Interview of the Month: Royal Meteorological Society

David Warrilow, President of the UK Royal Meteorological Society.

Interview with the President of the RMetS, David Warrilow 

David Warrilow OBE took up the office of President of the Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) on 1 October 2018. He was formerly a senior UK Government science advisor and international negotiator on climate change and environmental issues. He also managed a significant research programme at the Department of Energy and Climate Change providing underpinning scientific evidence and analysis of climate change, energy and ozone depletion in support of the UK’s domestic and international policies.

EMS LC: Congratulations on becoming President of the Royal Meteorological Society. How does it feel to take up this position?
Thank you. I have been a member of the Society since 1980, joining when I was working at the UK Meteorological Office. It was a surprise, but also a great privilege to have been asked to be President of such an important body in the world of meteorology and I am very excited about the opportunity to play my part in helping the Society to further grow and develop. It is also a pleasure to be able to work with old friends and colleagues.

EMS LC: What is the structure of Royal Meteorological Society membership?
Membership of the Society is open to anybody, anywhere in the world, who is interested or involved in meteorology and related sciences. We have three main categories of membership: Fellow, Member and Student Member. Fellowship is available to those who have made a significant contribution to promoting meteorology as a science, profession or interest. We have over 3000 members drawn from more than 50 countries.

EMS LC: What are the benefits of being a member of the RMetS?
The overall benefit of joining the Royal Meteorological Society is that it provides opportunities for people to develop their interest in weather and climate and be part of a community who have similar interests. Benefits include:

  • a) subscription to the Society’s popular journal Weather, online access to the Society’s seven other scientific Journals for a small additional fee of £10, including the Quarterly Journal and the International Journal of Climatology
  • b) a quarterly e-Newsletter about the Society’s events (70 last year), the latest job and postdoctoral vacancies in weather and climate, and other news
  • c) support for continuing professional development via a bespoke tool, ACCSYS
  • d) Legacy Funds and Grants and a mentoring scheme for Student and Early Career Members and
  • e) a professional accreditation scheme for Chartered and Registered Meteorologists.

Members can also support the important charitable activities we deliver, such as ensuring weather and climate remains on the education curricula, delivering new resources to teachers for new curricula, providing teacher training in weather and climate, providing evidence-based advice to Government, and educating the public about the science of meteorology and its many applications.

EMS LC: What are the Society’s recent achievements?
Our Student Conference was a great success again last year, giving up-and-coming meteorologists the chance to practice their presentation and networking skills. And we ran another excellent joint conference with the National Centre for Atmospheric Science on Weather, Climate, and Air Quality. The Society provides services to schools and teachers that can be found at our MetLink website. This year our award winning climate negotiations resource has been helping pupils over the age of 14 to understand how different countries negotiate greenhouse gas emission commitments. I enjoyed appearing in a video to help guide the students through the process.
We have also launched a new website making it easier to find out about events, activities and news, and for our members to interact with the Society. We also worked with other societies to prepare a communique on climate change in the run up to the climate negotiations in Paris in 2015. In the past year two of our national midweek meetings addressed climate change including the results of the latest IPCC Report on a 1.5 temperature goal. These attracted a lot of interest from beyond our membership.

EMS LC: Where do you see the greatest challenges facing the RMetS?
What people want and need from membership organisations is changing and we need to remain relevant, modern and progressive. Careers are becoming more varied with more employees switching jobs more often. Open access publication is changing the way scientists create and share articles and data. Also engaging with the climate change debate presents a challenge in terms of the scope of the issue and the diversity of those interested in the subject.

EMS LC: What RMetS activities are planned for the coming months?
In December we held a meeting on Progress in Weather Forecasting and last month we held a meeting on Tropical Cyclones. The corresponding web pages for these meetings have slides and other useful resources. We are preparing for the Atmospheric Science Conference in July 2019.

EMS LC: What do you expect from the EMS? In what ways can it help the RMetS develop its activities?
Meteorology has a long history of international cooperation and so it is natural that societies across Europe should seek to learn from and support each other. I hope that by working together we can help develop wider public awareness of weather and climate both in Europe and more widely. I also hope that we can continue to support a diverse group of young scientists to study and work where their talents best take them.

EMS LC: How does the RMetS support the development of meteorology outside the UK?
The Society has members in more than 50 countries. We have collaboration and reciprocal membership agreements with the American Meteorological Society and the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society. The RMetS is a permanent representative on the EMS Council and is the European representative on the IFMS (International Forum of Meteorological Societies) Council. Our Chief Executive, Liz Bentley, met and engaged with meteorologists from around the world at the EMS and IFMS meetings in September. Staff (Caroline Coch, Climate science Communications Specialist) represented the Society at AGU in Washington last December.

EMS LC: What do you hope to achieve in your two years as RMetS President?
I aim to contribute fully to the Society’s mission: “To promote the understanding and application of meteorology for the benefit of all.” We have a new strategic plan in place and I want to make sure that it is achieved. I am particularly interested in our aim to grow the climate aspects of our work across all our activities and ensure we have a good balance between short term weather interests and the long-term issue of climate change. That means ensuring a balance of our outputs and attracting more climate scientists into membership of the Society.

EMS LC: Other than being RMetS President, what are your other interests?
Since retiring from the Civil Service in January 2016 I have been keen to develop my ability to play the classical guitar and have joined an ensemble group. I also enjoy typical retirement activities such as gardening, visiting historic buildings, country walks and watching wildlife. I also aimed to take up painting again but so far that has eluded me!

EMS LC: Thank you very much for the interview!

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