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Getting the weather message out

The Met Office News and Social Media team has always worked closely with broadcasters to provide timely and accurate information. Now, as the media world is changing, the team is at the cutting edge - harnessing new methods to get messages out to audiences across the world.

As more and more people turn to online channels for their news, the demand for on-the-spot weather information is also growing. Here at the Met Office, we currently have nine social media streams, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram. This range of communication channels enables us to broadcast our expertise and our science across the widest possible audience - from stories in online news forums through to blogs for journalists.

For Helen Chivers, Head of the News and Social Media team, Vine is proving particularly interesting. "Six second video is the ideal format for showing weather," she explains, "as we can take a view from space and then animate it to illustrate how the weather is affecting the UK, or quickly show what sort of impact severe weather may have."

We know that this format is very popular with online news channels. For instance, the Mail Online, the Express and the Mirror all use our videos to add value to any weather story they feature.

In addition, we also have the technology to tailor messaging to meet particular broadcasters' requirements.

A 24/7, 360° world

Online media demands up-to-the-minute information. When extreme weather is forecast, in particular, we have to be able to get the warning out quickly and enable people to protect themselves, their homes and their businesses. "The weather doesn't stop, so neither do we," explains Helen.

Teams of Met Office meteorologists work at all times of day and night so we can deliver content to people who need it. An in-house Content team of designers, writers and video editors is also on hand to work with the News and Social Media team as part of the wider Communications team. The Content team translates messages into graphics and video that can be shared with broadcasters across the world.

At the same time as the desire for up-to-the minute news has grown, so too has the global need for weather information. Met Office clients and broadcasting partners now require constant updates for locations worldwide.

In-house interviewing

Today, we can also conduct interviews with broadcasters more easily than ever before. Not so long ago the prospect of a news channel like CNN doing a weather story might entail a team travelling to our head office in Exeter, interviewing a meteorologist, editing the footage and finally broadcasting the results - a complex and, sometimes lengthy process. Now, thanks to the Press Association's Globelynx technology, broadcasters can hook up with the Met Office straight away.

Globelynx is a fixed line over the internet that delivers high-quality footage straight to the broadcaster. Here at the Met Office, we have a camera, green screen and studio set up and ready for any story. This will shortly be joined by a second Globelynx camera in our Operations Centre, so broadcasters will be able to interview meteorologists in situ as soon as there is breaking news on any weather issue.

Several broadcasters have been quick to take up the Globelynx offering. Sky has already conducted a number of interviews and Good Morning Britain broadcast their weather forecasts live from our Operations Centre, booking the line for the whole three hours the show was on the air.

Weather news travels fast

It's all a far cry from when Helen Chivers joined the Met Office 32 years ago. Back then the team was just getting the first word processors to issue forecasts. Helen even remembers drawing the very charts that would appear in the newspapers the next day.

Technology nowadays means we can get the Met Office's authoritative voice and science out across the whole world within minutes - making us much more responsive to events as they happen. For an audience, and a broadcast community, that demands instant news, we're ready and responding.

This short video describes how the Met Office gets its messages and alerts out to the public.