Met Office (officially the Meteorological Office until 2000) is
the United Kingdom's national weather service. It is an executive
agency and trading fund of the Department for Business, Energy and
Industrial Strategy led by acting CEO, Nick Jobling and chief
scientist, Professor Stephen Belcher. The
Met Office makes
meteorological predictions across all timescales from weather
forecasts to climate change.
1.1 Connection with the Ministry of Defence
1.2 Change in ownership
3.1 Shipping forecast
3.2 Weather forecasting and warnings
3.3 Weather prediction models
3.4 Flood Forecasting Centre
3.5 Seasonal forecasts
3.6 Supply of forecasts for broadcasting companies
3.7 World Area Forecast Centre
3.8 Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre
3.9 Air quality
3.11 High performance computing
3.12 Customer service
4 Weather stations
5 Meteorological Research Unit and the Facility for Airborne
Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM)
6 Directors General and Chief Executives
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Robert FitzRoy founder of the Met Office
Met Office was established in 1854 as a small department within
Board of Trade
Board of Trade under Vice-Admiral
Robert FitzRoy as a service to
mariners. The loss of the passenger vessel, the Royal Charter, and 459
lives off the coast of
Anglesey in a violent storm in October 1859 led
to the first gale warning service. FitzRoy established a network of 15
coastal stations from which visual gale warnings could be provided for
ships at sea.
The new electric telegraph enabled rapid dissemination of warnings and
also led to the development of an observational network which could
then be used to provide synoptic analysis. The
Met Office started in
1861 to provide weather forecasts to newspapers. FitzRoy requested the
daily traces of the photo-barograph at
Kew Observatory (invented by
Francis Ronalds) to assist in this task and similar barographs and as
well as instruments to continuously record other meteorological
parameters were later provided to stations across the observing
network. Publication of forecasts ceased in May 1866 after
FitzRoy’s death but recommenced in April 1879.
Connection with the Ministry of Defence
Met Office building in Bracknell, Berkshire before relocation
to Exeter, since demolished
Following the First World War, the
Met Office became part of the Air
Ministry in 1919, the weather observed from the top of Adastral House
Air Ministry was based) giving rise to the phrase "The
weather on the
Air Ministry roof". As a result of the need for weather
information for aviation, the
Met Office located many of its
observation and data collection points on RAF airfields, and this
accounts for the large number of military airfields mentioned in
weather reports even today. In 1936 the
Met Office split with services
Royal Navy being provided by its own forecasting services.
It became an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence in April
1990, a quasi-governmental role, being required to act commercially.
Change in ownership
Following a machinery of government change, the
Met Office became part
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on 18 July
2011, and subsequently part of the Department for Business, Energy
and Industrial Strategy following the merger of BIS and the Department
of Energy and Climate Change on 14 July 2016.
Although no longer part of the MOD, the
Met Office maintains strong
links with the military through its front line offices at RAF and Army
bases both in the UK and overseas and its involvement in the Joint
Operations Meteorology and Oceanography Centre (JOMOC) with the Royal
Navy. The Mobile Met Unit (MMU) are a unit consisting of Met Office
staff who are also RAF reservists who accompany forward units in times
of conflict advising the armed forces of the conditions for battle,
particularly the RAF.
The 2003 headquarters building on the edge of Exeter
In September 2003 the
Met Office moved its headquarters from Bracknell
in Berkshire to a purpose-built £80m structure at
Park, near junction 29 of the M5 motorway. The new building was
officially opened on 21 June 2004 – a few weeks short of the Met
Office's 150th anniversary – by Robert May, Baron May of Oxford.
It has a worldwide presence – including a forecasting centre in
Aberdeen, and offices in
Gibraltar and on the Falklands. Other
outposts lodge in establishments such as the Joint Centre for
Mesoscale Meteorology (JCMM) at
University of Reading
University of Reading in Berkshire,
the Joint Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Research (JCHMR) site at
Wallingford in Oxfordshire, and there is a
Met Office presence at Army
and Air Force bases within the UK and abroad (including frontline
units in conflict zones).
Royal Navy weather forecasts are
generally provided by naval officers, not
Met Office personnel.
Main article: Shipping Forecast
Shipping Forecast is produced by the
Met Office and broadcast on
BBC Radio 4, for those traversing the seas around the British Isles.
