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Exploring Weather and Climate Research and Services at vEMS 2021

PLOS Climate Executive Editor Jamie Males reflects on the European Meteorological Society’s 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting.

Last week, over 500 participants from 43 countries assembled online for the European Meteorological Society’s Virtual Annual Meeting (vEMS 2021). The theme of this year’s meeting was ‘Weather and climate research and services for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals: a decade left for action’. A survey of participants revealed that many identified their own work as contributing to at least one SDG, and indeed the goals were frequently referred to in the presentations. The organisers brought together a diverse programme of stimulating talks covering topics including atmospheric processes, earth system modelling, the development of new technical applications and services, FAIR data, education and training. With such a wide range of content, I’ll pick out just a couple of themes that caught my attention during the week.

First was the drive towards more effective regional collaborations and partnerships to support improved weather and climate services in developing and emerging countries. An excellent set of lightning talks on this subject explored co-production practices and outcomes, with discussion of lessons learned from initiatives such as EPICC and ARRCC. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, it was particularly interesting to hear experiences of the challenges and opportunities of virtual collaboration through online platforms, bearing in mind the resource and infrastructure limitations that exist in many partner countries

Another theme that featured some fascinating presentations was around communication. There were talks that made a persuasive case for the important role of television meteorologists in climate change communication, and others that examined the merits of alternative approaches to forecast visualisation. Especially compelling was discussion around difficulties and best practice in communicating uncertainty to lay audiences, which can have consequences both for public trust in research and services but also for public safety in the context of responses to forecasts of extreme weather events.

It was a pleasure to represent PLOS Climate at the conference, meet participants, and learn about some of the exciting research taking place throughout the EMS community.

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