Future weather – future challenges

On the 12th December 2017 Met Éireann, the Irish Meteorological Service, hosted an international symposium at the Mansion House, Dublin, Ireland. “Future Weather, Future Challenges” was a one-day event encompassing three session on the challenges of future weather and climate change. There was a stimulating and engaging line-up of speakers, including two EMS Silver Medal recipients, exploring the ways that weather and climate can impact on Irish society.

Laura Burke (photo: Kieran Commins)

The morning session covered the topic of climate change and was convened by Mary Robinson, Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency in Ireland. This first speaker was Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice. A former President of Ireland, she also served as the UN high Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002 and as the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy from 2013 to 2016, most recently as the Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate. With an inspiring talk entitled “Seeing future weather through the lens of climate justice”, she discussed how the ability of communities to cope with climate change impacts varies significantly with economic strength and resilience. Focusing on the ethical dimensions of the impacts of climate change on the poorest countries at a global and local context, the talk gave a thought-provoking insight into the complex realities of climate change and climate justice. The next speaker was Séamus Walsh, Head of the Climatology and Observation Division, Met Éireann who discussed “Ireland’s Changing Climate in a Warming World”. The session was completed by Professor John Fitzgerald, Chairman of The Climate Change Advisory Council and Adjunct Professor in Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin (UCD) who discussed the economic consequences of climate change and adaptation required to create a resilient Irish society in a presentation entitled “Tackling Climate Change and its Consequences”.

Audience at the symposium (photo: Kieran Commins)

The second session of the symposium focused on “The Future of Forecasting the Weather”, chaired by Evelyn Cusack, Deputy Head of Forecasting, Met Éireann. This session brought together two EMS Silver Medal winners to deliver an account of the past, present and future state of weather forecasting. The first speaker was Professor Peter Lynch, Emeritus Professor at UCD, and author of the “That’s Maths” column in the Irish Times, who was awarded the EMS Silver Medal in 2014 for his outstanding contribution to meteorological education and outreach activities and his important scientific contribution to numerical weather forecasting. His engaging talk “The Emergence of Computer Weather Forecasting: an Irish Perspective” brought us through the history of numerical weather prediction and computer forecasting. The next speaker was Professor Dame Julia Slingo who served as Chief Scientist of the UK Met Office from 2009 to 2016 and is the 2017 recipient of the EMS Silver Medal, for her outstanding contribution to meteorology on an international scale, with a distinguished career at the cutting edge of weather and climate modelling. Her talk entitled “Forewarned is Forearmed: Prediction across scales – from the global to the local, from tomorrow’s weather to long-term climate change” highlighted the advances and new frontiers in the science of forecasting and how this is aiding our ability to assess risks from extreme weather, climate variability and climate change. The final talk in the session was given by Dr. Sarah O’Reilly, Assistant Director, Met Éireann “Predicting Ireland’s Weather: Meeting the future weather challenge”.

Audience at the symposium (photo: Kieran Commins)

The symposium continued in the afternoon with a short summary of Met Éireann’s recently launched 10-year strategy “ Making Ireland Weather and Climate Prepared” delivered by Eoin Moran, Director, Met Éireann, followed by the third and final session: “Response to Weather Emergencies” convened by Seán Hogan, National Director for Fire and Emergency Management. This interesting session explored the operational side of forecasting weather impacts and emergency management during recent weather extremes in Ireland. The three talks presented during the final session were: “Impact based forecasting – A partnership between Science and Society” by Gerry Murphy, Meteorologist, Met Éireann; “Managing Electricity Networks During Extreme Weather Events” by Derek Hynes, Operations Manager, ESP Networks; and “ Weather and Emergency Management – an evolving challenge” by Gerald Fleming, Head of Forecasting, Met Éireann.

Sarah Gallagher

Slides from the “Future Weather, Future Challenges” symposium can be accessed here:
https://www.met.ie/news/display.asp?ID=490

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