Awards for Educating, Inspiring and Enthusing 2023

Dr Rob Thompson studied at the University of Reading, completing a PhD on rainfall estimation with radar in 2007. Since then, he has worked extensively on rainfall measurement developing techniques to improve estimates of rainfall from operational weather radar, surface measurement gauges and satellite observations. More recently, he has specialised in intense, high-impact rainfall events and flash flooding. His involvement in the Flooding from Intense Rainfall programme showcases his dedication to integrating meteorology and hydrology for comprehensive environmental analysis. 

One of Rob’s many skills is the ability to explain complex weather processes clearly and concisely to a range of audiences. He has an active social media presence and some of his posts about the weather have been widely shared. Perhaps his greatest social media success was an experiment involving a plastic cup of water in the University of Reading’s botanical gardens showing the relative speed at which water soaks into the ground when the earth is moist or dry, demonstrating the increased risk of flash flooding in hot, dry conditions – a simple experiment that the public could easily recreate at home. 

Rob has also been heavily involved with teaching and lecturing. For several years, he held a Teaching Fellowship at the University of Reading and taught well-received lecture courses on varied topics including weather observations, computing skills and statistics. He has also spoken extensively about the weather in the Department of Meteorology’s weekly weather round-up meeting, and was an active member of the RMetS South East Local Centre. He has given many presentations in schools and colleges too, informing the next generation of scientists about aspects of weather and climate and perhaps inspiring them to join the scientific community in the future. 

Rob has engaged on many occasions with the media. After any significant weather event in the UK, he is often called upon for interviews and comments on both TV and radio, with many of his recent appearances relating to his recent work on the impacts of flooding. His ability to clearly and concisely explain the nuances of weather effects and climate impacts has clearly been popular as the calls for interviews keep on coming. 

The enthusiasm Rob shows when presenting information about weather and climate to public audiences and his dedication to clear, concise messages that people can understand make him a worthy winner of this award. 

Rob Thompson

"I am deeply honoured to accept the The Michael Hunt Award for Increasing Public Understanding of Meteorology and its Applications from the Royal Meteorological Society for 2023. Throughout my career, I've been dedicated to making complex weather processes understandable and engaging for everyone – this award recognises my commitment to communicating the science of meteorology to diverse audiences.

From my early PhD days studying rainfall estimation at the University of Reading, I've strived to bridge the gap between meteorological science and the broader public. Through school visits, science fayres, as well as as a Teaching Fellow at the University of Reading, I've also had the privilege of inspiring the next generation of meteorologists. Talks to interested groups, the Meteorological Society South East area meetings, many interviews with various media but also utilising social media, have given me a chance to share analogies, experiments and insights, making meteorological concepts relatable, accessible and hopefully exciting.

The famous (or possibly infamous) viral water cups video, indicating the risk of flash flooding after drought showed how effective a simple demonstration is at getting the attention of a huge audience.

Receiving the Michael Hunt Award reaffirms my dedication to effective science communication. I am grateful for this honour and excited to continue inspiring young people and making meteorology accessible to all."

Sandra Patterson has been leading Geography at Ulidia Integrated College, Northern Ireland, for over 16 years. Sandra has successfully led the department to develop a reputation for being groundbreaking and innovative. Sandra has developed many resources within the department which are designed to develop student skill base and to increase scientific curiosity. She is keen to support her professional community by sharing resources regularly with her colleagues across the sector. Her ethos of being a supportive educator and colleague have created an ethos of collaboration both within her department and within her educational sector. 

Sandra’s commitment to climate teaching has enabled her to lead not only her department to successfully being awarded the Met Mark twice, but also to Ulidia Integrated College being awarded Ambassador Eco School for Northern Ireland, twice. Sandra has developed innovative approaches to climate education including developing a whole school Environmental Education programme to support students to develop a curiosity regarding climate and climate change and then want to address their seen changes. 

Sandra works collaboratively with many other departments in the school to develop this approach and to build a cross curricular programme that is inclusive. For example, students within the ‘Friendship Club’ have learnt how to read weather data from the school’s weather station and record the data regularly. This data is then shared with the Maths department for graphical representation practice and with the Science department for inclusion within Controlled Assessment coursework and also with the Geography department for analysis. The students learn a range of skills with their data. Students have, over time, identified patterns of climatic change using the school collected primary data which they then have investigated the impacts of in Geography and approaches to respond to in technology.  

As a school, a data led investigative approach has then been used to identify positive ways forward and has given learners a desire to WANT to make a difference to reduce their contribution to climate change. Sandra led students to develop an energy reduction app. She also led Ulidia Integrated College to become the first zero waste to landfill school in Northern Ireland.  

Sandra was invited to highlight her whole school approach at COP26 in Glasgow 2022. She shared her approach and the insights that she has learnt along the way with a global audience of decision makers.  

Sandra has devised a spiral curriculum to embed the development of scientific enquiry and skills base. This was highlighted and shared at Ulster University in June 2023 to both share with other teachers her approach and to give support to other schools to follow suit.  

Sandra is committed to ongoing professional development and to supporting others. She has led national training for teachers from across Northern Ireland and has shared her resources and methods with many schools in order to further study of weather and climate in Northern Ireland.  

