12 July 2022

What is the EGU General Assembly?

Dr Laura Zamboni

By Dr Laura Zamboni

What is the EGU General Assembly?

Cervest’s Head of Climate Science Dr. Laura Zamboni explains what the EGU General Assembly is and highlights the importance of the annual geosciences event.

The annual European Geosciences Union General Assembly is Europe’s largest and most prominent event for research in geosciences. The meeting schedule is packed with a host of sessions that cover all facets of earth and planetary sciences – including climate change.

Attracting scientists from over 100 countries globally, EGU never fails to be a rich, lively week where knowledge flows from one expert to another. At Cervest we are always looking for new learning opportunities, both about new scientific methods and discoveries. As demonstrated by our Climate Intelligence Council, we do not wish to work in a silo, but instead embrace other experts and their opinions.

Who attends EGU and why?

Science professionals attend the EGU to excel in their subject mastery. The majority of sessions are disciplinary, such as “Understanding sea-level changes: global to local, from past to future”, or “Local solutions to disasters: Risks, impacts, and adaptation”. When we attend the event, it is always a prime opportunity to keep abreast of scientific developments and shorten the (typically) long peer-reviewed publication cycle.

As a representative of Cervest, I was mostly interested in those sessions that focused on physical risks, such as extreme temperatures, wind, and precipitation. I was particularly looking forward to the session chaired by Filippo Giorgi about downscaling – the process of bridging the gap between global and local effects of climate change. Awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Medal by EGU in 2018 for his outstanding research on modeling regional climate change focusing on developing countries, Giorgi is one of the biggest names in this field. He also directs the Climate Science team at the institution where I conducted my Ph.D. in Environmental Fluid Mechanics. It was a delight to continue to learn from him all these years later at EGU.

What can attendees expect?

EGU is a showcase of the best research, best methodologies, and the latest key data. The meeting covers future issues and provides inspiration around new product development, new use cases, as well as the refinement of the existing ones – which are constantly evolving – as science always is. Let’s remind ourselves that scientific knowledge is the result of 1000s of scientists working in 100+ countries and research institutes, with funding from several agencies.

The best starting points in any scientific endeavor are written review papers and in-person lectures. These can cover how a subdiscipline has evolved, and notable steps forward – they then become the established understanding of the discipline, to date. Most of the EGU content is more focused and complex than this though – more exploratory – and scientists push the limits of knowledge.

Without a centrally coordinated hub, research is driven by insights like: “What is most important to society?”, “What is the most intellectually stimulating?”, or “What will make the most impact?” – and also what is feasible with the available funding. I remember asking these very same questions at the onset of my Ph.D.

Any research question in climate science relates to these categories in one way or another, but the difference is how quickly a piece of research will have an impact. For example, a piece of research on how solar radiation interacts with a cloud’s properties will eventually make an impact by being included in a climate model. Others are more directly applied, such as what is the quality with which current climate models reproduce the important phenomena? This is an example of the kind of research I was on the hunt for, research that could feed Cervest’s climate intelligence, and by doing so, further its positive impact.

The big mission

Climate change is a topic of urgency right now. The long-lasting heatwaves currently scorching India are just one example of the issues investigated at EGU. How do heatwaves affect productivity, safety, and wellbeing? Or floods? How can we make our vital infrastructures resilient during extreme circumstances, so that we can still function efficiently and for the good of society? The answer is not unique – it is multifaceted.

To understand and communicate current and future climate risk, we need more than data. We need up-to-date, accurate intelligence across all our assets. Climate Intelligence brings the latest science – such as that found at EGU – data and assets into one place so decision-makers can understand and manage climate risk, such as heat stress, heavy rainfall, flooding, and drought. Data is essential, but it’s climate intelligence that really taps into the knowledge and context necessary to understand and use that data.

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