our Met Office is a top global forecaster
The Met Office has been forecasting the UK's weather for over 150 years. It was founded in 1854 by captain Vice-Admiral Robert Fitzroy. When disaster struck and the Royal Charter ship sank in 1859, Fitzroy made the case for a new storm warning service. The shipping forecast began in 1861 and is thought to be the longest running national forecasting service in the world.
The Met Office helped the country to plan missions during World War One and World War Two. In 1965, the Met Office began to use computers to predict the weather ('Numerical Weather Prediction'), based on theory first developed by a Met Office scientist in 1922. The Met Office opened the Flood Forecasting Centre in 2007, and the Space Weather Operations Centre in 2014.
In February 2022, the Met Office had the busiest week in its history, helping to protect us all from severe weather. In one week, there were three storms named, two Red Weather Warnings and some of the highest wind speeds in over 30 years.
Today, Met Office data supports our economy and public services in many different ways. For example, it helps local authorities and emergency services respond to bad weather and the NHS to predict patient numbers. It is a world beating forecaster which plays a leading role in tackling climate change, using supercomputers and AI.
Who owns the Met Office?
We do! The Met Office is a Trading Fund of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Secretary of State for BEIS is ultimately responsible but day to day oversight is delegated to the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation.
The Met Office was threatened with privatisation in 2008 and again in 2013, but happily it stayed in public hands. In 2018 the Met Office sadly lost its contract to provide the BBC weather forecast (which it had delivered since 1922). The contract was given to MeteoGroup which is owned by private equity group General Atlantic.
- The Met Office is one of just two World Area Forecasting Centres that advise airlines operating right across the globe.
- Its four day forecast today is as accurate as its one day forecast was 30 years ago.
- In 2021-22, it returned a dividend to the public purse of £8.5 million.
- The Met Office provides evidence on climate change to the government through the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, including at COP26, and internationally through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
- It plays a leading role on the International Exchange of Data agreement which enables 193 countries to share climate related information.
- It has a network of weather stations, and scientists in the Antarctic use its team at Rothera Base to conduct their research safely.
- In April 2021 the Met Office announced a new partnership with Microsoft to build the world’s most powerful supercomputer dedicated to weather and climate.
Met Office video: protecting lives at sea for 150 years:
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