John Hirst

Global challenges, global consequences

5 August 2013

John Hirst, Met Office Chief Executive, discusses the significance of our work on the world.

In the last 14 months the country has gone from drought early in 2012 to an exceptionally wet summer giving us the second wettest year in the UK national record. These extremes were followed by a long and cold winter.

With the coldest spring in 50 years at the start of 2013, the weather continues to break records. The same is true around the world. At the time of writing there have been severe storms and tornadoes that have struck the US. Meanwhile, many countries across Central Europe suffered heavy floodwaters and swollen rivers.

Weather and climate, which in some people's minds are separate entities, are in fact two sides of the same coin. At the Met Office we have experts working across all forecasting timescales. In this issue of Barometer you can read articles that describe how we provide forecasts spanning different timeframes, some of them on a world scale.

I'm particularly proud of the way the Met Office translates leading-edge science in to practical services and advice for our customers. We work with partners to capture the benefits of UK science to the advantage of UK government, business and citizens, and the world at large. Director of Science, Andy Brown and Chief Information Officer, Charlie Ewen, explain the role of technology in translating pure science to create relevant products and services for customers.

Society's increasing vulnerability and exposure to climate-related hazards are highlighted by the weather in 2012. Building on our knowledge of climate science, Climate Service UK marks a step-change in providing services to gauge how a changing climate might affect society. With the right climate information and tools, specialist services and expert advice, we will enable shrewd decisions to be made by governments and businesses that address the risks and opportunities brought about by our changing climate. Crucially, Climate Service UK is expected to deliver services all around the world.

Meanwhile, at home, the Natural Hazards Partnership (NHP) is pulling forward short-term predictions for use in early warnings about extreme weather and other natural hazards. The European Commission recently endorsed the work of the NHP.

We don't just forecast the weather. Weather determines what we do, how we dress and what we eat. The impacts of climate change on global food availability are one of the biggest challenges the world faces. Food security planning decisions must be based on the available evidence. Working together with the World Food Programme we examined some of the issues surrounding climate change and food security. Again, this highlights the importance of our work to people, and leaders, the world over.

Many of the weather and climate challenges we face are global in scale and consequence. Providing information and tools to enable the UK and wider world to cope is vitally important, so we work to address the task every day.

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In brief