Julia Slingo

Change is constant

10 December 2011

People have always anticipated and adapted to change. Met Office Chief Scientist, Professor Julia Slingo OBE, emphasises our role in helping society prepare for and respond to changes in weather and climate.

Hardly a day goes by without the weather presenting a challenge somewhere in the world and we expect these challenges to increase as our climate changes. It is the Met Office's job to make sure that society has the best possible information about today's weather and what the weather might be like in future decades so that we can prepare for whatever may come.

The real world knows no boundaries between weather and climate and nor does our science and modelling. Looking forward to the coming decades, the same science is needed to forecast the weather this winter that will help us manage climate change in years to come. At the Met Office, our strength is that we work across all timescales, from hours to decades, using a single unified system.

We provide a range of advice, from helping airports and airlines make decisions on whether to fly, to important long-term choices on major infrastructure investments, such as whether or not it is necessary to re-build the Thames Barrier to protect London from flooding. Across all timescales, reliable information is critical so the best decisions are made to ensure safety and value for money.

Working with Government and businesses, the Met Office Climate Adaptation team is helping a range of customers adapt, invest, and reduce risks. The team interacts with industry specialists, regularly rising to the challenge of understanding the relationship between the weather and its impact on infrastructure and environmental systems (pages 15 and 16).

In July, the Met Office moved to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), reinforcing the link between science, services and business. The new relationship brings us even closer to other leading science organisations such as the Research Councils - particularly the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) - with whom we already enjoy close working partnerships.

For instance, the transition to integrated Earth System Science requires such a breadth of knowledge that we can't do it all ourselves, which is why we have established the Joint Weather and Climate Research Programme and Met Office Academic Partnership.

Change is inevitable, so individuals, communities, organisations and governments must all be flexible enough to adapt. Adapting to change is a difficult challenge for many of us. We dislike it because of the disruption it can bring, but there are often chances to turn changes into opportunities. At the Met Office we'll continue to provide forecasts, science and services to make sure that society is best prepared to adapt to our changing weather and climate, and to realise the opportunities that this knowledge can deliver.

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In brief