Phil Evans

Shining light

28 February 2011

Our work is vital to the emergency services. Here, Phil Evans, Government Business Director, considers the breadth and essential nature of the Met Office's work.

Our work has a huge impact on people's lives and livelihoods. By turning science into things that are really useful to people, we provide crucial advice and support.

The value of what we do is especially apparent in winter when there's severe weather to deal with. During these periods it's clear that although our services are valued by the public, they are absolutely vital to the emergency response community which rely on us so they can make informed decisions.

We listen to our users so we understand how best to help them. We're moving from understanding not just the weather, but the specific impacts and how they vary depending on the place. For example, 5 cm of snow in Hertfordshire has different impacts to 5 cm of snow in the Hebrides. So we issue warnings because of impacts in a particular region.

Shining light

Our severe weather warning service is changing. At the moment, when we show a hazard on our website it's for a regional area or county, which is quite a large area. Under the new scheme, specific impacted areas are shown giving much more local information. Describing more than one hazard at one time makes it possible to identify impacts with varying levels of detail.

This helps to keep the country moving which is particularly important during winter. Sometimes the atmosphere is predictable and sometimes it's unpredictable. We have a huge amount of forecasting information, and probabilistic forecasting is a way of providing much more value from the information we've got. Our Public Weather Service (PWS) Advisors put forecasts in perspective for particular users. An interview with Iain Forsyth, Head of the Public Weather Service, highlights the importance of their work.

Our forecasting for Haiti shows our global reach. While weather can have negative impacts in this country, its impacts in the developing world can be colossal in terms of life and costs. Weather has an impact on all sorts of things that you wouldn't expect. This winter, our Healthy Outlook® service for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease helped people to help themselves. By contacting patients directly and giving them local weather information via an interactive phone call, Healthy Outlook® empowers people - preventing hospital admissions, saving lives and money.

The value we provide as an organisation is our expertise and advice. Our integrated forecasters at RAF Lyneham  show how we understand our customers and give them specific advice. Working with our defence customers, it's clear that understanding their needs is imperative.

Barometer is full of examples of deploying and using science. By delivering value from science through its application, we're not just a service and data provider - we have a pivotal role to play in understanding people's needs and giving them the support they require.

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In brief