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Come rain or shine

Amid growing concerns about the effects of climate change, research officer Joshua Lee from the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS) and his team are working to strengthen the country’s climate science capabilities, so as to build up the city-state’s defences against rising temperatures and sea levels.

Set up in 2013 as the research arm of Meteorological Service Singapore, CCRS is currently planning on the next set of climate change projections for Singapore and the surrounding region. Its work is cutting-edge, as weather and climate science in the tropics are still relatively unexplored and not well understood, Mr Lee says.

“We are stepping into somewhat unchartered territory. There is much to discover — that is what makes the future exciting for me,” adds the 26-year-old.

The son of an engineer and member of the environmental club in junior college, Mr Lee had planned to study environmental engineering after his A levels.

However, during his final interview for the National Environment & Water (NEW) Scholarship, the board raised the idea of him studying meteorology instead.

“Back then in 2012, many countries were not prepared to accept climate change, let alone adapt to it. I reckoned that it might become a hot topic in the future and that studying meteorology would allow me to better contribute to the field,” he recalls.

On the NEW Scholarship, he decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Meteorology at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. He enjoyed the programme more than he thought he would, and graduated with first-class honours. He extended his studies with a year-long Master of Science in Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate, for which he achieved a distinction.

Crunching the numbers
Mr Lee began working at CCRS in 2018. As part of a team of three in the Weather Modelling and Development Section, he is working on
improving the numerical weather prediction model for Singapore, known as SINGV. Typically, this involves assessing the model’s forecast,
debugging technical issues, customising the system for our region and thinking of innovative ways to further develop it.

As SINGV will likely be used as a regional climate model, Mr Lee’s work is consequential — any improvement to its core component will result in a more scientifically rigorous setup for climate change projections.

“The policies of our stakeholders, including the Government, depend on our climate change projections — how much to spend on climate change adaptation and mitigation using taxpayers’ money, what to spend it on, or whether to even spend anything.

“Effective policy-making and prudent spending should be underpinned by good science,” he says.

Mr Lee hopes to continue learning from leading climate science experts around the world. An avid volunteer with children’s charity Touch Young Arrows, he also wants to share his expertise with more people.

“I want to share the knowledge I have gained and guide others, especially fellow Singaporeans, to work together and deepen our understanding on such topics,” he says.