We’re all slightly wary of weather forecasting. After all, we can all remember when veteran weather presenter Michael Fish told us there was no hurricane coming – just hours before the worst storm the UK had experienced in hundreds of years hit the country.
But things have definitely changed in the intervening quarter century, with the technologies used to predict weather conditions becoming ever more sophisticated.
The Met Office has its headquarters in Exeter, Devon, and from here their team is not only keeping an eye on incoming weather conditions but also monitors long term climate change patterns.
Within the centre there is currently a £30 million pound super computer, capable of completing 1,000 billion calculations per second and needing 1.2 megawatts of energy to run. This super computer helps to identify weather patterns and provide the most accurate, up to date weather reporting.
The super computer will not only help you plan when to hang your washing out – it will also help save lives by predicting flooding caused by heavy rain and freezing ice and snow caused by sub-zero temperatures.
The last few years have seen unexpected heavy snowfalls that, for some, merely meant a day off work, but for many meant travel chaos as people had to abandon their cars and wait around for hours in freezing railway stations.
Airports across the UK were forced to close, leaving people to sleep in airport terminals for days on end or even miss their holidays entirely.
Though it is impossible to always predict the weather 100% accurately, the super computer is a huge step in the right direction.
But this does not mean that the Met office are going to rest on their laurels – senior researchers have recently joined together with MPs to lobby for further funding for better super computers.
Campaigners have pointed out that the Met office has been able to collaborate with the Natural Environment Research Council to run the super computer MONSooN, which is a central data bank for a number of weather research centres.
Although bad weather cannot be avoided, extending the preparation time before it hits is considered essential to minimising disruption and damage.