Dr Fiona Johnson
Scientia Fellow (Level D)

Dr Fiona Johnson

  • PhD – School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales (September 2006 to March 2010, degree conferred December 2010)
    Thesis title: Evaluating and enhancing General Circulation Model simulations for water resources climate change impact assessments
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Civil)(Hons and University Medal) – School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales (1997-2001)
Civil and Environmental Engineering

A/Prof Fiona Johnson is an academic at University of New South Wales based in the Water Research Centre, in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She has over 18 years' experience in hydrology working as a consultant, for government and in academia. Associate Professor Johnson’s areas of research and teaching focus on statistical hydrology, particularly with respect to flooding and extreme events and the use of global climate models for climate change assessments of water resources systems. She has a particular interest in solutions to climate and hydrological challenges faced by communities in the Global South and is currently undertaking research projects in Tanzania, Nepal, the Pacific and Australia.

A/Prof Johnson was a PhD candidate between 2006–10. Immediately after her PhD submission in March 2010, she took up a position at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology as a hydrologist on the Intensity Frequency Duration Revision Project. This project developed revised design rainfalls for Australia, using extended rainfall records and improved statistical methods. A/Prof Johnson played an integral role in the project by applying statistical methods to estimate design rainfalls and provided substantial input into the impact of anthropogenic climate change on extreme rainfalls, contributing to the chapter on this work in the industry guidelines ‘Australian Rainfall and Runoff’.

A/Prof Johnson took up a full-time, ongoing Lecturer appointment in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UNSW, in September 2012 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in July 2015 and Associate Professor in January 2020.

A/Prof Johnson was appointed as prestigious UNSW Scientia A/Prof for 2019 – 2023. The UNSW Scientia program is one of the cornerstones of UNSW’s 2025 Strategy. Its aim is to attract and retain the best and brightest people, with outstanding research track records. A primary goal of the program is to enhance UNSW research performance by attracting and retaining exceptional researchers at the highest level relative to career stage and supporting them with a unique development and collaboration package and career pathway commitment.

