I’ve always felt the urge to see my scientific research come out of the computer screen to land on a practical everyday situation. It is often much easier said than done however. As scientists we like to think our research is going to be used by someone one day, but the truth is that most of the time we prefer the comfort of the “ivory tower”. We may feel a sense of relief when, in project proposals, we include the odd sentence about the critical role of our research for society, often added in an attempt to get our proposal across the line.
Oceanography, seasonal climate forecasts and more generally climate research has been a satisfying endeavor for me for many a year but the baby steps in this area of research, despite the size of the effort, had become less and less fulfilling. What a better time then to use weather and climate (collectively referred to as meteorology) observations and forecasts to directly assist society! And what better time to simultaneously assist society in the once-in-a-few-generation overhaul of the energy system! To contribute to the sustainability, resilience and efficiency of energy systems under ever changing weather and climate appeared (and it still does!) like a thrilling goal!
The opportunity arose when in 2005, following the first public dissemination of the winter 2005-06 seasonal climate forecast for Northern Europe by the UK Met Office, the UK energy market appeared to have reacted to the forecast. As we later learnt, towards the end of 2005 the UK was turning from a net exporter of gas to a net importer and that clearly put pressure on gas prices, not so much the climate! Anyhow, this combination of events – issuing of seasonal forecast and spikes in oil prices – were sufficient to attract the attention of a number of scientists and energy practitioners. A public meeting to assess the accuracy of the seasonal forecast and the impact it had on energy market was thus in order: with a colleague we organized such a meeting in London under the auspices of The Royal Meteorological Society (see meeting report: Forecasting UK and European Winters).
The aspiration to more effectively link the energy sector and the weather & climate community had been liberated! The ensuing NATO workshop in 2008 “Weather/Climate Risk Management for the Energy Sector” paved the way to a more formal framework between Energy & Meteorology, and drew a set of recommendations, that, in hindsight, have guided much of activities to come. By the time the recommendations had been written we were becoming increasingly aware that weather and climate information was critical to a very wide range of energy industry activities, and not only with respect to renewable energy generation. From the managing of oil and gas energy supply, to the understanding and estimation of energy demand, to the assessment of meteorological impacts on extraction, transportation, transmission and distribution, meteorological information was demonstrably a key input to energy sector decision-making.
A leap of faith was what it took me to set up the inaugural International Conference Energy & Meteorology (ICEM) in Australia in 2011. Its success in creating a premium international platform with excellent networking opportunities as well as a source of the state-of-the-art in the science, policy, planning and operations in Energy & Meteorology seemingly led to the second ICEM in France in 2013. Almost like a snowball effect, we are now well through the organization of ICEM 2015 which will take place in beautiful Boulder, Colorado in the USA, from 23 to the 26 June 2015.
I strive to instill in each ICEM a strong sense of excitement and novelty, clearly aside from the robust technical content, so that each delegate can enjoy a unique experience. Thus, for ICEM 2015 I am overseeing a number of engaging activities: a fun and didactic competition with which you’ll learn about how cloud movements affect solar radiation on the ground; the launch of a forward-looking international network for the exchange of information between the energy industry and the weather & climate community; the adoption of some of the social media technology during the conference so that you will feel the urge to tweet other delegates about the exciting research and events as they are happening!
I invite you to join the zealous ICEM organizing committee and myself to the ICEM 2015 so that together we can continue to make a difference in the Energy & Meteorology World!
The ICEM 2015 call for abstracts is imminent and closes on Monday 19 January 2015. We have also created a LinkedIn group to facilitate the discussions in Energy & Meteorology.