Daniel Santos

AEMET, Spain

“The flash flood events in the Mediterranean area are perhaps the most dangerous situations that you can experience in Spain. I spent many summer holidays in this area, and year after year I checked the signs to see how high the water level rose during the last flood.

But in 1982, my friends who live in this area, suffered the biggest flood that I can remember. More than 1000 litres per square metre fell in 24 hours. A dam, located in Tous (Valencia), could not resist the pressure of the water and it finally broke. All the towns and villages downstream were totally flooded and destroyed. I remember images on the TV of horses trying to survive in the chaos of water. Since then, I always tried to discover why this happens in this area and not in others.

Now I work as a meteorologist. We try to give the most accurate weather forecast simulations using some of the biggest computers available in the world. Weather information is taken into account in many sectors like renewable energy, aviation and – maybe the most important one – civil protection. Sharing the best information possible in advance can change people’s lives in adverse situations. The final goal of the weather forecasts is to save lives and goods in case of extreme phenomena. We can predict the future, although the chaotic behavior of the atmosphere is not a good ally. All these forecasts have a degree of uncertainty and it is important to make decisions using the best information as possible. The best thing about my job is discovering that the weather warnings were correct and that we were able to protect lives and goods.

What inspires me? I’m a project leader for HIRLAM, where we are developing the most sophisticated weather models in the world. International cooperation with multiple scientists, which leads to the best weather forecasts, meaning that people can live normal lives in 26 countries, and meaning that lives can be saved in dangerous situations… that’s one of the best sources of inspiration that I can imagine.”