2023 in review

29 Dec 2023

Author: Benjamin HORTON

2023: What a year it has been! We had much to celebrate, while never losing our focus to understand and respond to the impacts from geohazards and climate change that keep affecting our beautiful Southeast Asian region.  

2023 marked the 15th anniversary of the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) — 15 years of scientific discovery, of pushing frontiers, of fostering the next generation of scientists, and of forging deep connections to promote a safer and more sustainable future for us all. We celebrated this milestone in September, by bringing old and new friends of EOS together for a celebratory evening highlighting key moments of the history of EOS. We are grateful that Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, joined the event as the Guest-of-Honour.  

Photo taken during the EOS 15th anniversary event. From left to right: Prof Benjamin Horton, Director of EOS, Prof Luke Ong, Distinguished University Professor and Vice President (Research) at NTU, Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Trina Ng, PhD student at the Asian School of the Environment (ASE) and EOS, Assoc Prof Susanna Jenkins, from EOS and ASE (Source: Earth Observatory of Singapore) 

In 2023, we continued to leverage science and technology to understand and reduce the impacts from geohazards. The programme Integrating Volcano and Earthquake Science and Technology (InVEST) in Southeast Asia is well underway, and is already unearthing secrets about what drives geohazards in the region, such as how the Sumatran fault is shaping the spatial distribution of volcanoes in Sumatra. The EOS Remote Sensing (EOS-RS) Lab continues to respond to a range of disasters around the world, may these be earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, or landslides. In February 2023, they produced the first damage-proxy map after the Turkiye-Syria earthquake and distributed it to relevant agencies to aid humanitarian assistance.

The damage-proxy map produced by EOS-RS a few days after the February 2023 earthquake that struck Turkiye-Syria (Source: EOS-RS/Earth Observatory of Singapore)  

Like any other year, we continued to push frontiers to address climate change. In our quest to gain a holistic understanding of sea-level rise in Singapore, we tackled the challenge on multiple fronts, from understanding how sedimentation affects coastlines, to monitoring how sea level is changing, and projecting future sea levels. To help achieve this objective, the Centre for Geohazard Observations (CGO) installed the first EOS station to monitor land-height and sea-level changes in Singapore, which is located on Lazarus Island. Our major climate-related announcement was the launch of the Climate Transformation Programme. This programme has been years in the making. It involves many EOS colleagues such as Professor Adam Switzer, Associate Professor Steve Yim and Assistant Professor Perrine Hamel, and it cuts across all disciplines and even institutes in Singapore. I am looking forward to working alongside such talented scientists, artists, practitioners, and change makers, to really transform how we can – and need to – mitigate and adapt to climate change. 

The six research clusters and three cross-cutting themes of the Climate Transformation Programme led by the Earth Observatory of Singapore (Source: Earth Observatory of Singapore) 

We also kept pushing physical frontiers, by working across borders to understand geohazards and climate change. We for example hosted several global and regional events, such as the 9th International Conference on Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Change (ICAOCC23) in July 2023, and the 18th Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) Multi-Hazards Symposium 2023 in November. These events gathered the scientific community and brought in practitioners and other voices to provide additional and needed perspectives to address some of the greatest challenges of our times.

We also travelled around the globe, to develop collaborations with the Antarctic and Arctic communities to better understand sea-level changes, and to maintain and develop our regional networks that observe geohazards and climate change in Southeast Asia. The Community Engagement (CE) Office attended the Conference of the Parties (COP28) for the first time. 

A new GNSS station installed in Brunei's tropical peat swamps is monitoring how peatlands change with time (Source: Cheryl Tay/Earth Observatory of Singapore) 

Nothing would be possible without the talented scientists and staff that make EOS. Several of our Professors were recognised this year for their amazing contribution to science. To name a few, congratulations again to Associate Professor Susanna Jenkins for receiving the Wager Medal from the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI), and to Assistant Professor Edward Park for the Nanyang Research Award (Young Investigator). We also extended our EOS family, by welcoming three new Principal Investigators, Assistant Professor Euan Mutch, Research Assistant Professor Stephen Chua, and Assistant Professor Lujia Feng. These awards and new members reflect the drive of the EOS community to advance knowledge in Earth Sciences. And all this is happening thanks to the continuous excellence of our support staff. They have shown great dedication over the years to ensure smooth processes and the success of our projects, which has enabled us to develop new initiatives. 

Some EOS scientists and staff: 38 of them attended the American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting 2023 in San Francisco (Source: Earth Observatory of Singapore) 

Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all staff, scientists, and students that continue to push the EOS mission with the common vision of a safer and more sustainable future. I continue to be deeply inspired by our amazing EOS community.  

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