Interview of the Month: Iceland
Interview with the President of the Icelandic Meteorological Society (Veðurfræðifélagið, VeF), Guðrún Nína Petersen
EMS LC: If you were to describe your society in one sentence, what would you say?
Guðrún Nína Petersen: VeF is an open and inclusive society – everybody interested in weather and climate is welcome.
EMS LC: When was VeF founded?
GNP: The Society was probably founded in the 1950s. It started publishing a biannual meteorological journal for the general public in 1956. VeF organises regular afternoon sessions, 2-3 times a year, where anyone interested in weather and climate is welcome.
EMS LC: What are the objectives of VeF?
GNP: The main objective of VeF is to promote the understanding of meteorology and related fields with emphasis on Iceland, as well as to highlight current developments in meteorology. We aim to maintain a network for meteorologists in Iceland, an to facilitate open knowledge transfer between members and encourage lively discussions on every aspect of meteorology and related fields.
EMS LC: Could you explain the structure of your membership?
GNP: Our society is small, about 30 members. The majority of members are professional meteorologists and retired meteorologists, but also a few are scientists in related fields such as glaciology, hydrology and geophysics, and some weather enthusiasts.
EMS LC: What are VeFs recent achievements?
GNP: Last summer we organised the 31st Nordic Meteorological Meeting (http://vedur.org/index.php/nmm31). In my opinion it was a great conference, with a good mixture of participants although most of them were from the Nordic countries. The atmosphere was relaxed and discussions were lively. While most of Europe was suffering with heatwaves and drought last summer, our part of Europe, SW-Iceland, had the wettest and cloudiest summer in a long time. In Reykjavík the summer temperature (June-September) was the lowest since 1992. The weather during the week of the conference was no exception, with the planned day of the excursion being one of the wettest. Due to being meteorologists we decided to postpone the trip by one day. That resulted in a perfect day out; in Reykjavík there were 17.6 hours of sunshine, on what felt like the only sunny day of June.
EMS LC: Where do you see the greatest challenges?
GNP: For such a small Society the greatest challenge is plainly to keep the society healthy. The steering committee is composed of only three people and sometimes the responsibility can be overwhelming, e.g. when organising an international conference. However, the Society members are generous with their encouragement and gratitude.
EMS LC: Which activities are you planning for the coming months?
GNP: We are planning an afternoon session or two in the spring. One of them will probably be in cooperation with the Icelandic aviation authorities, Isavia, with aviation meteorology as a topic.
EMS LC: Are you collaborating with other EMS Members?
GNP: Not as much as we should and there should be more interaction with the other Nordic societies. However, living on an island far out in the ocean results in some isolation from other EMS societies.
EMS LC: What do you expect from the EMS? In what ways can it help you to develop your activities?
GNP: We do not have much direct contact with EMS. We are grateful to EMS for organising the annual meetings and for the Newsletter. Although few of our members have applied for YSTAs we acknowledge their importance. It would be beneficial for the society if EMS had some funding that could be used to support visiting scientist as visiting Iceland is expensive.
EMS LC: What have been your most successful events in the last three years?
GNP: In 2017 we organised the 34th International Conference on Alpine Meteorology (ICAM, http://vedur.org/index.php/icam). It was a larger conference than the Nordic Meteorology Meeting and with participants from near and far, many coming to Iceland for the first time. Many Icelandic meteorologists participated in the conference as this was a great and easy opportunity to increase and update their knowledge about mountain meteorology and current developments. The conference was by all accounts a huge success, with interesting and varied talks, a good atmosphere and lively discussions during the breaks. It was an honour to be able to invite the participants to meet our president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson at his residence and at the same time introduce him to a part of the world of meteorologists. The organisation of the conference was on just a few shoulders but it was absolutely worth it.
EMS LC: What changes do you believe your society needs to make?
GNP: We need to be able to attract more of the younger meteorologists as well as members of the general public to our meetings. Our meetings are advertised by the Icelandic Meteorological Office but we could perhaps be better at informing people about our existence. We have as a society concentrated on welcoming all and keeping the conversation going but perhaps we should also be more visible to the general public.
EMS LC: What is/has been your involvement with EMS?
GNP: I was a member of the EMS award committee between 2011 and 2018 and the Chair of the committee from 2015. It was especially rewarding being able to assist younger scientists in participating in conferences.