(+61 2) 9385 9769
Water Research Centre Room 132, Vallentine Annexe (Building H22) Kensington Campus
  • Journal articles | 2021
    Guo D; Thomas J; Lazaro AB; Matwewe F; Johnson F, 2021, 'Modelling the influence of short-term climate variability on drinking water quality in tropical developing countries: A case study in Tanzania', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 763, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142932
    Journal articles | 2021
    Stephens CM; Lall U; Johnson FM; Marshall LA, 2021, 'Landscape changes and their hydrologic effects: Interactions and feedbacks across scales', Earth-Science Reviews, vol. 212, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2020.103466
    Journal articles | 2020
    Bulovic N; McIntyre N; Johnson F, 2020, 'Evaluation of imerg v05b 30-min rainfall estimates over the high-elevation tropical andes mountains', Journal of Hydrometeorology, vol. 21, pp. 2875 - 2892, http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JHM-D-20-0114.1
    Journal articles | 2020
    Jiang Z; Sharma A; Johnson F, 2020, 'Refining Predictor Spectral Representation Using Wavelet Theory for Improved Natural System Modeling', Water Resources Research, vol. 56, http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2019WR026962
    Journal articles | 2020
    Rashid MM; Sharma A; Johnson F, 2020, 'Multi-model drought predictions using temporally aggregated climate indicators', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 581, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2019.124419
    Journal articles | 2020
    Stephens CM; Marshall LA; Johnson FM; Lin L; Band LE; Ajami H, 2020, 'Is Past Variability a Suitable Proxy for Future Change? A Virtual Catchment Experiment', Water Resources Research, vol. 56, http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2019WR026275
    Journal articles | 2019
    Eghdamirad S; Johnson F; Sharma A; Kim JH, 2019, 'The influence of dependence in characterizing multi-variable uncertainty for climate change impact assessments', Hydrological Sciences Journal, vol. 64, pp. 731 - 738, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02626667.2019.1602777
    Journal articles | 2019
    Guo D; Thomas J; Lazaro A; Mahundo C; Lwetoijera D; Mrimi E; Matwewe F; Johnson F, 2019, 'Understanding the impacts of short‐term climate variability on drinking water source quality: Observations from three distinct climatic regions in Tanzania', GeoHealth, vol. 3, pp. 84 - 103, http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2018GH000180
    Journal articles | 2019
    Jiang Z; Sharma A; Johnson F, 2019, 'Assessing the sensitivity of hydro-climatological change detection methods to model uncertainty and bias', Advances in Water Resources, vol. 134, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.advwatres.2019.103430
    Journal articles | 2019
    Pham HT; Kim S; Marshall L; Johnson F, 2019, 'Using 3D robust smoothing to fill land surface temperature gaps at the continental scale', International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, vol. 82, pp. 101879 - 101879, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jag.2019.05.012
    Journal articles | 2019
    Stephens CM; Marshall LA; Johnson FM, 2019, 'Investigating strategies to improve hydrologic model performance in a changing climate', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 579, pp. 124219 - 124219, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2019.124219
    Journal articles | 2018
    Guo D; Johnson F; Marshall L, 2018, 'Assessing the Potential Robustness of Conceptual Rainfall-Runoff Models Under a Changing Climate', Water Resources Research, vol. 54, pp. 5030 - 5049, http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2018WR022636
    Journal articles | 2018
    Johnson F; Green J, 2018, 'A comprehensive continent-wide regionalisation investigation for daily design rainfall', Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, vol. 16, pp. 67 - 79, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejrh.2018.03.001
    Journal articles | 2018
    Kim S; Paik K; Johnson F; Sharma A, 2018, 'Building a Flood-Warning Framework for Ungauged Locations Using Low Resolution, Open-Access Remotely Sensed Surface Soil Moisture, Precipitation, Soil, and Topographic Information', IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, vol. 11, pp. 375 - 387, http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/JSTARS.2018.2790409
    Journal articles | 2018
    Li J; Sharma A; Evans J; Johnson F, 2018, 'Addressing the mischaracterization of extreme rainfall in regional climate model simulations – A synoptic pattern based bias correction approach', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 556, pp. 901 - 912, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2016.04.070
    Journal articles | 2018
    Li J; Wasko C; Johnson F; Evans JP; Sharma A, 2018, 'Can Regional Climate Modeling Capture the Observed Changes in Spatial Organization of Extreme Storms at Higher Temperatures?', Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 45, pp. 4475 - 4484, http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2018GL077716
    Journal articles | 2018
    Mehrotra R; Johnson F; Sharma A, 2018, 'A software toolkit for correcting systematic biases in climate model simulations', Environmental Modelling and Software, vol. 104, pp. 130 - 152, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsoft.2018.02.010
    Journal articles | 2018
    Nahar J; Johnson F; Sharma A, 2018, 'Addressing Spatial Dependence Bias in Climate Model Simulations—An Independent Component Analysis Approach', Water Resources Research, vol. 54, pp. 827 - 841, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2017WR021293
    Journal articles | 2018
    Pham HT; Marshall L; Johnson F; Sharma A, 2018, 'Deriving daily water levels from satellite altimetry and land surface temperature for sparsely gauged catchments: A case study for the Mekong River', Remote Sensing of Environment, vol. 212, pp. 31 - 46, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2018.04.034
    Journal articles | 2018
    Rashid MM; Johnson F; Sharma A, 2018, 'Identifying Sustained Drought Anomalies in Hydrological Records: A Wavelet Approach', Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, vol. 123, pp. 7416 - 7432, http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2018JD028455
    Journal articles | 2018
    Stephens CM; Johnson FM; Marshall LA, 2018, 'Implications of future climate change for event-based hydrologic models', Advances in Water Resources, vol. 119, pp. 95 - 110, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.advwatres.2018.07.004
    Journal articles | 2018
    Stephens CM; McVicar TR; Johnson FM; Marshall LA, 2018, 'Revisiting Pan Evaporation Trends in Australia a Decade on', Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 45, pp. 11 - 172, http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2018GL079332
    Journal articles | 2017
    Eghdamirad S; Johnson F; Sharma A, 2017, 'Using second-order approximation to incorporate GCM uncertainty in climate change impact assessments', Climatic Change, vol. 142, pp. 37 - 52, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-1944-x
    Journal articles | 2017
    Kim S; Balakrishnan K; Liu Y; Johnson F; Sharma A, 2017, 'Spatial Disaggregation of Coarse Soil Moisture Data by Using High-Resolution Remotely Sensed Vegetation Products', IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters, vol. 14, pp. 1604 - 1608, http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/LGRS.2017.2725945
    Journal articles | 2017
    Li J; Evans J; Johnson F; Sharma A, 2017, 'A comparison of methods for estimating climate change impact on design rainfall using a high-resolution RCM', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 547, pp. 413 - 427, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.02.019
    Journal articles | 2017
