Forecasting value

Director of Government Services Andy Kirkman introduces some of the cost efficiencies and economies the Met Office makes possible.

As Director of Government Services, I’m very much aware of the broad remit of our work and the different agencies we serve. The sheer variety of work that the Met Office is onvolved in is a testament to the portfolio of valuable services we offer our clients.

One thing that makes the Met Office different is that we offer an end-to-end service, from observation right through to delivery and communication. We don’t just have the technology, but we understand what the impact of our findings can be. That makes us truly unique as a government agency, and I know it’s something that our partners really value.

In fact, a recent review process with the UK Government showed that we provide the nation with £30bn of economic value over a 10-year period. That’s a 14-to-one return on investment.

To take just one example of that value in practical terms, we had excellent feedback from both the Scottish and Northern Irish governments, specifically on the granularity and accuracy of the information we provided during the storm brought to us by ex-hurricane Ophelia.

The Scottish administration was able to use our forecasts to measure how the new Queensferry bridge crossing responded to the storm, to influence any future fine-tuning. The fact that governments, administrations and agencies can use our work in this way to inform investment in local infrastructure shows the unique value of the work we do.

The work we do often pays dividends in the years ahead. For instance, as part of the National Flood Resilience Review, the Government asked the Met Office to evaluate the likelihood of a worst-case scenario for extreme rainfall over the next 10 years. A new method means that we can now provide more precise estimates for a one-in-100, or one-in-20 scenario. This information is vitally important for building future flood defences.

In the retail sector, we are collaborating with Marks & Spencer, helping them to plan to make their supply chain more efficient and reduce the amount of food they have to throw away.

Another example is our recent work with the Ordnance Survey to create a 3D model for 5G services. The work could enable future 5G service providers to pinpoint optimum sites for antennae to roll out networks in the most efficient way possible.

Our work isn’t just limited to the UK, for example we are helping to predict outbreaks of wheat viruses in Ethiopia. The project could protect crops and save large sums of money as farmers can take action to prevent any wastage of crop spray.

Back in the UK, it was recently the 30th year since the Great Storm of 1987. The timing was immaculate, as ex-hurricane Ophelia battered our northern coasts at the very same time. Our understanding of storms like this and the way we communicate them to the relevant authorities are so much more advanced than they were just 10 years ago. You can find out more in our article on the anniversary of the Great Storm.

Investment and improvements since the Great Storm mean that we are now much better prepared to forecast and warn people of potential impacts from storms. We continue to push ourselves to provide more value to our customers, and you can read about a range of enhancements we are making to the National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS).