4th ICOS Summer School

Email: R.Braghiere@pgr.reading.ac.uk

The 4th ICOS Summer School on challenges in greenhouse gases measurements and modelling was held at Hyytiälä field station in Finland from 24th May to 2nd June, 2017. It was an amazing week of ecosystem fluxes and measurements, atmospheric composition with in situ and remote sensing measurements, global climate modelling and carbon cycle, atmospheric transport and chemistry, and data management and cloud (‘big data’) methods. We also spent some time in the extremely hot Finnish sauna followed by jumps into a very cold lake, and many highly enjoyable evenings by the fire with sunsets that seemed to never come.

sunset_Martijn Pallandt
Figure 1. Sunset in Hyytiälä, Finland at 22:49 local time. Credits: Martijn Pallandt

Our journey started in Helsinki, where a group of about 35 PhD students, with a number of postdocs and master students took a 3 hours coach trip to Hyytiälä.  The group was very diverse and international with people from different backgrounds; from plant physiologists to meteorologists. The school started with Prof. Dr. Martin Heimann  introducing us to the climate system and the global carbon cycle, and Dr. Alex Vermeulen highlighted the importance of good metadata practices and showed us more about ICOS research infrastructure. Dr. Christoph Gerbig joined us via Skype from Germany and talked about how atmospheric measurements methods with aircrafts (including how private air companies) can help scientists.

Figure 2. Hyytiälä flux tower site, Finland. Credits: Truls Andersen

On Saturday we visited the Hyytiälä flux tower site, as well as a peatland field station nearby, where we learned more about all the flux data they collect and the importance of peatlands globally. Peatlands store significant amounts of carbon that have been accumulating for millennia and they might have a strong response to climate change in the future. On Sunday, we were divided in two groups to collect data on temperature gradients from the lake to the Hyytiälä main flux tower, as well as on carbon fluxes with dark (respiration only) and transparent (photosynthesis + respiration) CO2 chambers.

Figure 3: Dark chamber for CO2 measurements being used by a group of students in the Boreal forest. Credits: Renato Braghiere

On the following day it was time to play with some atmospheric modelling with Dr. Maarten Krol and Dr. Wouter Peters. We prepared presentations with our observation and modelling results and shared our findings and experiences with the new data sets.

The last two days have focused on learning how to measure ecosystem fluxes with Prof. Dr. Timo Vesala, and insights on COS measurements and applications with Dr. Kadmiel Maseyk. Timo also shared with us his passion for cinema with a brilliant talk entitled “From Vertigo to Blue Velvet: Connotations between Movies and Climate change” and we watched a really nice Finnish movie “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki“.

Figure 4: 4th ICOS Summer School on Challenges in greenhouse gases measurements and modelling group photo. Credits: Wouter Peters

Lastly, it was a fantastic week where we were introduced to several topics and methods related to the global carbon budget and how it might impact the future climate. No doubt all information gained in this Summer School will be highly valuable for our careers and how we do science. A massive ‘cheers’ to Olli Peltola, Alex Vermeulen, Martin Heimann, Christoph Gerbig, Greet Maenhout, Wouter Peters, Maarten Krol, Anders Lindroth , Kadmiel Maseyk, Timo Vesala, and all the staff at the Hyytiälä field station.

This post only scratches the surface of all of the incredible material we were able to cover in the 4th ICOS Summer School, not to mention the amazing group of scientists that we met in Finland, who I really look forward to keeping in touch over the course of the years!


A PhD Student’s Guide to EGU 2017

Email: r.frew@pgr.reading.ac.uk


Science is a community effort, requiring collaboration and lots of different people providing different parts of the jigsaw to try to understand more and more of the full picture. Despite a lot of research being carried out individually in a lab, or at a desk, no one individual can do everything themselves, no matter how much of a genius they are. Sharing, discussing and debating are key to the progression of scientific ideas, and this ethos is something large scientific conferences like EGU cultivates.

Attending EGU for the first time as a PhD student was both an exciting and overwhelming experience due to its shear size and number of people. This year 14,496 people from 107 countries participated, giving 4,849 talks, 11,312 posters and 1,238 PICO presentations throughout the week!  

With 649 scientific sessions running throughout the week, deciding how to spend your day was a significant challenge in itself! The EGU website and app allowed you to create a personal programme, cutting down the number of entire printed programmes being printed, aiming to try to make EGU slightly more environmentally friendly.

Vienna international conference centre, image courtesy of Matt Priestley.

A ‘typical’ day at EGU consisted of something like… 

7-8am: Wake up, shower and breakfast and then hop on the U-bahn to the conference centre. Pick up a EGU Today newsletter on the way into the centre, highlighting a few sessions happening that day that may be of general interest

8.30-10am: Division session of your choice consisting of six 15min talks. People also pick out specific talks in different sessions and hop between, especially if their work is more interdisciplinary and covers a few different sessions.

10-10.30am: Recharge with a much needed coffee break!

10.30am-12pm: Go to a debate on ‘Make Facts Great Again: how can scientists stand up for science?‘ There were a number of other topical debates throughout the week, including ‘Arctic environmental change: global opportunities and threats‘ and ‘Great Debate on Great Extinctions‘. This consisted of a short introduction from members of a panel, then questions from the floor.

12-1.30pm: Pick up something for lunch from one of the nearby bakeries or cafes around the conference centre, and sit in the nearby park and enjoy the sunshine (hopefully).

1.30-3pm: Explore the many information stands in the exhibition areas. These included publishing houses, geoscience companies, NGOs etc. Next go and vote in the EGU photograph competition: https://imaggeo.egu.eu/photo-contest/2017/, before stopping to listen to some PICO (Presenting Interactive COntent) presentations. These are very interactive sessions where speakers give a 2min overview of their work, after which people have the opportunity to go and question speakers further afterwards by a poster/couple of slides.

3-3.30pm: Tea/coffee break with cookies in the Early Career Scientists lounge.

3.30-5pm: Polar Science Career Session aimed at Early Career Scientists (there were also sessions for other divisions), consisting of an informal Q&A with a panel covering a variety of different career paths.

5-7pm: Poster sessions in the big halls with beer/juice and nibbles. These were a great opportunity for in depth discussion, and meeting other people in your field.

7-8.30pm: Early career scientist (ECS) reception with drinks and canapes, meet other ECS from all fields and chat with division leaders. This year 53% of EGU participants were ECSs, and there was a definite effort to cater for them throughout the week.

8.30-?: Dinner and drinks in Vienna town centre with peers, followed by an early night if you plan to make it to a 8.30am session tomorrow…

EGU 2017 photo competition entries, image taken from the GeoLog blog, more information about the entries and results can be found at: http://blogs.egu.eu/geolog/2017/04/28/at-the-assembly-2017-friday-highlights/

In addition to events highlighted, there were also a variety short courses running, for example ‘Tips and Tricks: How to Navigate EGU‘, ‘How to write a research grant‘ or ‘Rhyme your Research‘! EGU had its own official blog GeoLog, highlighting some of the events from each day: http://blogs.egu.eu/geolog/.

However, EGU is 5 days long, and despite the impressive offering of sessions being put on it would be a shame to go to Vienna and only see the conference centre… The odd extended lunch break to take the U-bahn (included as part of the entrance to the conference) to walk around the centre, or an afternoon off to explore a gallery or museum, or simply sit in one of the beautiful parks or cafes to enjoy some coffee and Sachertorte is definitely a must to recharge and finish off the week!

Industrial Sponsored Doctorates

Email: a.halford@pgr.reading.ac.uk

When it comes to doctoral funding, the current method means project funds can come from a variety of sources, such as research councils, charities, industry partners or a mixture of these. In this blog post I will talk about my experience of being jointly funded by a research council and industrial partner.

To start with, I am not actually a PhD student like most people in the Meteorology department here at the University of Reading, but an EngD student. An EngD is a more industrial focused PhD, based on collaboration between industry and academia. There is a taught element to an EngD in the first year, during which a range of modules are covered, on everything from business analysis to sustainability. Additionally, a portion of time is dedicated to work for the industrial sponsor during the course of the project. An EngD still has the same end goal of a PhD, of an intellectual contribution to knowledge.

EngDs were started by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) back in 1992 and after initial success, the program was expanded in 2009. Out of this expansion came the Technologies for Sustainable Built Environments (TSBE) Centre at the University of Reading. The TSBE Centre has produced 40 EngDs over 8 years, covering a wide variety of disciplines, from modelling energy usage in the home to the effect of different roofing materials on bats. Each student is based within multiple academic departments and the industrial partner organisation with the aim of answering real world research questions.

My project is in collaboration with the BT Group and looks at weather impacts on the UK telecommunications network. I have found that being in an industrial sponsored project is of great benefit. It has been useful to get experience of how industry works, as it can be very different to the academic life in which most doctoral students find themselves. There have also been a lot of opportunities for training in specialist subjects including industrial project management and help to get chartership from professional bodies for those who want it. Being linked with an industrial partner can also offer strong networking and knowledge transfer opportunities, as was the case when I attended a recent interdisciplinary conference of the newly formed Tommy Flowers Institute. This institute has been formed by BT, along with other partner organisations, to further support collaboration between industry and academia.

It can be a challenge at times to balance the approaches of academia and industry. They do not always pull you in the same direction but this is often the same with any lengthy piece of work produced under the guidance of different advisors from different disciplines. The strength with the EngD partnership comes from the different perspectives offered from those different fields to ultimately solve the problem in question.

For me working on a heavily applied problem in the setting of a real organisation has been of greater benefit to me than working on a purely theoretical problem would have been. I have enjoyed seeing my preliminary output being tested within the organisation and look forward to being able to test a more advanced version in the final stages of my project.

Alan Halford is funded by the EPSRC and BT and supported by the TSBE centre.


