The 15th EMS Annual Meeting & 12th European Conference on Applications of Meteorology (ECAM), 07–11 September 2015, Sofia, Bulgaria
Well, what an exciting experience! My first scientific conference with my first talk at a conference, and an award ceremony to boot!
My first impression on arrival was a slight cognitive dislocation between the rather opulent black and white marble bling of newly redecorated bits of the conference venue (the Hotel Marinela), and the remnants of the rather shabby old-style late communist luxury hotel, which kind of coexisted side by side. Every morning, the lobby would look subtly altered, with another bit of marble flooring laid on top of the old carpet, or a sudden wall appearing where only the evening before there was none. Discombobulating and exciting all at once - every morning a surprise!
My second impression was a slight cognitive dislocation between the venue's usual clientele and the participants at the conference. While the hotel was clearly somewhere where businessmen with shady-looking entourages could come and relax and do business, the conference delegates were a very different bunch: modestly dressed, engaged in earnest scientific discussions, and all sporting those handy lanyards that instantly identify you as part of that club, the scientific conference. Even if you dress a bit more brightly and clearly don't belong to the scientific tribe, as I do!
The ceremony was held in the old-style ballroom and I was very excited when I saw all the trophies and prizes laid out. Naturally we (Peter and me) assumed we'd get the smallest one, but we were proven wrong - the Outreach and Communications trophy stands a good foot and a half tall and is made of solid glass, so quite heavy! My first thought was 'how on earth are we going to get this home in one piece?!', but luckily a sturdy box was provided. My second thought, on seeing the box, was 'how on earth are we going to get this home in our suitcase given it was full to bursting in the first place?!'.
It was, I must confess, a very sweet moment when I collected the prize from Horst Böttger, the President of the EMS. It's sweeter still because it recognises WAM, not me - this has always been a team effort, and it will always be a team effort. Which is what makes this project special, I think. It's also an honour for us to be recognised on a European level - and an opportunity! There are people across Europe who've now heard of WAM. Not bad!
Highlights for me were:
- Anton Eliasson's extraordinary speech on receiving the EMS Silver Medal - you can listen to it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYifJKCRRSs, the speech starts at about 12mins10. In a few laconic sentences he provided a remarkable overview of how to solve a trans-national environmental problem (acid rain) and an explosive dissection of the problem of free data and the private provision of weather services. His presentation was illuminating, witty and inspiring. Hearing him speak with such clarity (both of thought and expression) was immensely refreshing and has made me think a lot about the real value of all manner of things.
- Vasilis Dimopoulos from the Hellenic American Educational Foundation, Psychico College, Greece, on using 2D art responses as a tool to educate secondary school students about climate change (Communication and Education session, Tuesday 8th)
- Fellow award winner Martín Barreiro (TV Weather Forecast Award) explaining to the audience at the Media and Communication session on Thursday morning just how much time he is given on air to explain weather phenomena and talk about climate change, to the envious gasps of his fellow broadcasters (he gets a lot of time!)
- Jay Trobec's fascinating talk about his work as a weather forecast presenter on KELO TV in South Dakota (lots and lots of terrifying storms and tornadoes - Jay can interrupt any programme on his TV station to broadcast warnings and has been known to stay in front of the cameras broadcasting continuously for 4 1/2 hours!) (Media and Communication session, Thursday 10th)
- Hans Olav Hygen from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in Oslo on how the Institute is engaging Norwegian comedians to spread the message about climate change
- a fascinating session of the Climate Change Communications workshop, which highlighted among many things the need to find ways of talking to people about their own immediate, local environment and the impact of climate change on their lives
- the many people who came up to me and admitted to having a secret artistic passion, and the fascinating conversations that followed
-... and the broad smiles that greeted me at the end of my talk!
I met so many great people, and at the end of it came an invitation to come to the EMS meeting next year in Trieste to report on progress and maybe even add some WAM-style bling to proceedings in the form of a musical offering... I look forward to that!
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