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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Professor Tim Burt

Professor in the Department of Geography
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41870
Fax: +44 (0)191 33 41801
Room number: 321

Contact Professor Tim Burt (email at


My research interests focus on catchment hydrology and water quality. Much of my research has been on nitrate pollution and I am currently involved in analysing nitrate records from the Frome and Piddle rivers in Dorset (working with Nicholas Howden at Bristol). I continue to work on nitrate records from the Slapton catchments in South Devon (records from 1970), some of the longest for small catchments anywhere. I also study soil erosion: in the lowlands on agricultural land, and in the uplands on blanket peat moorland where losses of soil carbon are of increasing concern. Research with Fred Worrall in Earth Sciences has focused on dissolved organic carbon in particular. With Stuart Lane, I have supervised PhD students working on catchment influences on in-stream habitats and fish populations in the River Eden and in Wensleydale. I also have an interest in climatic history, having worked extensively on records from the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford (records from 1767), and from the Durham Observatory (records from 1850). I am currently responsible for the weather records at Durham: having previous been responsible for the Radcliffe (1986-96), this means I have run the two university weather stations with the longest records in the country. Current research on heavy rainfall and flooding includes work on rainfall at Durham and Oxford, and in Sri Lanka. I am currently Chairman of the Field Studies Council and a member of the UK Environmental Change Network's Statistical and Technical Advisory Group. At Durham University, I am responsible for coordinating all the University’s environmental sustainability initiatives and I chair the University’s Fairtrade Group.

Research Groups

Research Interests

  • Climate change
  • Environmental monitoring and diagnostics including water quality, hillslope and fluvial processes
  • Geomorphology
  • Hillslope
  • Integrated catchment management
  • Soil erosion
  • Water quality, in particular nutrient pollution

