Rob Varley, Met Office Operations and Services Director

Excited to learn

13 November 2013

After 30 years at the Met Office, Rob Varley, Met Office Operations and Services Director, remains passionate about weather and learning.

Like many others, I was excited to learn of the Government's decision to invest in a major upgrade to the Met Office's supercomputers. It will undoubtedly improve and extend our weather forecast capability and further progress climate science at a time when there are important policy questions to be answered.

We are ready and looking forward to doing something remarkable, working with others around the world to put science that is ready to apply into action. Central to our scientific collaborations is the Met Office Academic Partnership, and I'm delighted to welcome the University of Oxford as the latest member to join us in this.

The first part of the Fifth Assessment Report, published in September 2013 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a major milestone for the Met Office. Not only have Met Office scientists made an important contribution, it is also a highly significant statement from the scientific community which reminds us all of the seriousness of the risks we face and the need for the nations of the world to take action.

As a world centre of excellence, we have a duty and passion to share our science with the next generation, and we use every opportunity for encouraging young people to see science as exciting and fulfilling. As well as helping to safeguard the Met Office's future, this is an important national priority; our owners, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills is encouraging businesses and government agencies to help build a nation which is strong in science, bringing vital economic benefits.

Nationally and locally, we engage, educate and build excitement in what we do. Many Met Office staff are now STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) ambassadors, and are working to share their passion with the young. It's a great motivator for our staff as well as giving many opportunities for personal development; someone who starts out presenting to a classroom of children, could one day end up delivering a talk at the Royal Society.

One of the many Met Office STEM ambassadors is Climate Consultant, Felicity Liggins who is also responsible for co-ordinating our STEM work, recruiting and enthusing others to get involved.

Providing educational resources is part of our mission as the national weather service, sharing our expertise and inspiring the next generation of scientists. We can educate young people about matters of day to day relevance and matters of global importance. I'm a huge fan of our work experience programme. Young people often have little idea of the different types of jobs available. By offering them a week with us, we can give them a direct glimpse of many of the different possibilities.

Our latest initiative to introduce children to weather science is the Met Office Science Camp. Over the past few months we have had over 100 children camping overnight at the Met Office, and taking part in engaging activities to learn about weather and climate science. I went along to one of the Science Camps and it was incredible to all the kids wide-eyed and excited while learning about physics.

As a former Chief instructor of the Met Office College I was interested to read how its work has expanded and diversified in recent years. The College is a vital resource to equip our own people to do their jobs. But it's also impressive to see the worldwide reputation that the college has built as an international centre of excellence for training and meteorology.

The College now attracts students from many nations, helping share best practice and build capacity in the developing world. A media systems training workshop in Kenya is an extension of the training we offer at our headquarters and an example of how we are actively equipping countries to ensure their citizens are warned and informed.

Finally, I'm delighted to welcome Dr Liz Bentley as the new Chief Executive of the Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS). The Met Office has always been a strong supporter of the RMetS, and as a Vice President of the society I know just how important it is to provide clear leadership for this national institution, with its dual functions of both championing professional science and encouraging amateur engagement in meteorology.

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