Reading urban climate scientist becomes first woman to win prestigious meteorology prize
07 June 2021
University of Reading scientists have taken home five out of 19 awards in the 2020 Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) Awards and Prizes, including a Reading professor becoming the first female recipient of one of its top medals.
Professor Sue Grimmond won the Symons Gold Medal for her work advancing understanding of urban climates and helping to improve the environment in cities around the world, as well as supporting young researchers.
She was among six Reading scientists – including one PhD student – to be named in the RMetS awards, for their weather and climate research, including projects that have provided drought data to African farmers, and advanced knowledge of historic weather by engaging with the public.
Full list of Reading winners:
<!--[if !supportLists]-->- <!--[endif]-->Professor Sue Grimmond - Symons Gold Medal
<!--[if !supportLists]-->- <!--[endif]-->Professor Sarah Dance - Adrian Gill Prize
<!--[if !supportLists]-->- <!--[endif]-->Professor Emily Black - Hugh Robert Mill Award
<!--[if !supportLists]-->- <!--[endif]-->Mr Simon Lee - Malcolm Walker Award
<!--[if !supportLists]-->- <!--[endif]-->Dr Philip Craig - GDJ Editors’ Award
<!--[if !supportLists]-->- <!--[endif]-->Dr Ed Hawkins - GDJ Editors’ Award
The Royal Meteorological Society is the UK’s Professional and Learned Society for weather and climate. It works to strengthen the science and raise awareness of the importance of weather and climate, support meteorological professionals and inspire enthusiasts.
Its awards recognise people and teams who have made exceptional contributions to weather, climate and associated disciplines.
Professor Sue Grimmond
Professor Grimmond won the Symons Gold Medal, which is awarded every two years to recognise notable work in connection with meteorological science.
Her long-term observations and unique datasets have had a significant impact on weather and climate predictions, as well as understanding the effects of air pollution, which has influenced long term urban planning and policy.
Through her work with leading organisations such as the World Meteorological Organization, Met Office and International Association of Urban Climate, she has ensured that cutting edge science can be translated into operational services for the built environment.
Professor Grimmond said: “Urban climatology is now a vibrant field, addressing pressing scientific issues with profound implications for human health and wellbeing and sustainable global futures.
“My research, both in measurement and modelling, would not have been possible without all those I have had the privilege to work with – undergraduate and postgraduate students, post-docs, technicians, administrative support staff, academics, and research colleagues in multiple cities around the world.”
Professor Sarah Dance
Professor Dance won the Adrian Gill Prize for her world-leading research in data assimilation for hazardous weather and flood prediction.
This has been transformational in bringing together the disciplines of mathematics, numerical weather prediction and hydrology and enabled significant improvements in forecast accuracy throughout the world.
Professor Dance said: “The fascinating problems presented by environmental data assimilation have challenged me to pursue an eclectic mix of theoretical, mathematical developments and practical applications in operational systems. My research has been stimulated by a diverse group of inspirational mentors and fantastic colleagues, from senior professors to early career researchers and academics to industry professionals.
“Since 2011, I have worked part-time, and I owe much to positive, supportive, and flexible attitudes at the University of Reading and in my family. They have truly enabled and empowered me to do the work that I love.”
Professor Emily Black
Professor Black won the Hugh Robert Mill Award for her growing body of original research into the fundamental understanding of the distribution of precipitation.
During two decades of work within the TAMSAT programmev, she has developed new techniques to improve daily rainfall estimates, combining satellite and rain gauge data with detailed physical theory. The programme allows communities in Africa to benefit from reliable data on drought.
Professor Black said: “It is sadly ironic that the regions of the world with the greatest need for reliable information on precipitation have the greatest difficulty in maintaining dense ground observing networks. The need for real time observation of precipitation in Africa led to the foundation of TAMSAT at the outset of the satellite era in the 1970s.
“TAMSAT is, and has always been, a team effort, underpinned by young scientists at the start of their careers.”
Mr Lee, a PhD student at Reading, was awarded the Malcolm Walker Award for combining the rigour and scientific understanding of a physical scientist with the wonder and joy of a true enthusiast.
Mr Lee said: “It is a joy and an honour to receive the Malcolm Walker Award this year, and to join a growing list of innovative, dedicated, and impactful scientists who have won this and other awards from the Society. My utmost gratitude goes to those who have mentored me in my development as a young scientist.
“I would also like to thank those who have engaged and listened to me online in the last few years. I have enjoyed sharing my meteorological journey with you all. I was fascinated by the atmosphere from age six, with a simple goal to understand more about the beautiful, chaotic fluid in which we live – and to share that with everyone else.”
Dr Philip Craig and Professor Ed Hawkins MBE
Dr Craig and Professor Hawkins were joint winners of the Geoscience Data Journal Editors’ Award, which recognises an outstanding contribution to the RMetS journal.
The two Reading scientists were awarded for their recent study published by the journal, which described the dataset of pressure, temperature and rainfall observations from 1900-1910, recovered from daily weather reports by citizen scientists through the Weather Rescue project.
The data recovered has been incorporated into the Copernicus Data Rescue Service for future use in reanalysis projects, and into the Met Office’s Had-UK Grid dataset to provide improved spatial coverage of rainfall observations during this time period.
Dr Craig said: “This work would not have been possible without the dedication of the 2,148 volunteers who spent countless hours digitizing the Daily Weather Reports for the Weather Rescue citizen science project.
“We hope that our work can motivate further data rescue efforts around the world and we are currently working on preparing more data for publication in the near future.”