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Victor Venema 1971 - 2022

Posted on 28 December 2022 by Miriam O'Brien (Sou), Ken Rice

Victor Venema PhD was born in Groningen in the Netherlands. He attended Groningen University, where he was awarded his PhD in Physics for research on the measurement of cloud structure.Victor Venema

Since joining the Meteorological Institute, University of Bonn, his main scientific interest was variability of data in complex systems. His particular focus was variability in weather data and homogenization of weather records. Homogenization is the removal of non-climatic changes in historical records of weather data, which allows better measurement of longer term trends in climate. Examples include the relocation of weather stations and the introduction of the Stevenson screen. Stevenson screens were invented by Thomas Stevenson, a 19th century Scottish civil engineer, who also designed lighthouses. Victor was looking for a photograph of Thomas Stevenson's grave, so one of the authors (Ken) spent an afternoon walking around a burial ground in Edinburgh. 

Dr Venema also took on roles outside the university. He worked with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in various capacities over many years. He was Chair of the Parallel Observations Science Team (POST) of the International Surface Temperature Initiative (ISTI) and a member of the ISTI Benchmarking and Assessment working group. 

Victor was a staunch advocate for open science, inclusivity in science, scientific communication and bringing science to the general public. He was very keen to overcome language and other barriers including through his GrassRoots Journals and the Translate Science initiatives. He also contributed to internet information services such as Climate Feedback and Hypothesis, to inform the general public and correct misrepresentations about climate science.

He was an excellent science communicator and was active on social media. He was a frequent contributor to Reddit, Twitter and various climate science blogs. Two years ago, together with Frank Sonntag, Victor set up an instance for scientists at Mastodon, (He observed that Twitter had become “toxic”.) 

Victor published on his own blog, Variable Variability. Writing longer articles there, he was able to explain otherwise difficult concepts in ways that everyone, scientist or not, could understand. One of his classic blog publications was "A short introduction to the time of observation bias and its correction." In that piece, he explained why weather station records, particularly in the USA, needed to be adjusted to correct for differences in the time of day measurements were recorded.

Victor Venema was a great friend and support to both of us. He commented frequently on our blogs. He was very generous with his time and expertise and immensely supportive over the years. We shared his sense of humour and agreed with his disdain for climate science denial. 

His death is a great loss to all of his many friends, to climate science, to science in general, and to the world at large. Our condolences to his family and all his friends.

Tributes may be posted to a condolence website set up by his family.

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