Weather forecasting and warnings
Met Office issues Severe Weather Warnings for the United Kingdom
National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS). These
warn of weather events that may affect transport infrastructure and
endanger people's lives. In March 2008, the system was improved and a
new stage of warning was introduced, the 'Advisory'.
In September 2015 the
Met Office established a "name our storms"
project, the aim is to provide a single authoritative naming system
for the storms that affect the UK and Ireland by asking the public to
suggest names. On 10 November, the first named storm was Abigail.
Weather prediction models
The main role of the
Met Office is to produce forecast models by
gathering information from weather satellites in space and
observations on earth, then processing it with a variety of models,
based on a software package known as the unified model. The principal
weather products for UK customers are 36-hour forecasts from the
operational 1.5 km resolution UKV model covering the UK and
surroundings (replacing the 4 km model), 48-hour forecasts
from the 12 km resolution NAE model covering Europe and the North
Atlantic, and 144-hour forecasts from the 25 km resolution global
model (replacing the 40 km global model). The Met Office's
Global Model forecast has consistently been in the top 3 for global
weather forecast performance (in the decades up to 2010) in
independent verification to WMO standards.[not in citation given]
Products for other regions of the globe are sold to customers abroad,
provided for MOD operations abroad or provided free to developing
countries in Africa. If necessary, forecasters may make adjustments to
the computer forecasts. Data is stored in the Met Office's own
Flood Forecasting Centre
Main article: Flood Forecasting Centre
Formed in 2009, the
Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC) is a joint venture
Environment Agency and the
Met Office to provide flood
risk guidance for England and Wales. The Centre is jointly staffed
from both parent organisations and is based in the Operations Centre
Met Office headquarters in Exeter. In Scotland this role is
performed by the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service, a joint venture
Scottish Environment Protection Agency
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Met
Met Office makes seasonal and long range forecasts and distributes
them to customers and users globally. The
Met Office was the first
climate and weather forecast provider to be recognised as a Global
Producing Centre of long range forecasts by the World Meteorological
Organisation and continues to provide forecasts to the WMO for
dissemination to other national meteorological services worldwide.
Met Office research has broken new ground in seasonal forecasting for
the extratropics and has demonstrated its abilities in its seasonal
predictions of the
North Atlantic Oscillation
North Atlantic Oscillation and winter climate for
Europe and North America.
Supply of forecasts for broadcasting companies
In particular, two of the main media companies, the
BBC and ITV
produce forecasts using the Met Office's data. At the
Centre, they are continuously updated on the information arriving by
computer, or by fax and e-mail. The BBC's new graphics are
used on all of their television weather broadcasts, but ITV Weather
use animated weather symbols. The forecasters at the
Centre are employed by the Met Office, not the BBC. On 23 August
2015 it was announced that the
BBC would be replacing the Met Office
with a competing provider MeteoGroup, as part of the corporation's
legal obligation to provide best value for money for the licence fee
World Area Forecast Centre
Main article: World Area Forecast Centre
Met Office is one of only two World Area Forecast Centres or
WAFCs, and is referred to as WAFC London. The other WAFC is located in
Kansas City, Missouri, and known as WAFC Washington. WAFC data is used
daily to safely and economically route aircraft, particularly on
long-haul journeys. The data provides details of wind speed and
direction, air temperature, cloud type and tops, and other features.
Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre
Main article: Volcanic Ash Advisory Center
As part of its aviation forecast operation the
Met Office operates the
Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre
Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC). This provides
forecasts to the aviation industry of volcanic ash clouds that could
enter aircraft flight paths and impact aviation safety. The London
VAAC, one of nine worldwide, is responsible for the area covering the
British Isles, the north east Atlantic and Iceland. The VAAC were set
up by the
International Civil Aviation Organisation
International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), an agency
of the United Nations, as part of the International Airways Volcano
Watch (IAVW). The London VAAC makes use of satellite images, plus
seismic, radar and visual observation data from Iceland, the
location of all of the active volcanoes in its area of responsibility.
The NAME dispersion model developed by the
Met Office is used to
forecast the movement of the ash clouds 6, 12 and 18 hours from the
time of the alert at different flight levels.
