Netherlands Earth Sciences Conference NAC2020 ended early due to coronavirus

18 March 2020

Initially everything was running smoothly for NAC 2020. However, during the course of the first day, the two-day NAC congress had to close its doors following the crisis meeting of the Dutch government. The elephant in the room was the coronavirus.

opening by Arian SteenbruggenOpening by Arian Steenbruggen

With over 400 registrations, more than the previous year, NAC promised to be a success. However, even before the beginning of the event, the situation around the coronavirus was already keeping the congress organisation very busy. Just two days before she was due to give a presentation, keynote speaker Claire Chenu was informed by her employer that she did not have permission to travel to the congress. Several stand holders also cancelled. Due to the coronavirus, Wageningen University withdrew all of its employees from the congress, which led to gaps in the parallel sessions.

Jos LelieveldJos Lelieveld


After the welcome from Arian Steenbruggen, director of the event organiser NWO domain Science, the convener for the day Boris Jansen (University of Amsterdam) announced the first keynote speaker: Jos Lelieveld, atmosphere researcher and the successor of Nobel Prize laureate Paul Crutzen as director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz. Lelieveld considered the consequences of a polluted atmosphere for human health, as each human inhales about 11,000 litres of air per day. The most important source of pollution in Europe is agriculture (ammonia emissions) and in India and China it is polluted air in the home (coal stoves). According to various scenarios, he calculated the number of extra deaths per region and age group. In his view, the maximum temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius agreed upon in Paris is not feasible.

Anny CazenaveAnny Cazenave

He was followed by Anny Cazenave from Toulouse, also a top researcher in the Earth Sciences: in 2020, she will receive the Vetlesen Prize, which is also called the Nobel Prize for the Earth Sciences. She investigates sea level rise using satellite and ocean measurements. This differs globally and even regionally: in melting areas such as Greenland and Antarctica, the sea level is falling whereas in the tropics it is rising. Tradewinds can also locally raise the level of warmed up water.

Abrupt end

With 160 posters, 127 parallel sessions, 4 keynotes and various prize ceremonies, the NAC had a very full programme (Download abstracts booklet ). However, developments with respect to the coronavirus overtook the NAC. As both a government and scientific organisation, NWO followed the instructions of the Dutch government and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Based on these, NWO had earlier decided to allow NAC to go ahead. When that decision was taken, there was only a negative advice about events held in the province of North Brabant. Nevertheless, after the welcome speech on day 1, the word got out that a crisis meeting of the Dutch government would take place at 13:00 hours. The subsequent press conference was adamant: meetings of more than 100 visitors could no longer be held. The organisation team immediately interrupted the ongoing parallel sessions and informed the delegates that NAC was being halted and day 2 would be cancelled. The delegates’ response to this force majeure situation was calm and supportive.

We hope that things will go better next year: NAC2021 will be held on 11 and 12 March and once again everybody is welcome at the Van der Valk hotel in Utrecht.

(Photos: NWO)

Source: NWO


Science area

Exact and Natural Sciences


Curiosity driven research and talent (2015-2018)