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  • Burt, T.P., Jones, P.D. & Howden, N.J.K. An analysis of rainfall across the British Isles in the 1870s. International Journal of Climatology. 2015;35:2934-2947.
  • Burt, T.P., Howden, N.J.K., McDonnell, J.J., Jones, J.A. & Hancock, G.R. Seeing the climate through the trees: observing climate and forestry impacts on streamflow using a 60-year record. Hydrological Processes. 2015;29:473-480.
  • Burt, T.P., Worrall, F., Howden, N.J.K. & Anderson, M.G. Shifts in discharge-concentration relationships as a small catchment recover from severe drought. Hydrological Processes. 2015;29:498-507.
  • Burt, T.P., Howden, N.J.K. & Worrall, F. On the importance of very long-term water quality records. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water. 2014;1:41-48.
  • Burt, T.P. & Weerasinghe, K.D.N. Rainfall distributions in Sri Lanka in time and space: an analysis based on daily rainfall data. Climate. 2014;2:242-263.
  • Burt, T.P. & Howden, N.J.K. North Atlantic Oscillation amplifies orographic precipitation and river flow in upland Britain. Water Resources Research . 2013;49:3504-3515.
  • Burt, T.P. & Ferranti, E.J.S. Changing patterns of heavy rainfall in upland areas: a case study from northern England. International Journal of Climatology. 2012;32:518-532.
  • Howden, N.J.K., Burt, T.P., Mathias, S.A., Worrall, F. & Whelan, M.J. Modelling long-term diffuse nitrate pollution at the catchment-scale: Data, parameter and epistemic uncertainty. Journal of Hydrology. 2011;403:337-351.
  • Howden, N.J.K., Burt, T.P., Worrall, F., Mathias, S.A. & Whelan, M.J. Nitrate pollution in intensively farmed regions: What are the prospects for sustaining high-quality groundwater?. Water Resources Research. 2011;47:W00L02.
  • Worrall, F, Burt, T.P., Rowson, J.G., Warburton, J & Adamson, J.K. The multi-annual carbon budget of a peat-covered catchment. Science of the Total Environment. 2009;407:4084-4094.
  • Worrall, F., Burt, T.P. & Adamson, J.K. Change in runoff initiation probability over a severe drought in a peat soil – Implications for flowpaths. Journal of Hydrology. 2007;345:16-26.
  • Holden, J., Shotbolt, L., Bonn, A., Burt, T.P., Chapman, P.J., Dougill, A.J., Fraser, E.D.G., Hubacek, K., Irvine, B., Kirkby, M.J., Reed, M.S., Prell, C., Stagl, S., Stringer, L.C., Turner, A. & Worrall, F. Environmental change in moorland landscapes. Earth-Science Reviews. 2007;82:75-100.
  • Burt, T.P. & Horton, B.P. Inter-decadal variability in daily rainfall at Durham (UK) since the 1850s. International Journal of Climatology. 2007;27:945-956.
  • Burt, T. & Worrall, F. Non-stationarity in long time series: some curious reversals in the "memory" effect. Hydrological Processes. 2007;21:3529-3531.
  • Pinay, G., Bumiero, B., Tabacchi, E., Gimenez, O, Tabacchi-Planty, A.M., Hefting, M.M., Burt, T.P., Black, V.A., Nilsson, C., Iordache, V., Bureau, F., Vought, L., Petts, G.E. & DéCamps, H. Patterns of denitrification rates in European alluvial soils under various hydrological regimes. Freshwater Biology. 2007;52:252-266.
  • Worrall, F., Burt, T.P., Adamson, J., Reed, M., Warburton, J., Armstrong, A. & Evans, M. Predicting the future carbon budget for an upland peat catchment. Climate Change. 2007.
  • Worrall, F & Burt, T.P. Trends in DOC concentration in Great Britain. Journal of Hydrology. 2007;346:81-92.
  • Worrall, F., Burt, T.P. & Adamson, J.K. Long-term changes in hydrological pathways in an upland peat catchment - recovery from severe drought? Journal of Hydrology. 2006;321:5-20.
  • Worrall, F, Burt, T.P & Adamson., J The rate of and controls upon DOC loss in a peat catchment. Journal of Hydrology. 2006;321:311-325.
  • Anderson, M.G. & Burt, T.P. The role of topography in controlling throughflow generation. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 2006;29:331-334.
  • Burt, T.P. The weather at Durham in 2005. International Journal of Meteorology. 2006;31:29-33.
  • Burt, T.P. A third paradox in catchment hydrology and biogeochemistry: decoupling in the riparian zone. Hydrological Processes. 2005;19:2087-2089.
  • Worrall, F, Burt, T.P & Adamson, J. Fluxes of dissolved carbon dioxide and inorganic carbon from an upland peat catchment: implications for soil respiration. Biogeochemistry. 2005;73:515-539.
  • Burt, T.P. & Pinay, G. Linking hydrology and biogeochemistry in complex landscapes. Progress in Physical Geography. 2005;29:297-316.
  • Worrall, F. & Burt, T.P. Predicting the future DOC flux from upland catchments. Journal of Hydrology. 2005;300:126-139.
  • Worrall, F. & Burt, T.P. Reconstructing long-term records of dissolved CO2. Hydrological Processes. 2005;19:1791-1806.
  • Burt, T.P. The weather at Durham in 2004. 2005.
  • Burt, T.P. Risky business. Geography Review. 2004;17:2-5.
  • Burt, T.P. The weather at Durham in 2003. Journal of Meteorology. 2004;29 (April):137-140.
  • Worrall, F & Burt, T.P. Time series analysis of long-term river dissolved organic carbon records. Hydrological processes. 2004;18:893-911.
  • Jung, M., Burt, T.P. & Bates, P.D. Toward a conceptual model of floodplain water table response. Water Resources Research. 2004;40:W12409.
  • Worrall, F, Harriman, R, Evans, C.D., Watts, C, Adamson, J, Neal, C, Tipping, E, Burt, T.P, Grieve, I, Montieth, D, Naden, P.S, Nisbet, T, Reynolds, B & Stevens, P Trends in dissolved organic carbon in UK rivers and lakes. Biogeochemistry. 2004;70:369-402.
