Going global

26 March 2014

Until recently Rob Harrison and Tom Butcher were both based at the Met Office in the UK. But in the last few months they've travelled half way across the globe to take up new roles in Singapore and Australia.

By its very nature, weather and climate science benefits from people all over the world working together - which is why the Met Office has a well-developed programme of international partnerships. Decades of development work have given the Met Office a high profile reputation as an organisation that welcomes and supports external collaborators.

Rob Harrison - Singapore

Building on existing relationships

Rob Harrison

Just a few months into his new role leading Met Office activities and partnerships in South East Asia, Rob Harrison can already see a wide range of intent. "We've got some excellent partnerships in this part of the world, and a great track record of seconded scientists working with national meteorological services," Rob says. "It's also one of the few regions that is seeing significant economic growth - so there's great potential to add value to work being done by both governments and businesses."

The weather's impact in South East Asia can be particularly extreme, as the devastation caused by tropical cyclone Haiyan recently showed. In regions such as this, in-depth understanding of some of the most challenging aspects of forecasting can be crucial, and that's where the Met Office comes in.

In 2011, the Met Office signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Singapore National Environment Agency. The collaboration covers the joint development and implementation of weather and climate models with the Meteorological Service Singapore, the exchange of scientists and the undertaking of regional climate science research.

Another key aspect of the Met Office's long-term strategy in South East Asia is providing services to the commercial sector, taking up opportunities to work with companies in the oil and gas, renewable energy, and defence markets. The Met Office has been successfully providing these kinds of services for over 30 years. Now it's down to Rob Harrison, and his colleague Mark McDermott, South East Asia Regional Manager for Oil & Gas, to spread the word in this part of the world. As Rob explains, the depth and breadth of the science means that the Met Office can assist with a whole range of applications:

"We can provide both average and extreme weather information for projects at the design and planning stages, but we're also seeing an increasing demand for longer-range forecasting and climate change risk assessments. Once projects are up and running, our day-to-day forecasting can support a company's operations."

While the regional office in South East Asia is still in its infancy, it is hoped that in time the partnerships with national meteorological services in the region might develop down a similar route as in Australia.

Tom Butcher - Melbourne

Opportunities for growth

Tom Butcher

In Melbourne, Tom Butcher, has just taken up a secondment with one of the Met Office's most established partners - the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. He's there to help broaden their range of services and customers and also to explore mutually beneficial business opportunities, something he says is a natural progression of their long-standing science and operational connection: "We both use the Met Office Unified Model, common nowcasting systems and forecaster workstations, so it's easier for us to work together to share and improve our other capabilities."

Tom has only been in Melbourne for a few months, but as he works with his new colleagues at the Bureau of Meteorology to seek out potential new areas for growth, they'll be looking to pinpoint projects that extend the partnership both ways. This means the Bureau of Meteorology using Met Office expertise to help develop new business ideas that are suitable for the Australian market - as well as the Met Office taking advantage of the Bureau of Meteorology's strengths back in the UK and in other focus regions.

The Weather Observations Website (WOW) was originally developed by the Met Office in association with the Royal Meteorological Society to collect observations from amateur weather enthusiasts. An Australian version of WOW has just been created - a great example of the system of exchange that Tom is looking to encourage. Another exemplary area of collaboration on the Met Office Unified Modelinvolves Met Office scientist Stuart Webster and others in Australia.

It's hoped that these kinds of projects are just the beginning, paving the way for other regions, and as Tom says, "strengthening our partnerships so that we can all continue to benefit for many years to come."

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