University student work placement with JBA Trust

Kiera Waters recently joined JBA Trust for a work placement as part of her University course. During the placement Kiera was involved in several activities including physical model demonstrations in schools, updating extreme weather event attribution analysis and analysing weather station data.

Kiera writes about her experience below.

I am a third-year BSc Geography and Environmental Mathematics undergraduate from the University of Leeds. As part of my course, I had the opportunity to spend a 100 hour placement working with JBA Trust.

For one half of my placement, I visited primary schools and helped deliver mini flume demonstrations. It was so pleasing to see how engaged not only the students were, but also the teachers! The pupils were keen to answer questions about flood risk management and were able to relate the engineering structures in the model with ones they had seen in their local area.

It made me realise the importance of the work carried out by JBA Trust in informing younger age groups on the impacts of climate change and how we can adapt accordingly, as they will be a part of the generation that will help tackle these impacts in the future.

I was also involved in an interactive geography day at Ermysted’s Grammar School in Skipton. I gave Year 8 students a presentation of my academic journey so far to help them start thinking about the GCSE’s subjects they may want to consider and to help them decide whether geography and / or maths is a suitable subject for them.

Having the experience of giving demonstrations and presentations to primary and secondary students has given me confidence in communicating advanced concepts in a simplified manner so students can grasp the core concepts behind flood management, and also thinking of ways to engage different audiences.

I updated Julian Shield’s extreme weather event attribution spreadsheet and investigated errors associated with the attributional estimate for the different events. I also found a useful web page that mapped out the extreme weather events across the world for each year, which could be used as a template for this work.

In the second half of my placement, I analysed the JBA Trust weather station data by comparing it with a local Met Office weather station. With the help of JBA colleagues, I used R Studio to convert the time series of the raw data to the UTC zone in order to ease comparability. After the data cleaning and aggregating, I used the package ‘ggplot’ to visualise the climatic variable bias. The closest Met Office weather station to the JBA Trust weather station is 22 km away and at 130 m difference in altitude, as a result this meant that there were some considerable biases in the different climatic variables.

Consequently, I had some difficulty justifying the robustness of the results, however, upon research, I found similar studies that had also shared similar diurnal and seasonal patterns in the temperature bias, although to a lower magnitude. I recommended that a fan-aspirated radiation shield would lower the temperature bias, especially during anticyclonic conditions. I also suggested that depending on the station equipment used, that the weather station data could be compared with a more local WOW station which could prove more insightful. Completed while working at home due to Coronavirus, this task proved challenging as most of my previous experience with R was not relevant for this data set. However, I am grateful to have had the experience of being in this situation where I’ve had to problem solve and be reliant on my own initiative, as now I am confident that I can manipulate code from other sources to my benefit.

My work placement at JBA Trust has provided me with some really valuable experience and has given me a taste of the working world. I want to thank all my colleagues at JBA Trust and Consulting, who made me feel welcome during my stay and offered their assistance.