Providing expert advice
1 July 2010
The UK's changing climate has a significant impact on our trade and industry. In sectors as diverse as health, transport, insurance, and energy, understanding how future weather patterns might change could be critical for business success. Which is why Met Office Consulting was created.
The Met Office Consulting team works with organisations across a wide range of sectors, offering everything from detailed scientific analysis to top level strategic advice. As Cathy Durston, Head of the Met Office Consulting explains, "The key to everything we do is collaboration. We work closely with our customers' own experts to make sure we get the best outcomes possible."
This approach has a proven track record. In a recent project, a group of 11 energy companies asked Met Office Consulting to study the impact of climate change on their sector as a whole. By working closely with experts from all 11 companies, the Consulting team was able to provide a very specific set of recommendations, right down to details such as altering the design of transformers to cope with the temperatures a changing climate could bring.
Collaboration has also yielded excellent results in the health sector. The Met Office has worked closely with a number of Primary Care Trusts (PCT) to provide an early alert system for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The service, called Healthy Outlook® is based on a close analysis of weather patterns and the conditions that trigger respiratory problems, and offers COPD sufferers an automated support and advice service in their own homes. "Thanks to the way we worked with industry experts, Healthy Outlook® has proved incredibly successful," Cathy explains, "the PCTs that have invested in the service have seen a 20% decrease in hospital admissions from patients suffering with the condition and 97% of sufferers have found the service very useful."
The Met Office Consulting team has also collaborated with private sector organisations to develop specific products. For example, led by Tom McIlwaine, Senior Account Manager, the Consulting team worked with ScottishPower Renewables to develop VisualEyes™, a forecasting tool that helps wind farm owners improve their operations and maintenance. "There are two critical elements when it comes to operating a wind farm," Tom explains, "keeping people safe and scheduling maintenance at the most effective time to ensure a wind farm continues to operate at maximum efficiency. Working with ScottishPower Renewables helped us understand the requirements of a company that operates a number of wind farms; enabling us to build VisualEyes™ and further develop the spectrum of services we offer the wind energy industry."
Scrrenshot of VisualEyes™ - an online forecasting system for onshore and offshore wind farms
In a separate project, the Consulting Team is working as part of a consortium, commissioned by Defra - with a task to deliver the first ever climate change risk assessment for the whole of the UK. Project leader, Helen Bye, and her team are currently piloting the process - looking at the underlying climate risk for the water industry. They are studying whether the scenarios that the water industry believes to be of greatest risk to them are, indeed, the most likely to cause them challenges in the future. The results from this pilot will then form the basis of a larger risk assessment across all the sectors in the UK, due for completion in 2014.
"We have all been working together to guarantee that what we're doing meets all the needs of the UK," Helen explains, adding that there are many sectors relying on the work of the consortium. "Our aim is to give these organisations the tools they need to get to grips with the climate-change risk for their sector. We are using our knowledge of current weather risk in the UK to build a picture of what challenges we could face as the climate changes."
Ultimately, this combination of weather and climate knowledge - married with the team's collaborative approach - is what Cathy Durston believes sets Met Office Consulting apart from its competitors. "Organisations are not necessarily interested in how the climate is changing - but how the changes will affect their operations," she concludes. "The Met Office is unique in its ability to combine its own expertise in weather and climate change with customers' specific sector knowledge. It's something no other organisation in the world can do - and something we are immensely proud of."
Time to decide
For customers who want to add scientific expertise and analysis to their own sector knowledge, a new tool is available from the Met Office.
Decider® is a brand new tool we've developed to let utilities, hedge funds and energy traders analyse future weather conditions and work out the probabilities of various scenarios. By using Decider®, customers are able to make an objective evaluation of the risks associated with each scenario and prepare accordingly. This puts traders, utilities - and other businesses that buy and sell energy - in a better position to hedge risk or make the most of less likely weather conditions.
Decider® works by condensing large volumes of information into 29 weather regimes across Europe. Data on temperature, pressure, rainfall, cloud cover and wind speed and direction is gathered and then the tool's unique analysis deciphers it. Ultimately, Decider® provides percentage probabilities that lay the foundations for local weather patterns within each of the 29 regimes.
"Decider® has revolutionised the way we interpret the weather," explains Dave Parker, Head of Meteorology at EDF Energy. "Its value stretches across the entire business and has applications as diverse as forecasting our customers' energy demand to understanding weather risks affecting our network."