  • Hefting, M., Clement, J.C., Dowrick, D., Cosandey, A.C., Bernal, S., Cimpian, C., Tatur, A., Burt, T.P. & Pinay, G. Water table elevation controls on soil nitrogen cycling in riparian wetlands along a European climatic gradient. Biogeochemistry. 2004;67:113-134.
  • Worrall, F., Reed, M., Warburton, J. & Burt, T. Carbon budget for a British upland peat catchment. The Science of the Total Environment. 2003;312:133-146.
  • Worrall, F., Swank, W.T. & Burt, T.P. Changes in stream nitrate concentrations due to land management practices, ecological succession, and climate: developing a systems approach to integrated catchment response. Water Resources Research. 2003;39:art. no.-1177.
  • Burt, T.P., Hanwell, J.D. & Burt, E.L. Follow the sun. Geography Review. 2003;16:22-28.
  • Holden, J. & Burt, T.P. Hydraulic conductivity in upland blanket peat: measurement and variability. Hydrological Processes. 2003;17:1227-1237.
  • Clement, J.C., Aquilina, L., Bour, O., Plaine, K., Burt, T.P. & Pinay, G. Hydrological flowpaths and nitrate removal rates within a riparian floodplain along a fourth-order stream in Brittany (France). Hydrological Processes. 2003;17:1177-1195.
  • Holden, J. & Burt, T.P. Hydrological studies on blanket peat: the significance of the acrotelm-catotelm model. Journal of Ecology. 2003;91:86-102.
  • Worrall, F., Burt, T.P. & Shedden, R.M. Long term records of riverine dissolved organic carbon. Biogeochemistry. 2003;64:165-178.
  • Burt, T.P. Monitoring change in hydrological systems. Science of the Total Environment. 2003;310:9-16.
  • Sabater, S., Butturini, A., Clement, J.C., Burt, T.P., Dowrick, D., Hefting, M., Maitre, V., Pinay, G., Postolache, C., Rzepecki, M. & Sabater, F. Nitrogen removal by riparian buffers along a European climatic gradient: patterns and factors of variation. Ecosystems. 2003;6:20-30.
  • Holden, J. & Burt, T.P. Runoff production in blanket peat covered catchments. Water Resources Research. 2003;39:art. no.-1191.
  • Burt, T.P. Some observations on slope development in South Wales: Savigear and Kirkby revisited. Progress in Physical Geography. 2003;27:581-595.
  • Merot, P., Squividant, H., Aurousseau, P., Hefting, M., Burt, T.P., Maitre, V., Kruk, M., Butturini, A., Thenail, C. & Viaud, V. Testing a climato-topographic index for predicting wetlands distribution along an European climate gradient. Ecological Modelling. 2003;162:51-71.
  • T.P. Burt & B.P. Horton The climate of Malham Tarn. Field Studies. 2003;10:635-652.
  • Burt, T.P. The greenhouse effect. Geography Review. 2003;17:22-25.
  • Burt, T.P. The weather in Durham in 2002. Journal of Meteorology. 2003;28:148-151.
  • Heppell, C.M., Worrall, F., Burt, T.P. & Williams, R.J. A classification of drainage and macropore flow in an agricultural catchment. Hydrological Processes. 2002;16:27-46.
  • Holden, J., Burt, T.P. & Vilas, M. Application of ground penetrating radar to the identification of subsurface piping in blanket peat. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 2002;27:235-249.
  • Burt, T.P. Durham University Observatory: Daily Meteorological Observations 2002. 2002.
  • Matheson, F.E., Nguyen, M.L., Cooper, A.B., Burt, T.P. & Bull, D.C. Fate of N-15-nitrate in unplanted, planted and harvested riparian wetland soil microcosms. Ecological Engineering. 2002;19:249-264.
  • Park, S.J. & Burt, T.P. Identification and characterization of pedogeomorphological processes on a hillslope. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 2002;66:1897-1910.
  • Holden, J. & Burt, T.P. Infiltration, runoff and sediment production in blanket peat catchments: implications of field rainfall simulation experiments. Hydrological Processes. 2002;16:2537-2557.
  • Jenns, N., Heppell, C.M., Burt, T.P., Walden, J. & Foster, I.D.L. Investigating contemporary and historical sediment inputs to Slapton Higher Ley: an analysis of the robustness of source ascription methods when applied to lake sediment data. Hydrological Processes. 2002;16:3467-3486.
  • Holden, J. & Burt, T.P. Laboratory experiments on drought and runoff in blanket peat. European Journal of Soil Science. 2002;53:675-689.
  • Holden, J. & Burt, T.P. Piping and pipeflow in a deep peat catchment. Catena. 2002;48:163-199.
  • Worrall, F., Burt, T.P., Jaeban, R.Y., Warburton, J. & Shedden, R. Release of dissolved organic carbon from upland peat. Hydrological Processes. 2002;16:3487-3504.
  • Burt, T.P. The weather in Durham in 2001. Journal of Meteorology. 2002;27:143-147.
  • Burt, T.P., Pinay, G., Matheson, F.E., Haycock, N.E., Butturini, A., Clement, J.C., Danielescu, S., Dowrick, D.J., Hefting, M.M., Hillbricht-Ilkowska, A. & Maitre, V. Water table fluctuations in the riparian zone: comparative results from a pan-European experiment. Journal of Hydrology. 2002;265:129-148.
  • Burt, T.P., Bates,P.D., Stewart, M.D., Claxton, A.J., Anderson, M.G. & Price, D.A. Water table fluctuations within the floodplain of the River Severn, England. Journal of Hydrology. 2002;262:1-20.
  • Burt, T.P. Integrated management of sensitive catchment systems. Catena. 2001;42:275-290.
  • Worrall, F & Burt, T.P Inter-annual controls on nitrate export from an agricultural catchment - How much land-use change is safe?. Journal of Hydrology. 2001;243:228-241.
  • Holden, J., Burt, T.P. & Cox, N.J. Macroporosity and infiltration in blanket peat: the implications of tension disc infiltrometer measurements. Hydrological Processes. 2001;15:289-303.
  • Burt, T.P. & Horton, B.P. The natural history of the Slapton Ley national nature reserve XXIII: the climate of Slapton Ley. Field Studies. 2001;10:93-114.

