COST DAMOCLES final conference brought global experts together to work on compound weather events

Blog post written by:
Minna M. Keinänen-Toivola
Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, COST DAMOCLES WG2 leader

European scientists and experts have co-worked on compound events in the COST DAMOCLES project for the past four years. The results of DAMOCLES were presented, and next steps of co-operation were discussed at the final conference which was organized in sunny Lisbon, Portugal.

The final conference was entitled “Perspectives and ways forward in Compound Event research” and consisted of two and half full days of presentations from Tuesday to Thursday 6th to 8th of September 2022. In this blog post, I highlight some of the presentations.

The conference started with a session on case studies of compound events. The main local organizer Alexandre Ramos presented compound events related to fires in Portugal in 2017.  Two representatives from a global insurance company told they are developing a model on compound events, which can be used when defining the insurance costs and payments after an incident.

The second session “Historical Events & Socio-economic Impacts” had presentations not just from Europe, but also from USA and China. Compound events are a global issue, not just a challenge for Europe. One very recent compound event was presented by prof. Miguel D. Mahecha – a fish kill in the Oder river in summer 2022. It turned out that the fish kill was due to algal bloom, containing toxin that prevented the fish from breathing. The algae need salty water to grow, which was available due to an industrial pollution upstream. Prof. Mahecha’s presentation highlighted that compound events are not “just” physio-chemical events but often contain also a biological component.

Tuesday afternoon had several training school presentations. The concept of DAMOCLES training schools was new to me. The latest training school was held for two weeks in Budapest, Hungary in July 2022. There had been a high interest towards the training school as only half of the applicants could be accepted. The training school in Budapest had research questions/themes to student groups consisting of three to five Ph.D. students. Each group had two to three supervisors from COST DAMOCLES scientist and experts. The groups worked on their theme and the goal was a joint scientific article.  During the Lisbon meeting, the summer school results were not only presented, but students also wrote the articles further. However, the training school had not been just about science but also about professional networking and making friends.

On Wednesday, I was chairing the third session: “The Drivers of Compound Events”. Keynote speaker Dr. Nicholas Simpson from South Africa presented the drivers for climate risks, which are hazard, vulnerability, exposure and response. As a case example he used the risk on food security. Dr. Simpson also highlighted that risks also interact, which makes the evaluation and management of risks demanding. The other presentation in the session covered drought and flooding themes. The fourth session “Statistical and Physical Modelling” consisted of a lot of mathematics and statistics. On Wednesday afternoon, we enjoyed vice chair of action prof. Bart van den Hurk’s program for activating body to activate brains.

On Thursday the last session of the conference wasForecasting, Trends, and Projections”. Keynote speaker Dr. Nina Nadine Ridder from Australia highlighted the reality most of the humans will face in the coming decades. She stated:

  • ”95% of the world population will see an increase in hot and dry event frequency by the end of the 21st century”
  • “63% of the world population experience a tenfold increase in the number of compound events.”

Another very interesting presentation was held by Dr. Indiana Olbert as she presented a statistical, hydrodynamic and machine learning modelling of compound flooding in Cork, Ireland. The research team also has started vast co-operation with experts of various sectors, such and social scientists and economics on flooding compound events for better preparedness as well as to increase public awareness.  The compound flooding is a real threat also in the Satakunta region, especially in the Kokemäenjoki river area.

Poster sessions were organized on both days. The most important posters for me were from the Baltic Sea area. Dr. Piia Post from Estonia presented the poster “The role of multiple drivers in forcing large volume changes of the Baltic Sea”. Poster sessions were social events.

On Thursday afternoon, M.Sc. Louise Brett from UK presented the progress within compound events research in the last ten years. COST DAMOCLES has influenced the publication of scientific papers dramatically. Brett highlighted that there is still lack of compound event research on extreme low temperature as well as on the continent of Africa.

The conference ended to a summary by the chair of the action Dr. Jakob Zscheischler. Dr. Zscheischler highlighted that COST DAMOCLES has been a success achieving its goal. COST DAMOCLES will still have a couple of workshops before the end in March 2023. However, science and co-operation in the field of compound events continues in various forms. Most importantly, not only European, but a global, active network is established on compound event research heading for true stakeholder involvement.