Understanding climate
for the benefit of society

Thomas Spengler lecturing about clouds, low pressures, and the energy they contain to the crew onboard Statsraad Lehmkuhl. (Photo: Jessica Tengvall)

Hey ho, let’s go! An exchange of knowledge in the face of climate change 

Jessica Tengvall writes about the journey that will teach us to keep the ship afloat, while discussing how to keep Earth afloat. 


The anchor has been hoisted and you can hear cheerful chattering. Our academic classes have been going on for a few days now. Us, PhDs, will learn how to communicate consequences of climate change from a variety of perspectives such as weather systems, ecosystems, coral reefs, emissions, sea level rise.

As we set the first sail, our training for seamanship begins. The crew is ready to teach us how to manoeuvre Statsraad Lehmkuhl. Storseil, røyl, fokk, pålstikk, fall and skjøte – yes, overwhelming. These are just a few of the Norwegian sailing terms and commands that are yet to be added to our vocabulary.

“Haul away – hey ho, let’s go!”.  

Even though we only have a short time onboard, we are expected to understand and act on these commands, as well as learn how to tie different knots, treat wood, and do general maintenance on the ship. Arguably, very useful skills to have for the rest of our lives.

So, while the crew shares their knowledge, we join this journey to share our academic understanding of climate change and its effects. Climate change has already brought about changes in storm activity, affecting the crew’s everyday life at sea. The crew has been particularly interested in understanding weather systems.

So, an hour a day has been reserved to teach the crew about clouds, storms, and tropical cyclones. Our two worlds of different knowledge meet onboard this vessel. This can equip us to sail this vessel while also understanding how to communicate how important it is to keep Earth afloat. 

Ongoing sail training and wood treatment in the background.
Ongoing sail training and wood treatment in the background.

Sparking motivation

Before the CHESS summer school started, I had already been on board the ship for two months and spent a lot of time chatting with the crew about sustainable practices and climate change. Climate change, which some of the crew believe is not human-driven, has led to some interesting discussions, challenging my scientific communication skills and help to improve my arguments.

Hopefully, the theoretical insight that we academics provide connects to the everyday experience of the crew and sheds light on the pressing issue we all need to combat.

It is a unique experience for us PhDs to reconnect with the power of sharing knowledge and working collaboratively. Sitting at your own desk, working by yourself, can make us forget the excitement of being given new insight that can be applied immediately. After pulling ropes until our arms are sore and our hands are aching, the satisfying feeling of seeing the majestic ship in full sails sparks motivation for what a team can achieve together. 

In the light of the pressing issue – climate change – exchanging knowledge can be the most powerful tool for creating change. 

And so, hey ho, let’s go, for climate change we row!