collage of all the winners

Pioneering urban meteorologist is the first female recipient of the Symons Gold Medal

7 June 2021

Professor Sue Grimmond has become the first female recipient of the Royal Meteorological Society’s prestigious Symons Gold Medal.

The Symons Gold Medal is awarded every two years to recognise notable work in connection with meteorological science. The medal was established in 1901 in memory of British meteorologist George James Symons FRS, who founded the British Rainfall Organisation. Previous recipients include Sir William Napier Shaw, Tor Bergeron and Sir John Houghton.

Professor Grimmond’s nomination recognises her research excellence in understanding urban climates, her outstanding contribution to improving the environment in cities around the world, and the selfless fostering of young researchers. Her long-term observations and unique datasets have had a significant impact on weather and climate predictions and understanding the effects of air pollution, which has influenced long-term urban planning and policy. Through her work with leading organisations such as the World Meteorological Organization, Met Office and International Association of Urban Climate, she has ensured that cutting edge science can be translated into operational services for the built environment.

Originally from New Zealand, Professor Grimmond’s expert advice is respected across the globe and she has served on numerous advisory boards and steering committees. Through her curiosity and enthusiasm for environmental sciences, she is a mentor for many young urban climate researchers who have gone on to hold academic, research, and leadership positions in major research organisations and universities around the world.

Professor Grimmond said:

“I am very honoured to receive the 2020 Symons Gold Medal. Almost exactly two hundred years ago, Luke Howard wrote about the differences in air temperature observed in and around London. His seminal book, ‘The Climate of London’, is widely cited as founding the field of urban climatology. Urban climatology is now a vibrant field, addressing pressing scientific issues with profound implications for human health and wellbeing and sustainable global futures.

… My research, both in measurement and modelling, would not have been possible without all those I have had the privilege to work with – undergraduate and postgraduate students, post-docs, technicians, administrative support staff, academics, and research colleagues in multiple cities around the world. To all of them, to those that have funded and enabled this work, to my family, and to the Royal Meteorological Society for recognising urban climatology with this award, thank you.”

The Symons Gold Medal is just one of the Awards and Prizes for 2020 announced by the Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) to recognise people and teams who have made exceptional contributions to weather, climate and associated disciplines.

This year's awards received some outstanding entries across the international community, with some strong female recipients and pioneering climate scientists. As with last year’s winners, it will sadly not be possible to have a physical presentation ceremony due to the pandemic. However, RMetS is highlighting each of the 19 category winners on their website, outlining their achievements alongside a winner’s acceptance message. They will also be showcased on social media channels throughout the week of 7 June 2021.

Thank you to all members, colleagues and associates who nominated individuals for the awards this year.

Awards and winners for 2020 are detailed below. You can read the citations and acceptance messages on the Society's website at


Honorary Fellow – Dr John Eyre

For his pioneering work in furthering the Met Office’s use of satellite data and touching the careers of countless scientists who have benefited from his scientific wisdom and insight.

The Symons Gold Medal – Professor Sue Grimmond, BSc (Hons) (Otago), MSc (British Columbia), PhD (British Columbia), DSc h.c. (Gothenburg); FRMetSoc, FAmMetSoc,

Recognising her research excellence in urban climate, outstanding contribution to improving the environment in cities around the world, and selfless fostering of young researchers.

The Buchan Prize – Dr Antje Weisheimer, FRMetS

For her pioneering research and papers on climate dynamics and seasonal predictability. Dr Weisheimer’s work has spawned a new area of climate dynamics where decadal and seasonal timescale dynamics interact. Her papers have enormous theoretical and practical significance and have had a considerable impact in the community.

The L F Richardson Prize – Dr Steven C. Hardiman and Dr Declan Finney

Dr Steven Hardiman for his research on a broad range of topics in climate science. He has a prolific and exceptional publication record for someone at his career stage and his latest paper, published in Atmospheric Science Letters, breaks important new ground in our understanding of extreme winter weather in the UK.

Dr Declan Finney has published many high-quality papers in leading international journals over the past decade, with a focus on lightning, tropical convection and tropical rainfall variability, including analysis of how climate change may affect these phenomena. His latest paper, published in the Quarterly Journal, brings important new insights into the variability of East African rainfall with wider implications for improving livelihoods for vulnerable people.

The Adrian Gill Prize – Prof Sarah L Dance, MA ScM PhD FHEA

For her world-leading research in data assimilation for hazardous weather and flood prediction. This has been transformational in bringing together the disciplines of mathematics, numerical weather prediction and hydrology and enabled significant improvements in forecast accuracy throughout the world.

The Michael Hunt Award – Ms Felicity Liggins

Over ten years ago, she began to voluntarily coordinate the Met Office’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and outreach activities, building it into the award-winning Outreach Programme it as today, as their Scientific Manager for Education Outreach.

The Hugh Robert Mill Award – Professor Emily Black, MA Cantab, DPhil Oxon

For her growing body of original research into the fundamental understanding of the distribution of precipitation. She has developed new techniques to improve daily rainfall estimates, combining satellite and rain gauge data with detailed physical theory.

The Society’s Outstanding Service Award – Mr Graham Robert Denyer

For his high-quality book reviews in Weather since June 2013. Not only does he include a comprehensive background and context for the book, but he looks at the style of writing, how easy it was to understand and how much he enjoyed reading it.

The Gordon Manley Weather Prize – Mr Gavin Huggett

As a mark of his outstanding assistance to the Royal Meteorological Society over many years; in recognition of his significant efforts in the advancement of meteorology, and recognition of his service to the Weather journal.

The Climate Science Communications AwardDr Tamsin Edwards

Awarded as an outstanding climate scientist who has been a leading and highly respected communicator of climate science for over a decade. She has set the standard internationally for pro-active, open and objective communication with the public on climate change and its scientific basis and has built a huge reputation for clarity and as a trusted voice of authority.

The Innovation Award – Squadron Leader Kenneth Horn

In recognition of his long and successful career both as an Operational Meteorologist in the Met Office and the RAF. His endless energy and drive for excellence mean he has made a significant contribution in the educating, informing and motivating of countless meteorologists as well as other customers.

The Vaisala Award – Mr Malcolm Kitchen BSc, C Eng, FIET, Edmund K Stone PhD MPhys (Hons) EXON MinstP, and Mr Stephen Philip Addy

In recognition of their work in developing the “Mode-S” meteorological observing system; the data from which is now a significant operational data source in UK Numerical Weather Prediction.

The Malcolm Walker Award – Mr Simon H. Lee

For combining the rigour and scientific understanding of a physical scientist with the wonder and joy of a true enthusiast. He has been hugely successful in explaining complex ideas to a wide audience.

Journal Prizes:

International Journal of Climatology Editor’s Award (sponsored by Wiley-Blackwell)

Dr Stephen Blenkinsop

Atmospheric Science Letters Editors’ Award

Dr Chaofan Li

Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society Editors’ Award

Tijana Janjić

Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society Reviewer’s Certificate

Dr Michael S. Fischer and Dr Laure Raynaud

Geoscience Data Journal Editors’ Award

Dr Philip Craig and Professor Ed Hawkins MBE

Meteorological Applications Editor’s Award

Dr Lorenzo Giovannini


If you know someone who should be recognised for their work or commitment to meteorology, please consider nominating them for the 2021 awards. Details at