Paris, 23 Jul 2004
The UK Met Office is this year celebrating its 150 years of weather forecasting. Created in 1854 to provide meteorological and sea current information to shipping, it is today one of the world's leading providers of environmental and weather related services. This week Euronews visits the Met Office in London and some of the British broadcasters who use its services.
Weather prediction has become more reliable over the years. Our understanding of climatic phenomena has also greatly improved. Powerful computers now crunch vast quantities of data allowing a variety of short to medium term forecasts.
Ground based observations, meteorological balloons and now satellites contribute to this effort. Europe had its first Meteosat craft launched by the European Space Agency in 1977. Meteosat's views of the planet with its circulating cloud formations are frequently seen on weather bulletins.
Earlier this year, the first of a second generation of Meteosat satellites, MSG-1, renamed Meteosat-8 once in orbit, started routine operations under the auspices of Eumetsat, Europe's organisation for the exploitation of meteorological satellites.
"These latest geostationary satellites with their greater resolution and additional channels will offer us much better quality images," explains Graeme Forrester, Operations Manager at the UK Met Office, in London.
He also looks forward to the additional data which will be collected by a new series of European polar-orbiting satellites. "The first MetOp satellite will be launched next year. It will not only image the planet, but its other instruments will take temperature readings through the atmosphere, look at ocean surface winds and other aspects of the atmosphere, giving better information to feed into the computer models." says Forrester.
These improved satellites will allow long-term weather forecasts (beyond five days) and better short term forecasts of extreme weather situations.
Both MSG and MetOp are the result of joined technical and financial efforts by ESA and Eumetsat, ESA being the " architect " of the satellites and Eumetsat operating them on behalf of the European Met Services.
Weather bulletins have become one of the most watched TV programmes around the world. The data provided by weather centres like the Met Office is often 'dressed up' for television.
"Scripting bulletins in this way, combining the more scientific background of the Met Office and our own news slants, works very well," confirms Chrissie Reidy, one of the "weather ladies" at Independent Television News (ITN).
Yet the weather in the UK is often changeable, and understandably certain people take the TV bulletins with a pinch of salt, as Euronews discovered interviewing people in the street. "I find them useful, but I will always take an umbrella as a precaution," joked one lady.
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