate Variables for Observations in Mountains”,24-26 June 2019 UniS Building, Rooms A019, A024 and A027, University of Bern I Bern, Switzerland. (Invited oral)
  • Xiao-Feng Li, J. Yu, Y. Li and Hayley J. Fowler, Explaining recent wetting and cooling over Northern Australia: the importance of oceans under a warming climate, Plenary Speaker, CliMathNet Conference 2016, 5th – 8th July, Newman Collaborative Lecture Theatre, Peter Chalk Centre, University of Exeter, United Kingdom (Invited Plenary oral).
  • Xiao-Feng Li, Fluctuations of Northern Hemisphere Zonal-Mean Circulation: Phase Transition and Stratosphere-Troposphere Interactions, Pan-Pacific Climate/Weather Collaboration Meeting (PPCWCM), Sep. 8-10, 2009, Alaska, USA (Invited oral).


  • Xiao-Feng Li, Hayley Fowler, Nathan Forsythe, Jingjing Yu, David Pritchard, and Stephen Blenkinsop. A Newly Recognized Large-scale Circulation System Governing the Western Tibetan Climate — the Western Tibetan Vortex. CL4.30/AS4.47/CR1.13/HS11.22 - Mountain climatology and meteorology, Tuesday, 09 Apr 2019, European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2019, Vienna, Austria (Poster)
  • Xiao-Feng Li, J. Li, and X. Zhang, Fluctuations of Northern Hemisphere Zonal-Mean Circulation: Phase Transition and Stratosphere-Troposphere Interactions, J-M04: Stratosphere-Troposphere-Ocean coupling in weather and climate, IUGG 2011, XXV General Assembly, June 28-July 7, 2011, Melbourne, Australia (Oral).
  • Xiao-Feng Li, Hayley Fowler, and Stephen Blenkinsop, Impacts of the North Atlantic Oscillation on Frequencies of Daily Precipitation Extremes over the UK in winter, EGU2017-10704, CL5.05, 23–28 April 2017, European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2017, Vienna, Austria (Posters).
  • Xiao-Feng Li, Jianping Li, Yun Li, Jingjing Yu, Hayley Fowler, Stephen Blenkinsop, et al., Role of Global Warming in recent Speedup of the Wintertime Pacific Walker Circulation, EGU2017-6926, CL4.17/AS1.16/OS1.22, 23–28 April 2017, European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2017, Vienna, Austria (Posters).

Joint Supervisions

  • Muaz Zaim. Sep. 2016-Aug. 2017. Master's Degree. Thesis tittle: Climate Change Impacts in the Hindu-Kush Karakoram Himalaya. School of Civil Engineering and Geoscience, Newcastle University.
  • Qinqin Kong, Sep. 2016-Aug. 2017. Exchanging Ph.D student from Chinese Academy of Sciences, China. Concurrent drought and heatwaves in eastern China. School of Civil Engineering and Geoscience, Newcastle University.
  • Yafei Li, Sep. 2017-present. Exchanging Ph.D student from Beijing Normal University, China. Rainfall extremes in Midwest Asia. School of Engineering, Newcastle University.

Google scholar: Click here.

ResearchGate:   Click here.