Quo Vadis 2017

“Quo Vadis”, Latin for “where are you going?”, is an annual event held in the Department of Meteorology in which 2nd year PhD students present their work as if they were in an international conference.  In addition to providing the opportunity for students to present their research in a professional yet friendly environment, Quo Vadis has an emphasis on where on-going research is heading (as its name suggests).  Over the years presenters have always walked away with constructive feedback on their presentation style and scientific work, and occasionally, a new collaboration with someone in the audience!

This year’s Quo Vadis was held on 1st February, 2017.  26 excellent talks covering a wide range of meteorology-related topics were delivered by PhD students in their 2nd year in the one-day event.  A full schedule of the event can be found here.  The morning sessions covered topics such as Atmospheric Dynamics, Tropical Meteorology and Space Weather, whereas the afternoon sessions focused on Oceanography, Climate Change, Urban Meteorology and Data Assimilation.

Every year a winning talk is selected based on criteria including knowledge of the subject, methods and innovativeness, results, presentation style and ability to answer questions.  This has always been a tough job for the evaluation committee formed by staff members, as our students tend to be very good at presenting their cutting edge research!

This year’s Quo Vadis winner is Christoph Kent.  He gave an excellent presentation on representing surface roughness in urban areas to determine the vertical wind profile above the surface.  Understanding wind in urban areas is essential to stakeholders in sectors such as renewable energy, construction and many more.  In addition to the winner, 3 honourable mentions were made.  They went to Jonathan Beverley, Thomas Eldridge and Elizabeth Cooper, whose talks were about the influence of Asian summer monsoon on European summer weather, the use of the Temperature Humidity Infrared Radiometer, and the use of data assimilation to improve flood prediction, respectively.

At the end of the event a buffet was served to thank all our speakers and the evaluation committee, congratulate the well-deserved winner and honourable mentions, as well as to celebrate research excellence of the Department of Meteorology.  Quo Vadis 2017 was a huge success, you can find out more about the event on our Twitter account @SocialMetwork, or under the hashtag #QuoVadis2017.

Met Festivities.

The Christmas period is a busy time for many and PhD students are no exception. Below are quick highlights from the department written by three of our PhD students. Read below to learn more about our recent Royal Meteorological Society South-East local centre meeting, the adventures of the Met Choir, and the much-anticipated departmental pantomime.

“Will we have a white Christmas in Reading this year? What does the term “white Christmas” even mean? Both of these questions were addressed at the beginning of the Royal Meteorological Society’s local south-east centre meeting on the 7th of December by the department of meteorology’s recently retired Ross Reynolds.

The evening began with inevitable mince pies and a poster showcase by eight PhD students from a variety of research areas, which initiated lively discussions. The Met choir singers added to the festive spirit with a repertoire of carols before the oral presentations began.

First up was Jake Gristey, whose research project investigates satellite constellations to measure energy flux in and out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Updating the satellite constellation will allow satellites to measure outgoing energy flux to a higher accuracy than any instrument has done previously, allowing for an accurate calculation of Earth’s radiation budget. Eunice Lo spoke about a geoengineering method, Sulphate Aerosol Injection (SAI) which involves releasing sulphate particles into the atmosphere with the aim of increasing the Earth’s albedo. The idea is based on historical volcanic aerosol release which led to a decrease in global temperatures. Eunice is basing her studies of the effects of SAI on a future world following a particular economic scenario. Our last speaker of the evening was James Shaw, who researches the modelling of atmospheric transport over terrain. He is currently developing a new mesh for numerical transport schemes over mountains, with a focus on the accurate representation of near-surface cells.

The meeting exhibited the huge variety of research happening in the department and was an overall success. This was the last local-cente meeting of the year, with the next one taking place on 11th January 2017.”

Kaja Milczewska, K.M.Milczewska@pgr.reading.ac.uk

“An important part of the festive season for PhD students is the infamous Met Pantomime. Twice a week we all get together over our lunchtimes to practice and perfect all the jokes accrued by the members of the department this year. Although planning begins in September, it’s only come December when it all comes together. That crazy wig arrives from Amazon and we’ve created oversized comic props from all the cardboard Hobbycraft can spare. The jokes and jibes get funnier every time we practice them and staff just keep providing more and more material (oh no they don’t!). There’s definitely an undercurrent of excitement – and a little apprehension – as the big evening draws near. This years’ comic spectacle: Snow White and the Research Dwarves, complete with lights, sound, and a fantastic buffet.”

Sarah Bentley, S.Bentley@pgr.reading.ac.uk


“This year the meteorology choir have been busy rehearsing for performances both within the department and externally. A recently formed tradition and definite highlight has been singing for the residents of the Lakeside care home as well as for the annual department Christmas celebration. We also have been lucky enough this year to perform at a local and national meeting of the Royal Meteorological Society. The choir is open to all, regardless of musical ability and we have members ranging from students all the way up to head of department.”

Samantha Buzzard, s.c.buzzard@pgr.reading.ac.uk

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Social Metwork.