    Li J; Johnson F; Evans J; Sharma A, 2017, 'A comparison of methods to estimate future sub-daily design rainfall', Advances in Water Resources, vol. 110, pp. 215 - 227, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.advwatres.2017.10.020
    Journal articles | 2017
    Nahar J; Johnson F; Sharma A, 2017, 'A rank-based approach for correcting systematic biases in spatial disaggregation of coarse-scale climate simulations', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 550, pp. 716 - 725, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.05.045
    Journal articles | 2017
    Nahar J; Johnson F; Sharma A, 2017, 'Assessing the extent of non-stationary biases in GCMs', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 549, pp. 148 - 162, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.03.045
    Journal articles | 2016
    Eghdamirad S; Johnson F; Woldemeskel F; Sharma A, 2016, 'Quantifying the sources of uncertainty in upper air climate variables', Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 121, pp. 3859 - 3874, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2015JD024341
    Journal articles | 2016
    Hasan MM; Sharma A; Johnson F; Mariethoz G; Seed A, 2016, 'Merging radar and in situ rainfall measurements: An assessment of different combination algorithms', Water Resources Research, vol. 52, pp. 8384 - 8398, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2015WR018441
    Journal articles | 2016
    Hasan MM; Sharma A; Mariethoz G; Johnson F; Seed A, 2016, 'Improving radar rainfall estimation by merging point rainfall measurements within a model combination framework', Advances in Water Resources, vol. 97, pp. 205 - 218, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.advwatres.2016.09.011
    Journal articles | 2016
    Johnson F; Hutchinson MF; The C; Beesley C; Green J, 2016, 'Topographic relationships for design rainfalls over Australia', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 533, pp. 439 - 451, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2015.12.035
    Journal articles | 2016
    Johnson F; White CJ; van Dijk A; Ekstrom M; Evans JP; Jakob D; Kiem AS; Leonard M; Rouillard A; Westra S, 2016, 'Natural hazards in Australia: floods', Climatic Change, vol. 139, pp. 21 - 35, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-016-1689-y
    Journal articles | 2016
    Kiem AS; Johnson F; Westra S; van Dijk A; Evans JP; O’Donnell A; Rouillard A; Barr C; Tyler J; Thyer M; Jakob D; Woldemeskel F; Sivakumar B; Mehrotra R, 2016, 'Natural hazards in Australia: droughts', Climatic Change, vol. 139, pp. 37 - 54, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-016-1798-7
    Journal articles | 2016
    Kim S; Parinussa RM; Liu YY; Johnson FM; Sharma A, 2016, 'Merging alternate remotely-sensed soil moisture retrievals using a non-static model combination approach', Remote Sensing, vol. 8, http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/rs8060518
    Journal articles | 2016
    Parinussa RM; Lakshmi V; Johnson F; Sharma A, 2016, 'Comparing and combining remotely sensed land surface temperature products for improved hydrological applications', Remote Sensing, vol. 8, http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/rs8020162
    Journal articles | 2016
    Parinussa RM; Lakshmi V; Johnson FM; Sharma A, 2016, 'A new framework for monitoring flood inundation using readily available satellite data', Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 43, pp. 2599 - 2605, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2016GL068192
    Journal articles | 2016
    Sarhadi A; Burn DH; Johnson F; Mehrotra R; Sharma A, 2016, 'Water resources climate change projections using supervised nonlinear and multivariate soft computing techniques', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 536, pp. 119 - 132, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2016.02.040
    Journal articles | 2015
    Haddad K; Johnson F; Rahman A; Green J; Kuczera G, 2015, 'Comparing three methods to form regions for design rainfall statistics: Two case studies in Australia', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 527, pp. 62 - 76, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2015.04.043
    Journal articles | 2015
    Johnson F; Sharma A, 2015, 'What are the impacts of bias correction on future drought projections?', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 525, pp. 472 - 485, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2015.04.002
    Journal articles | 2015
    Kim S; Liu YY; Johnson FM; Parinussa RM; Sharma A, 2015, 'A global comparison of alternate AMSR2 soil moisture products: Why do they differ?', Remote Sensing of Environment, vol. 161, pp. 43 - 62, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2015.02.002
    Journal articles | 2015
    Kim S; Parinussa RM; Liu YY; Johnson FM; Sharma A, 2015, 'A framework for combining multiple soil moisture retrievals based on maximizing temporal correlation', Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 42, pp. 6662 - 6670, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2015GL064981
    Journal articles | 2015
    Li J; Sharma A; Johnson F; Evans J, 2015, 'Evaluating the effect of climate change on areal reduction factors using regional climate model projections', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 528, pp. 419 - 434, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2015.06.067
    Journal articles | 2015
    Wasko C; Sharma A; Johnson F, 2015, 'Does storm duration modulate the extreme precipitation-temperature scaling relationship?', Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 42, pp. 8783 - 8790, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2015GL066274
    Journal articles | 2014
    Hasan MM; Sharma A; Johnson F; Mariethoz G; Seed A, 2014, 'Correcting bias in radar Z-R relationships due to uncertainty in point rain gauge networks', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 519, pp. 1668 - 1676, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.09.060
    Journal articles | 2014
    Westra S; Fowler HJ; Evans JP; Alexander LV; Berg P; Johnson F; Kendon EJ; Lenderink G; Roberts NM, 2014, 'Future changes to the intensity and frequency of short-duration extreme rainfall', Reviews of Geophysics, vol. 52, pp. 522 - 555, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2014RG000464
    Journal articles | 2013
    Rocheta E; Sugiyanto M; Johnson F; Evans J; Sharma A, 2013, 'How well do GCMs represent low-frequency rainfall variability?', Water Resources Research, vol. 50, pp. 2108 - 2123, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2012WR013085
    Journal articles | 2012
    Johnson F; Sharma A, 2012, 'A nesting model for bias correction of variability at multiple time scales in general circulation model precipitation simulations', Water Resources Research, vol. 48, pp. Article number: W01504, http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2011WR010464
    Journal articles | 2011
    Johnson FM; Sharma A, 2011, 'Accounting for interannual variability: A comparison of options for water resources climate change impact assessments', Water Resources Research, vol. 47, pp. Article no: W04508, http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2010WR009272
    Journal articles | 2011
    Johnson FM; Westra S; Sharma A; Pitman AJ, 2011, 'An Assessment of GCM Skill in Simulating Persistence across Multiple Time Scales', Journal of Climate, vol. 24, pp. 3609 - 3623, http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/2011JCLI3732.1
    Journal articles | 2010
    Johnson FM; Sharma A, 2010, 'A comparison of Australian open water body evaporation trends for current and future climates estimated from Class A evaporation pans and general circulation models', Journal of Hydrometeorology, vol. 11, pp. 105 - 121, http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/2009JHM1158.1
    Journal articles | 2009
    Johnson FM; Sharma A, 2009, 'Measurement of GCM skill in predicting variables relevant for hydroclimatological assessments', Journal of Climate, vol. 22, pp. 4373 - 4382, http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/2009jcli2681.1

