UCL Research Domains


Hacking the climate - cutting-edge analysis and visualisation

Dr Mark Harrison (Head of UK Applied Science, Met Office) shares his thoughts on the UCL-MOAP four-day hackathon in June 2021.

screenshot of online hackathon. Text says: Climate Change in the UK is both personal and political

Following on from our Climate Data Challenge hackathon in March, the Met Office has supported the Met Office Academic Partnership (MOAP) universities to run their own hackathons, and I was really pleased to be part of the review panel for the University College London (UCL)-led event held earlier this month. The hackathon was open to UCL students and aimed to produce cutting-edge analysis and visualisation using the UK Climate Projections (UKCP18) data. In the end between 30 and 40 students took part including undergrads, masters students and PhD students nicely balanced across a range of disciplines.

Focused teams

Prior to the event, the organising team decided on six diverse challenges for teams of students to tackle:

  1. The changing risk of severe wildfires
  2. Change in dangerously high temperatures over the UK
  3. An exposure weighted warming
  4. Mapping climate change onto the political landscape
  5. Emulation of extreme winds
  6. Changes in dependence between extremes

More detail on these can be found here. Teams coalesced around these projects and they all made really good progress in the allocated time, with a couple of particular highlights for me.

The team tackling the first project produced some great work. In a pretty short period of time they were able to do some detailed analysis into a new subject area – but the thing that impressed me the most was their presentation. Not only did they speak passionately about their work, they also created a really compelling website (https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/cdda23c5646c44ae8096f3ffa43ee457) to share their findings. A great way to engage with different audiences.

I was also really interested in the work of the team looking at project four. This team created a tool to pull together local climate change impacts with sociodemographic information from across the country. It was great to see how different data sources could be brought together to develop a tool which could be used to explore questions such as:

  • Are projected climate impacts in the UK likely to encourage voters to switch to supporting parties that have more active mitigation and adaptation policies?
  • How do UK climate impacts relate to voter bases?
  • Which climate adaptation and mitigation strategies might voters support?

With more time this definitely felt like a new concept that could be developed further.

Next steps

Hackathons are often a point in time for people to come together and think creatively about how to solve problems, but I really hope that this series of events we’ve been part of can do more than that. Not only do we want to showcase how data has been and can be used in diverse ways as we think about how we tackle climate change, but I also hope that some of the outputs from the Climate Data Challenge and MOAP events will be developed further. Watch this space!

And finally, I should say a big “thank you” to Chris Brierley  (UCL Geography) and Clair Barnes (UCL Statistics) and the rest of the organising team – I know how much effort goes into preparing for this sort of event. 


Hacking the climate: projecting and dealing with extreme events over the UK was funded by the UCL eResearch Domain's Community Based Initiatives scheme