Sandra Patterson

"I am honoured to receive this award from the Royal Meteorological Society and am delighted to accept it. This award is a testament to all those who supported my educational journey, principally my parents and grandparents. I am supported in every way by my husband and children to whom I am eternally grateful. 

Importantly, I want to recognise my colleagues. I am very proud to be a member of the Ulidia Integrated College team; I work with the best group of professionals who are committed to each child that we have the honour of educating and who inspire me each day. I would also like to recognise the support of both the ‘Live Here Love Here’ Northern Ireland team and the WomenEd NI team, whose support has been instrumental.

I consider it to be a privilege to teach and value the responsibility of shaping tomorrow’s society, especially within the Integrated Education sector. Environmental Education and is my geographical passion. I am reminded every day of the importance of understanding our atmosphere and the impact that human actions are having upon it; it has never been more important to share with our young people both a desire and the know how to protect our globally shared environment. 

Finally, I want to thank all my students over the years who challenge and inspire me in equal measure and whose educational journey it has been a privilege to be part of."

Simon Clark

Over the past 5 years, Simon Clark has become an extremely well-respected atmospheric science communicator. He started making YouTube videos in 2010 as an undergraduate at the University of Oxford, initially focused on helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds apply to prestigious universities. 

Since his graduation with a PhD in atmospheric physics from the University of Exeter, Simon has become a full-time science communicator with videos focused on atmospheric science. 

His 54 climate videos on YouTube, created within the last 5 years, cover subjects ranging from observations, science, impacts, adaptation, and mitigation, and have attracted many thousands of viewers – in one case over a million. Simon also engages with a wide variety of audiences through social media, such as X (formerly known as Twitter), Facebook, Instagram and Twitch. 

His first book, Firmament: The Hidden Science of Weather, Climate Change and the Air That Surrounds Us, is an introduction to and history of atmospheric science. It aims to bridge the gap between the reader’s knowledge of weather and of climate change, highlighting the physical system that connects the two. It was released in January 2022 by Hodder and Stoughton and was named as a Waterstones science book of the year. 

Simon has also spoken at New Scientist Live, hosted the 2022 TED/YouTube Countdown event, and presented for BBC Earth, Sky News, BBC Bitesize and the Weather Channel, both as an expert interviewee and as a to-camera talent. He very easily translates complex science into easily digestible information and has mastered the balance between simplification and oversimplification, making him a very deserving winner of the Emerging Communicator Award.


Ayesha Tandon

Ayesha Tandon is a science journalist at Carbon Brief, an outstanding source of authoritative information on climate change for non-specialist audiences. She writes brilliant articles about a huge range of subjects - from the health impacts of extreme weather events to polar ice loss to a field research campaign in Thailand – all in an accessible and compelling style. 

Ayesha is also committed to improving the representation and diversity of voices within climate and journalism. She has been instrumental in establishing and promoting the Global South Climate Database, which helps journalists find contributors and commentators from the global south when writing climate stories. The database recently celebrated its first anniversary, and already has over 1,000 experts from more than 100 different countries. This is an incredibly important piece of work that helps to increase the diversity of voices that are heard in the media and society in discussions of climate science, climate action and climate justice. 

Prior to working at Carbon Brief, Ayesha worked at the UK Met Office, where she was a climate science communicator. There she produced outputs related to the Met Office’s climate research that were aimed at the general public, policymakers and other stakeholders, helping to improve the accessibility of weather and climate science. 

Ayesha has been recognised for her stellar journalism: she was shortlisted for the Association of British Science Writers’ ‘Newcomer of the year’ award in 2023, and she won a prestigious EGU journalism fellowship in 2022. As part of her fellowship, she went to Thailand to do her own investigative research, finding out more about the causes and consequences of climate-driven migration in the area. Ayesha is a fabulous communicator who does extremely important work and the RMetS Emerging Communicator Award will be a worthy addition to her trophy cabinet.

Howard WallerFrom 2017 to 2023, Howard Waller was Senior Production Editor at Wiley for Weather. During this time, without fail, he successfully oversaw production of all issues of Weather in a professional and punctual manner, often having to find quick solutions to last-minute requests from the Editors. Despite the 'just-in-time' and high-pressure media environment of producing a monthly journal, Howard always maintained a calm, competent and helpful composure during his work, without which Weather may not have achieved many of its successes over the past six years.

During the COVID pandemic, Howard remained calm and sought solutions for every problem that arose. Howard’s dedicated service to Weather amidst much change is why we nominate him, without hesitation, for the Gordon Manley Weather Prize 2023.

"As I’m sure anyone who has contributed to Weather over the past 8 years will know, I have been Wiley’s Production Editor for that journal. Being a magazine-style publication unlike most of the somewhat drier academic output I was used to, it had some unusual quirks for me to unpick when I started. However, like everyone across the world, a conversation about the weather is never far away and I soon enjoyed working on the articles and news that the journal contained.

It was with great surprise and delight that I found out I’d been awarded the Gordon Manley Award in 2023. I hope I’ve kept a steady hand on the print and production of your articles: I’ve enjoyed working on them, and through my Wiley account have continued to subscribe to Weather’s online publication. I wish it all the best for the future."