  • CI Reeder, CI Arblaster, CI Brown, CI Evans, CI Hogg, CI Holbrook, CI Jakob, CI Johnson, CI Kay, CI Lane, CI Shakespeare, CI Sherwood, CI Vincent, CI Zika, CI Strutton – Fast Disk Storage to Enable Big Data Science in Weather, Oceans and Climate, ARC LIEF Project, 2020
  • CI Cripps, CI Marshall, CI Ramos, CI Wardle, CI Tao, CI Girolami, CI Kohn, CI Cripps, CI Lindsay, CI Oppermann, CI Webster, CI Korbel, CI Salles, CI Tanaka, CI Scalzo, CI Johnson, CI Gosling, CI Chandra, CI Greenville, CI Hirst, CI Vervoort, CI Bell, CI Black, CI Jessell, CI Czarnota, CI Azizi, CI Gibson, CI Symington, CI Dupen, CI Gallagher – ARC Training Centre in Data Analytics for Resources and Environments (DARE), 2019 – 2023
  • CI Johnson, CI Sharma, CI Mehrotra – Bias Correction and Spatial Disaggregation of Climate Models for AWRA Downscaling, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, 2019
  • CI Munro, CI Dansie, CI Leslie, CI Johnson, CI Holley - Integrated Regional and Transnational Water Resource Management short course, 2019 – 2022, Australia Awards
  • CI Stuetz, CI Henderson, CI Neilan, CI Schofield, CI Glamore, CI Johnson, CI Zamyadi, Nuisance & Harmful Algae Science-Practice Partnership, Melbourne Water, 2017-2020
  • CI Glamore, CI Johnson – Developing an integrated water balance budget for Thirlmere Lakes, NSW Government, Office of Environment and Heritage, 2017-2020
  • CI Johnson, CI Sharma, PI Chowdhury, PI Beecham - Assessing future drought risk for water resources system management, ARC Linkage Project LP 150100548, 2015-2018
  • CI Thomas, CI Johnson – Conduct field trial to assess effectiveness of household and community level WASH interventions in reducing climate sensitivity of diarrhoeal diseases, World Health Organisation, 2015-2017
  • CI Westra, CI Johnson, PI Fowler, PI Lenderink, PI Zwiers - A spatial extremes framework for predicting subdaily rainfall intensity, ARC Discovery Project DP 150100411, 2015-2017
  • CI Sharma, CI Johnson, CI Liu, CI Marshall, PI Moradkhani, PI Muddu, PI. Wang, PI Robertson - Reducing flood loss A data assimilation framework for improving forecasting capability in sparsely gauged regions, ARC Discovery Project DP140102394, 2014-2016

