Kate Humble

Open to the elements

28 March 2012

As a presenter on Springwatch, the president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and a Welsh farm owner, Kate Humble is no stranger to the weather. In fact, it plays just as much a part in her wildlife and science programmes, as it does in her everyday life.

Whether filming the Hottest Place on Earth in Ethiopia in 2007 or surviving howling gales last March for Lambing Live, with her predominantly outdoor career, Kate regularly makes good use of Met Office forecasts. But it wasn't until October 2011 that she gained first-hand experience of the organisation when researching BBC2's Will it Snow?

The show, which aired last November, was prompted by the two previous harsh winters and put forecasters to the test, asking whether another was on its way. As part of their research, Kate and the editor of Nature magazine, Adam Rutherford, visited the Met Office.

By her own admission, Kate was staggered by the level of technology at the Met Office and the sheer amount of data that pours into its supercomputers.

"It's fantastic to know that we have such an incredible resource, not just for programme makers, but for all of us. Because even if we can't change the weather, we can at least learn how to adapt and work with it."

"The information is not only coming from Earth, but from under the sea and even out in space. And then it's analysed by the latest modern technology and by the Met Office's incredibly experienced scientists."

Lights, camera, weather

While bad weather can really disrupt a filming schedule, good weather can sometimes turn an ordinary shoot into something special, which, at times, is well worth waiting for. For the Springwatch Christmas Special, for example, Kate and her team deliberately delayed filming by two days, based on the forecast, so they had the best possible light to capture a seasonal delight: mistletoe in an apple orchard.

And sometimes the weather can, itself, even become a feature of a programme. "Lambing Live really brought home the reality of what our farmers go through. And although filming was gruelling at times, we were glad to be in a landscape that truly reflected what was going on weather-wise," Kate says.

Fortunately for the team, the weather turned for the last few days of filming and they had bright sun and blue skies to finish the programme.

Extreme science

One of Kate's latest projects is even more intimately concerned with the weather and, specifically, the climate. Orbit: Earth's Extraordinary Journey, which airs on 4 March 2012 on BBC2. It explores how the Earth's orbit around the sun and the physical pattern of the land and sea on this planet affect the way we live.

Kate co-presents with Helen Czerski, a bubble physicist and oceanographer from the University of Rhode Island. Helen also worked closely with the Met Office on the series which helped further Kate's experience of the organisation.

"It's fantastic to know that we have such an incredible resource, not just for programme makers, but for all of us. Because even if we can't change the weather, we can at least learn how to adapt and work with it."

Despite having worked in some challenging weather - or perhaps because of this - Kate's favourite conditions are, in her words, "when it gets really exciting and dramatic". Although she says this is in many ways prompted by her rural home life on a smallholding in Wales:

"You may not want to be carrying hay over to feed your sheep in severe weather. But being in the middle of a thunder storm is what makes me feel alive."

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