Main article: UK Dispersion Modelling Bureau
Met Office issues air quality forecasts made using NAME, the Met
Office's medium-to-long-range atmospheric dispersion model. It was
developed as a nuclear accident model following the Chernobyl accident
in 1986, but has since evolved into an all-purpose dispersion model
capable of predicting the transport, transformation and deposition of
a wide class of airborne materials. NAME is used operationally by the
Met Office as an emergency response model as well as for routine air
quality forecasting. Aerosol dispersion is calculated using the UKCA
The forecast is produced for pollutants and their typical health
effects are shown in the following table.
Health Effects at High Level
These gases irritate the airways of the lungs, increasing the symptoms
of those suffering from lung diseases.
Fine particles can be carried deep into the lungs where they can cause
inflammation and a worsening of heart and lung diseases
Main article: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Until 2001 the
Met Office hosted the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change working group, chaired by John Houghton, on climate
science. In 2001 the working group moved to the National Oceanic and
High performance computing
Due to the large amount of computation needed for Numerical Weather
Prediction and the Unified model, the
Met Office has had some of the
most powerful supercomputers in the world. In November 1997 the Met
Office supercomputer was ranked third in the world.
Calculations per second
Horizontal resolution (global/local)
Number of vertical levels
English Electric KDF9
IBM System/360 195
(300 km/100 km)
CDC Cyber 205
(150 km/75 km)
Cray Y-MP C90/16
(90 km/17 km)
Cray T3E 900/1200
(60 km/12 km)
(40 km/12 km)
NEC SX-8 and SX-6
(40 km/4 km)
(17 km/1.5 km)
(10 km/1.5 km)
Since 2012 the
Met Office Contact Centre (known as the Weather Desk)
has been part of the[which?] 'Top 50 Companies for Customer Service'
In 2015 the
Met Office won awards in the following categories: •
Rated 1st Overall for Combined Channels • Most Improved Overall for
Social Media • Rated 2nd Overall for Call Service • Rated 1st
Overall for Email Service • Best in Public Sector • Best Extra
Reports (observations) from weather stations can be automatic (totally
machine produced), semi-automatic (part-machine and part manual), or
manual. Some stations produce manual observations during business
hours and revert to automatic observations outside these times. Many
stations feature "present weather" sensors, CCTV, etc. There is also a
network of 'upper air' stations, using Radiosondes.
Some stations have limited reporting times, while other report
continuously, mainly RAF and Army Air Corps stations where a manned
met office is provided for military operations. The "standard" is a
once-hourly reporting schedule, but automatic stations can often be
"polled" as required, while stations at airfields report twice-hourly,
with additional (often frequent in times of bad weather) special
reports as necessary to inform airfield authorities of changes to the
weather that may affect aviation operations.
Some stations report only
CLIMAT data (e.g. maximum and minimum
temperatures, rainfall totals over a period, etc.) and these are
usually recorded at 0900 and 2100 hours daily. Weather reports are
often performed by observers not specifically employed by the Met
Office, such as
Air traffic control
Air traffic control staff, coastguards, university
staff and so on.
Penkridge weather station
Prestatyn weather station
Wye weather station
RAF Brize Norton
RAF Brize Norton weather station
RAF Cranwell weather station
RAF Kinloss weather station
RAF Leeming weather station
RAF Leuchars weather station
RAF Linton-on-Ouse weather station
RAF Little Rissington
RAF Little Rissington weather station (supported by RAF Brize Norton)
RAF Lossiemouth weather station
RAF Lyneham weather station
RAF Marham weather station
RAF Northolt weather station 51.55 N 0.417 W
RAF Odiham weather station
RAF Waddington weather station
AAC Wattisham weather station
AAC Middle Wallop
AAC Middle Wallop weather station
Meteorological Research Unit and the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric
Main article: RAF Cardington
Meteorological Research was carried out at
RAE Bedford with
instruments being carried by barrage balloons until the RAE facility
closed in the 1980s.