  • Best presentation award at 2018 Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium
  • 2017 Modsim Early Career Research Excellence Prize
  • Best presentation award at 2012 Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium
  • 2011 Malcolm Chaikin prize for Research Excellence at UNSW for the best PhD in engineering in 2010

Associate Professor Johnson’s research covers a wide range of disciplines from hydrologic modelling, climate change impact assessment methodologies, applications of remote sensing and statistical analysis of extreme rainfalls. In particular, her research focuses on improving our understanding of hydroclimatological extremes both now and in the future, with her research findings being of particular interest to water managers as they seek to manage risks from hydrological events.

Her research is focused in four main areas.

  • Extreme rainfall analysis: A/Prof Johnson is interested in the analysis of extreme rainfalls that are primary driver of flooding. This includes statistical analysis approaches as well as more fundamental research into the atmospheric conditions that are responsible for flood producing rainfalls. 
  • Methods for improving climate change impact assessments: Johnsons' approach for developing and applying bias correction methods is to focus on the time scales and features of interest for a particular application. In particular she has developed methods for long timescale climate persistence which affect drought risk as well as short time scale rainfall extremes. More recently her research has focused on whether existing hydrological methods are appropriate given non stationarity due to climate change, considering both statistical methods for rainfall analysis as well as hydrological model structures.
  • Flood forecasting in ungauged catchments: One of the themes of A/Prof Johnson's research is how flood predictions can be improved in ungauged catchments. This has included analysing the utility of different satellite remote sensing data products including soil moisture, rainfall and water level data. She is currently expanding this research theme to include the use of Numerical Weather Prediction rainfall forecasts.
  • Humanitarian Engineering: A/Prof Johnson is passionate about ensuring that engineering meets the needs of the most marginalised and remote communities. To date this has included community-centered research in Tanzania, Nepal and the Pacific as well as remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.


My Research Supervision

  • Rounak Afroz researching Future Drought Projections, with Prof Ashish Sharma
  • Shuang Liu researching Algal Growth in Urban Stormwater Lakes, with A/Prof Will Glamore and Dr Bojan Tamburic
  • Philippa Higgins researching Paleohydrological reconstructions to understand climate variability in the Pacific, with A/Prof Martin Andersen, Dr Jonathan Palmer, Prof Chris Turney
  • Donnie Carroll researching Flood forecasting in the Pacific, with Prof Lucy Marshall
  • Nena Bulovic (UQ) researching Rainfall in the Tropical Andes, with Prof Neil McIntyre
  • Eleanor Earl researching Flood resilience in the Pacific, with Prof Lucy Marshall and Prof David Sanderson
  • Salman Sharifazari researching Climate variability and its impacts on water resources in the Indian Ocean
  • Joe Cairns researching Hydrology of upland peat swamps, with A/Prof Will Glamore
  • Jack Lodge researching Transboundary water management, with Dr Andrew Dansie
  • Maryam Zeinolabedini Rezaabad researching Data science applications for water quality management, with Prof Lucy Marshall

My Teaching

A/Prof Johnson's teaching is in the areas of water resources engineering and Humanitarian Engineering. She has coordinated and taught the following courses during her time at UNSW.

  • ENGG1000 Introduction to Engineering Design and Innovation
  • ENGG3001 Fundamentals of Humanitarian Engineering
  • ENGG4102 Humanitarian Engineering Project
  • CVEN3501 Water Resources Engineering
  • CVEN4507 Advanced Water Engineering
  • CVEN9611 Urban Hydrology
  • CVEN9612 Catchment and Water Resources Modelling
  • CVEN9625 Fundamentals of Water Engineering