The Met Office exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition has been up and running for a couple of days now and runs until Sunday 10 July. Our scientists are busy talking about how we ‘Get a Measure of the Weather’, and explaining some of the innovative ways we can increase our knowledge of the atmosphere. These range from using GPS signals to monitor water vapour and intercepting aircraft signals to better understand the wind.
The current observations networks (including surface observations, aircraft and satellites) are sufficient to provide our supercomputer with the data it requires to deliver a highly accurate forecast. The process by which we ‘feed’ our forecast models, called data assimilation, has been designed to handle the very different coverages and measurement types, and any limitations in our current networks.
The other technology we are talking about at the exhibition is our system for enabling citizen scientists to contribute to our weather monitoring – the Weather Observations Website, or WOW for short. As the forecast models become more advanced in terms of their ability to capture high impact weather on ever smaller scales, additional observations of all kinds help to improve the model further by adding detail to the starting state of the forecast.
We will always require high quality, high resilience operational observing systems. However, we recognise that a range of new measurement devices, including home weather stations, provide the opportunity to increase the amount of data at our disposal, at a relatively low cost. We are keen to explore how we might use these for both feeding our forecast models and for real-time use by our operational meteorologists. One of the ways we can do this is to gather ‘opportunistic’ data that will help us verify the accuracy of the forecast. WOW is designed to work alongside the existing network of observations and to allow the Met Office to gain access to other sources of weather observations, including cars and smartphones.
We are also able to get information about the impact of the weather on people and their daily lives through WOW. Our National Severe Weather Warnings Service provides advice to the public on how the weather will impact them, but without observations to work from we have little knowledge of how effective these warnings have been. WOW provides a way for anyone to share their experiences of how the weather is immediately impacting on them, through sending a photograph into WOW which is automatically checked and provided to our meteorologists.
Meteorological history owes a vast amount to the role of the Voluntary Climate Observers. Many will have heard the phrase ‘since records began,’ and many of those records were started by interested amateur meteorologists, the citizen scientists of their day. This honourable tradition is still with us now and we rely on a dedicated network of Voluntary Climate Observers who send us their readings every day using WOW.
If you would like to find out more about how you could become involved in contributing weather and climate records, please visit our stand at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition (RSSSE) at the Royal Society in central London until Sunday 10 July.