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Lightning strikes twice

Welsh singer-songwriter Charlotte Church delights in open skies and the simple beauty of weather, but she is also increasingly aware of the impacts and complexity of climate change - especially after meeting Met Office climate scientist, Dr Richard Betts.

Starting as a classical singer as a child, Charlotte has ventured into pop music, as well as becoming an actress and television presenter. Success at a young age brought international fame, and lots of travel.

"Because I've been in aeroplanes so much, I've seen some incredible storms from the air," Charlotte recalls. "One that sticks in my mind is a massive electrical storm when we were flying over Texas. One of my favourite things is watching storms."

Enjoying weather from a young age, Charlotte is drawn to storms, and it seems they are drawn towards her as she has nearly been hit by lightning twice.

"Once was in south Wales when I was about seven," she remembers. "We were in an outdoor pool when a big storm came in. Everyone left the pool so there was a traffic jam and this bolt of lightning struck very close to the car which was terrifying but brilliant. Then I was struck by lightning in a plane on the way to Dublin. There was a big flash of light, massive noise, and everybody screamed. So, I'm hoping that the third one doesn't come!"

Elemental beauty

Despite close encounters with lightning's raw power, Charlotte loves the elemental beauty of nature. "I remember being in Singapore during the monsoon and going outside and standing in the rain and thinking, this is amazing! I've visited Iceland in the last couple of years. The weather there is extreme so I really enjoy that."

As a mother of two, Charlotte is conscious of weather and the environment. As she explains, "Since I've had kids I'm a lot more aware of the weather, but I don't let it put me off - unless it's really extreme when you have to pay attention - we go into the outdoors as much as possible. For my littleuns I think that's immensely important. While if it's a dreary rainy day it's lovely to be inside somewhere warm, it's also exhilarating to be outside."

Great outdoors

Being a parent and thinking of the future, Charlotte is aware that climate change is shaping our world. Appearing on BBC's Question Time, Charlotte referred to how climate change may have contributed to the conditions that led to civil unrest in Syria.

As Charlotte explains, "Before the show I read up on different subjects, including Syria because the situation is so complex. I found a study on the drought in Syria, how it possibly contributed to the overall situation, and whether it was linked to climate change. I thought it was an important issue, so I mentioned it. Unfortunately I got quite a lot of ridicule afterwards - people accused me of saying the conflict in Syria was caused by climate change, but that's not what I said. I said that climate change had been a contributing factor to the situation, and is something that is going to affect that region for a while longer."

After seeing her on Question Time, Dr Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts at the Met Office, invited Charlotte to the Met Office. As Charlotte puts it, "I jumped at the chance to meet some of the scientists who have made climate research their life's work and educate myself about climate change. A lot of the work at the Met Office is about climate change, trying to understand why it's happening, and finding ways to educate people about it."

Sense of wonder

Charlotte was not only struck by the climate research, but also the Met Office Operations Centre. "The forecast room was amazing, looking at live pictures of the sun a million miles away - monitoring space weather - it was all very exciting. There are so many things I didn't know the Met Office does."

Although Charlotte is learning more about the science of weather and climate, when it comes to natural elements she retains a sense of wonder. "One of my biggest joys in life is just the sky and how it changes," she says. "What the sky has to offer - the cloud formations - that's what I find most thrilling. One of my favourite things is being in an open space and being able to see totally uninterrupted sky, how clouds are forming, and the colours."