Met Office association with Cardington continues by maintaining a
Meteorological Research Unit (MRU), this is responsible for conducting
research into part of the atmosphere called the boundary layer by
using a tethered balloon which is kept in a small portable
Main article: Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements
FAAM BAe146-300 takes off at RIAT, RAF Fairford, England
Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements
Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM), part of the
National Centre for Atmospheric Science, is based at Cranfield
Airport. It is a collaboration with the Natural Environment Research
The FAAM was established as part of the National Centre for
Atmospheric Science (NCAS), itself part of NERC, to provide
aircraft measurement for use by UK atmospheric research organisations
on worldwide campaigns. The main equipment is a modified
BAe 146 type
301 aircraft, registration G-LUXE, owned and operated by BAE Systems
on behalf of Directflight Limited.
Areas of application include:
Radiative transfer studies in clear and cloudy air;
Tropospheric chemistry measurements;
Cloud physics and dynamic studies;
Dynamics of mesoscale weather systems;
Boundary layer and turbulence studies;
Remote sensing: verification of ground based instruments;
Satellite ground truth: radiometric measurements and winds;
Satellite instrument test-bed;
Campaigns in the UK and abroad.
Directors General and Chief Executives
Napier Shaw 1905–1920
Graham Sutton 1954–1965
Basil John Mason 1965–1983
Sir John Houghton
Sir John Houghton 1983–1991
Julian Hunt 1992–1997
Peter Ewins 1997–2004
David Rogers 2004–2005
Mark Hutchinson 2005–2007
John Hirst 2007-2014
Rob Varley 2014-2018
Climatic Research Unit hacking incident
Climate of the United Kingdom
Climate change in the United Kingdom
Burns' Day storm
European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts
Great Storm of 1987
Met Éireann, the Irish meteorological service, which separated from
Met Office in 1936.
North West Shelf Operational Oceanographic System
Winter storm naming in the United Kingdom and Ireland
^ "Meteorological Office Archive". Retrieved 5 December 2013.
^ a b "
Met Office Chief Executive stands down". Gov.uk. Retrieved 5
^ Ronalds, B.F. (2016). Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric
Telegraph. London: Imperial College Press.
^ Ronalds, B.F. (June 2016). "Sir
Francis Ronalds and the Early Years
of the Kew Observatory". Weather. 71: 131–134.
Met Office switches departments in Whitehall shake-up".
Clickgreen.org.uk. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
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original on 5 July 2007. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
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Retrieved 15 May 2010.
^ "10 November 2015 - The
Met Office has named Abigail as the first
storm as part of the Name Our Storms project". Met Office.
^ "Experiences with a 1.5 km version of the
Met Office Unified
Model for short range forecasting". ametsoc.org. 25 January 2011.
Retrieved 23 February 2011.
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Metoffice.gov.uk. 5 May 2010. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
^ "Verification statistics and evaluations of ECMWF forecasts in
2009–2010 – Figures 11–15". European Centre for Medium-range
Weather Forecasts ecmwf.int. October 2010. Retrieved 10 February
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Retrieved 4 June 2011.
^ "Scottish Flood Forecasting Service". Sepa.org.uk. Retrieved 4 June
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^ "Climate research at the
Met Office Hadley Centre" (PDF). Met
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Geophysical Research Letters. 41: 2514–2519.
^ Knapton, Sarah (17 October 2016). "The
Met Office can now predict
winter weather one year in advance". The Telegraph.
^ "Producing Weather Broadcasts".
BBC Weather. Retrieved 15 May
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Archived from the original on 8 January 2007. Retrieved 15 May
Met Office loses
BBC weather forecasting contract".
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original on 8 January 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
^ "International Airways Volcano Watch". Icao.int. 26 March 2010.
Retrieved 15 May 2010.
^ Overview of VAAC Activities presentation[dead link]
^ Pearce, Fred, The Climate Files: The Battle for the Truth about
Global Warming, (2010) Guardian Books, ISBN 978-0-85265-229-9, p.
^ Mark Twain, Kevin McCurley. "United Kingdom Meteorological Office
TOP500 Supercomputing Sites". Top500.org.
Met Office Scoops Top Customer Service Awards". iGov News.
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^ FAAM web reports page Archived 9 October 2006 at the Wayback
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Coordinates: 50°43′38″N 3°28′30″W / 50.72722°N
3.47500°W / 50.72722; -3.47500
Hunt, Roger, "The end of weather forecasting at
Met Office London",
Weather magazine, Royal Meteorological Society, June 2007, v.62, no.6,
Walker, Malcolm (J M), History of the Meteorological Office (December
2011) Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-0-521-85985-1
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