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News Letter in April 2020

Jun 24,2020

Full version of HIWeather News Letter in April 2020: 

HIWeather News Letter_April 2020.pdf

April 2020

Dear Colleagues,

This newsletter finds the HIWeather community working in a different world of social distancing, isolation and lockdown. We have all had to come to terms with working from home but the challenge has been different for each one of us: some having child care responsibilities to juggle; some having to share facilities with partners; some having to run departments and projects remotely; some having key worker status in maintaining critical services; some being called on to support vulnerable relatives or neighbours. In many cases, we recognise that HIWeather activity, even any scientific activity, will not be your priority. For the time being this is not important, and we wish you, most of all, to keep yourselves and your loved ones safe and well.

As might be expected, a lot of things that traditionally get reported in these newsletters have not been happening. Most conferences this year are being cancelled or substituted with online gatherings. We have decided that an online gathering will be the best way forward for our HIWeather workshop this year. Planning has only just started, so please look out for updates. We are planning the workshop in two parts: a series of webinars spread over the last two weeks of November followed by three days of discussions in the first week of December. We will focus on the HIWeather core objectives: the citizen science initiative; the end-to-end database initiative; and the perfect warning system book. For the citizen science initiative, the workshop will focus on synthesising key issues from the research gathered for the special issue. For the end-to-end database initiative, the conference will aim to gather end-to-end case studies and to agree how they can best be indexed so as to facilitate analysis. For the book, we hope to have a first review of a complete draft. We expect to use a range of remote participation tools to facilitate a successful meeting across multiple time zones.

Meanwhile, those with less responsibilities to juggle are finding an increase in opportunities to join webinars on relevant topics. Over the last year, I have been working to establish a link between HIWeather and the WCRP/IRDR/Future Earth Risk-Knowledge Action Network. The Risk-KAN has a particular focus on compound risk – defined as multiple risks that combine together to give a total risk greater than the sum of the partial risks. This is a rather new area, though there have been a few studies of some hazard combinations, such as river flood and storm surge. In HIWeather we emphasised compound risks arising in the impact cascade, where damage to critical infrastructure may drive the increased risk. At seasonal timescales there are many agricultural examples of a climate anomaly in one season preconditioning crops to suffer from a different anomaly in a later season – a mild winter followed by heavy spring frost is perhaps the best known. However, the current COVID-19 crisis highlights many aspects of compound risk. This was brought into focus when Cyclone Harold threatened Vanuatu earlier in the month, requiring a relaxation of lockdown restrictions to enable people to evacuate. The compound risks between COVID-19 and weather are many and not all require the weather itself to be hazardous. Indeed, in England, the first fine weekend (dry, sunny, maximum temperature 20oC) of Spring coincided with the first weekend of restrictions. The impact of the weather was seen in widespread ignoring of health guidance, with likely implications for increased deaths, economic losses and length of lockdown, due to the enhanced spread of the virus. By the time of even finer weather on the Easter bank holiday, the Met Office was issuing fine weather warnings to government to inform its messaging, and fortunately a repeat was avoided.

In conclusion, I wish you all well through these challenging times. Please keep in touch and pick up your HIWeather work when you can. And we look forward to better times ahead when we can once more focus on achieving better weather-related warning systems that save lives, property and livelihoods.

Best wishes,


David Johnston

HIWeather Co-chair

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