Chapter in book

  • Pinay, G., Burt, T.P. & Gimiera, B. Floodplains in river ecosystems. In: Ziglio, G., Siligardi, M. & Falim, G. Biological Monitoring of Rivers. Wiley; 2006.
  • Anderson, M.G. & Burt, T.P. The role of topography in controlling throughflow generation. In: Beven, K.J. Streamflow Generation Processes. Wallingford.: IHAS Press; 2006:291-304.
  • Burt, T.P. General/Particular. In: Castree, N., Rogers, A.P. & Sherman, D. Questioning Geography. Blackwell; 2005:117-130.
  • Burt, T.P. & Slattery, M.C. Land use and land cover effects on runoff processes: agricultural effects. In: Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. John Wiley; 2005.
  • Burt, T.P. Realms of gold, wild surmise and wondering about physical geography. In: Trudgill, S.T. & Roy, A. Contemporary Meanings in Physical Geography. London.: Arnold; 2003:49-61.
  • Burt, T.P. Scale: upscaling and downscaling in physical geography. In: Holloway, S.L., Rice, S.P. & Valentine, G. Key Concepts in Geography. London.: Sage; 2003:209-227.
  • Burt, T.P., Warburton, J. & Allison, R.J. Eroding upland landscapes? Past, present and future perspectives. In: Burt, T.P., Thompson, D.B.A. & Warburton, J. The British Uplands: Dynamics of change. Peterborough.: JNCC; 2002:60-66.
  • Higgitt, D.L. & Warburton, J. GPS: A tool for mapping the uplands. In: Burt, T.P., Thompson, D.B.A. & Warburton, J. The British Uplands: Dynamics of Change. JNCC; 2002:134-135.
  • Danks, M. & Warburton, J. Historical river channel change - Swinhope Burn, Upper Weardale. In: Burt, T.P., Thompson, D.B.A. & Warburton, J. The British Uplands: Dynamics of Change. JNCC; 2002:125-126.
  • Burt, T.P. Hydrological processes in riparian buffer zones. In: Hatano, R., Mander, U., Hayakawa, Y., Kuusemets, V., Watanabe, Y. & Kanazawa, K. Proceedings of the International Workshop on Efficiency of Purification Processes in Riparian Buffer Zones. National Agricultural Research Centre for Hokkaido; 2002:1-11.
  • A. Mills, J. Warburton & D.L. Higgitt Peat mass movements: a World and regional database. In: T.P. Burt, D.B.A. Thompson & J. Warburton The British Uplands: Dynamics of Change. JNCC; 2002:166-167.
  • Johnson, R.M., Warburton, J. & Burt, T.P. Torrent erosion in Lake District mountain cathments. In: Burt, T.P., Thompson, D.B.A. & Warburton, J. The British Uplands: Dynamics of Change. Peterborough.: JNCC; 2002:139-140.

Edited book

  • Warburton, J. & Lane, S.N. Land Management and the Protection of the Water Environment: Understanding the Impact of New Legislation. Proceedings of the Ninth National Symposium. British Hydrological Society; 2006.

Conference Paper

Conference Proceeding

  • Widdison, P.E., Burt, T.P., Donoghuem D.N.M. & Hudson, R. Responses to water quality problems in the Leet catchment. Edinburgh.: SAC and SEPA Biennial Conference; 2006.
  • Widdison, P.E., Hudson, R. & Burt, T.P. Water Framework Directive: Implications for Farmers in the Leet Water Catchment. Edinburgh.: SAC and SEPA Biennial Conference; 2004.


Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Admissions & college affairs: college admissions
  • General issues: general environmental issues
  • Landscape & buildings: geomorphology
  • Seas & rivers: river hydrology and geomorphology
  • Weather & climate: weather observation
  • Weather & climate: recent climate history
  • Pollution: pollution transport in agricultural catchments
  • Pollution: nitrate
  • Pollution: phosphate
  • Engineering: Other contexts: soil conservation and buffer zone management

Selected Grants

  • 2009: CATCHMENT CHANGE NETWORK (CCN) (£6726.16 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 2009: Sustainable uplands: communicating and learning to live with change (£2716.44 from ESRC)
  • 2000: NICHE/CHASM (£1.00 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 1997: NICHOLAS FPIV ENV + CLIMATE (£186199.00 from )