Walt Dabberdt at Millennium Prize Shanghai Event: CleanTech and Urbanization

Shanghai Event: CleanTech and Urbanization
Innovation & Inspiration

Dr. Walter Dabberdt is well known as a leading meteorologist, scientist and thought leader. He is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) member and Fellow, and served as AMS President in 2008. Walt is also a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, as well as a past member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate. He also serves on several institutional advisory boards. Dr. Dabberdt spent his early career at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International), before joining the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) as a Scientist and Facility Manager, and later as the NCAR Associate Director.

In his blog post below, Dr. Dabberdt talks about his recent visit to Shanghai to the Millenium Prize Event.

Cleantech and Urbanization

Since 2004, the Technology Academy Finland (TAF) has awarded a one-million euro Millennium Prize in alternating years to the developer of a disruptive engineering innovation that has had major practical societal impact. To further encourage nominations this year – especially from countries previously underrepresented -- TAF arranged a series of awareness events in several countries. One such event took place in Shanghai, China, on World Environment Day, June 5th. The event was organized in collaboration with Tongji University and TEDxShanghai around the theme CleanTech and Urbanization. Urbanization and its accompanying impacts have long been of keen interest to me and one that offers opportunities for Vaisala to make significant contributions in the future.

Walt Dabbert
Dr. Walter Dabberdt is well known as a leading meteorologist, scientist and thought leader.

Three speakers were invited to address different aspects of CleanTech and Urbanization. Professor FU Congbin described the atmospheric research efforts of his group at Nanjing University, while renowned urban architect David Nieh spoke to his firm's sustainability focus on the office environment and their approach to urban development projects. I elected to speak to the topic "Urbanization, Cleantech & High-Impact Urban Weather."

Weather Cleantech

After describing high-impact urban weather phenomena and the role of urbanization, I introduced the concept of "Weather Cleantech," which spans the gamut of weather measurement, weather prediction, and value-added products and services. Together, they support a wide array of key activities ranging from environmental forecasting to pollution control-strategy development to adaptation and mitigation planning to supporting emergency response to weather, pollution and toxic chemical events. Much like a foundation, measurements are the backbone of weather cleantech. Weather radar is a great example, having evolved from a new defense device in the Second World War to a sophisticated weather cleantech tool in the 21st century --- a tool that is capable of capturing the evolution of tornado development, mapping wind fields and characterizing the spectrum of hydrometeors in convective clouds. The lidar-ceilometer is another example of the evolution of weather cleantech, having its roots more than half a century ago in the use of searchlights (and some basic geometry) to determine cloud base height, and which has morphed into a profiling technology that today can also detect the detailed vertical structure of fine particulates in the atmospheric mixing layer.


While much has been accomplished in the measurement domain, much still remains to be done.  Affordable, operational high-resolution vertical profiling of temperature and water vapor through the mixing layer are key to providing the information needed to make improved predictions of severe weather, heat stress and air pollution events. A viable, operational solution to the water-vapor challenge appears likely within the current decade. Unfortunately, a solution to the temperature challenge remains beyond the horizon.

The application of weather cleantech to meeting many of the weather needs of the urbanized world is around the corner. Finland was a leader in demonstrating the possible with the creation of the Helsinki Testbed more than a decade ago.

Today, China has initiated several projects aimed at addressing the urban challenge. WMO is standing up a new research thrust that will have a strong focus on urban weather. And the US Congress is considering legislation that will require NOAA to explicitly explore the unmet weather needs of the cities. All this will likely succeed in bringing weather cleantech to the developed world. But what about the 1200 million people who today live and work in the world's squatter cities?  Can weather cleantech be of help there as well?  

Walt Dabbert Vaisala Blog

Your comments and feedback regarding weather cleantech and urbanization are encouraged.

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