Our Stories - Jessica Huggett
Jessica Huggett works as a Senior Operational Meteorologist at the Met Office. In this blog, she discusses her career to date
What is your current role and where are you located?
I work in a 50:50 role as a Senior Operational Meteorologist in the Environmental Monitoring and Response Centre (EMARC) and as a recruiter and Deployable Meteorologist with the Mobile Met Unit (MMU), a Sponsored Reserve unit of the Royal Air Force (RAF).
Describe your career progression at the Met Office
I joined the office in 2012 and spent much of my career in Defence with postings at RAF Cranwell, RAF Brize Norton and Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands. In 2015 I completed my RAF Reserves training and joined the MMU. This has led me to numerous operational deployments and exercises across the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Africa, Iceland and the UK. Last year I moved to work in EMARC where I respond to a range of hazards such as volcanic eruptions, wildfires and chemical incidents.
Why do we need Meteorologists for EMARC?
EMARC meteorologists play an important role in providing forecasts to emergency services and various government sectors, whilst supporting Met Office colleagues including the Civil Contingency Advisor team. Our most frequent emergency event is probably responding to a fire. In these instances, we use a dispersion model to create a forecast plume and provide a written description of the plume behaviour known as CHEMETs to send to responders for use in planning and evacuations. In large or ongoing events, this service can develop further with meetings regarding air quality held with government partners. EMARC has many guises, we are also known as VAAC London. As VAAC London we are constantly monitoring the North Atlantic region for volcanic activity so we can provide ash dispersion forecasts to aviation in the event of an eruption. We practice procedures daily and hold regular exercises with the Icelandic Met Office so that should an eruption occur we are well prepared. The emergency aspect means EMARC is mainly a reactive forecasting role, so when things are quiet, we use the time to support our colleagues across Exeter HQ day-to-day with marine forecasts, public weather scripts and mountain weather forecasts. Year round, EMARC is responsible for cold and hot weather alerts as agreed with UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency) which utilises our short range and long-range forecasting skills, and other health-impacting hazards. Since joining EMARC I have also learnt about pollen, air quality and UV forecasting!
How does the work vary as part of the MMU?
Whilst the core meteorological role is the same, you are suddenly in an environment where you need to master many different skills. There is no day-to-day structure or single task, you need to be aware of everything happening on base and across the operating area in order to support everyone from strategic to tactical level. You are often in an environment with less observational and forecast data, and fewer communication methods than in your day job. All of this adds to the challenge though and MMU deployments can be very rewarding. You are in the same working and living quarters as the customer and get to see first-hand the impacts of your forecast on their decision-making process. Being an MMU Meteorologist also means deploying in uniform with whatever equipment you require for that location, be that a rifle, gas mask, body armour or just a bivvy sheet! We complete all annual RAF training and fitness tests to deploy across the world at a moment’s notice. It is a very challenging role, but comes with many benefits such as adventurous training, flying in various aircraft, and seeing many unusual locations across the world.
What has been the highlight of your career at the Met Office?
Very difficult to choose because there have been so many great opportunities! Possibly the three years spent forecasting at the Royal International Air Tattoo or any of my overseas MMU deployments
For someone looking to start a career in Meteorology, what's the best advice you can give?
Firstly, practice your maths and physics, because that will give you a good grounding for the Op Met Foundation Course. Secondly just get involved in the weather, whether that’s outside experiencing it or reading about it! The Met Office works with so many different areas that you may not be aware of, from the military to civil airlines, oil and gas to retail, and event management such as Wimbledon and COP26, so research these areas and learn about what we do.