Met Office

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Met Office
Met Office.svg
Logo of the Met Office (in 2009)
Agency overview
Formed1854;165 years ago (1854)
JurisdictionFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Headquarters Exeter, Devon
Employees1,989 (March 2018) [1]
Agency executive
Parent agency Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The Met Office (officially the Meteorological Office until 2000) [2] 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 CEO, [3] Penelope Endersby, who took on the role as Chief Executive in December 2018, the first woman to do so. [4] The Met Office makes meteorological predictions across all timescales from weather forecasts to climate change.

Executive agency part of a UK government department

An executive agency is a part of a government department that is treated as managerially and budgetarily separate, to carry out some part of the executive functions of the United Kingdom government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government or Northern Ireland Executive. Executive agencies are "machinery of government" devices distinct both from non-ministerial government departments and non-departmental public bodies, each of which enjoy a real legal and constitutional separation from ministerial control. The model was also applied in several other countries.

A trading fund is an executive agency, government department or often simply a part of a department, that enables the department to handle its own revenues and expenses separately from overall government finances and more like a business, as opposed to having to obtain funding from the government's legislature and feeding income back into its treasury. A Hong Kong governmental study of trading funds in the UK and Hong Kong describes their nature and purpose as follows:

A trading fund is a financial and accounting framework established by law to enable a government department, or part of a department, to adopt certain accounting and management practices common in the private sector. [The fund] operates on a self-financing basis and does not need to regularly seek funding from the legislature to finance its daily operations after its establishment.... the intention [is that such] an institutional change would provide the appropriate flexibility in resource management and nurture a new working culture to improve services in terms of both quality and cost-effectiveness.

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Ministerial department of the government of the United Kingdom

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is a department of the government of the United Kingdom, which was created by Theresa May on 14 July 2016 following her appointment as Prime Minister, through a merger between the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).



Vice Admiral Robert Fitzroy, founder of the Met Office Robert Fitzroy.jpg
Vice Admiral Robert Fitzroy, founder of the Met Office

The Met Office was established in 1854 as a small department within the 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.

Board of Trade committee of the United Kingdom Privy Council

The Board of Trade is a British government department concerned with commerce and industry, currently within the Department for International Trade. Its full title is The Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council appointed for the consideration of all matters relating to Trade and Foreign Plantations, but is commonly known as the Board of Trade, and formerly known as the Lords of Trade and Plantations or Lords of Trade, and it has been a committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. The Board has gone through several evolutions, beginning with extensive involvement in colonial matters in the 17th Century, to powerful regulatory functions in the Victorian Era, to virtually being dormant in the last third of 20th century. In 2017, it was revitalized as an advisory board headed by the International Trade Secretary who has nominally held the title of President of the Board of Trade, and who at present is the only privy counsellor of the Board, the other members of the present Board filling roles as advisers.

Robert FitzRoy Royal Navy officer and scientist

Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy FRS was an English officer of the Royal Navy and a scientist. He achieved lasting fame as the captain of HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin's famous voyage, FitzRoy's second expedition to Tierra del Fuego and the Southern Cone.

Sailor person who navigates water-borne vessels or assists in doing so

A sailor, seaman, mariner, or seafarer is a person who works aboard a watercraft as part of its crew, and may work in any one in a number of different fields that are related to the operation and maintenance of a ship.

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. [5] [6] Publication of forecasts ceased in May 1866 after FitzRoy's death but recommenced in April 1879.


A barograph is a barometer that records the barometric pressure over time in graphical form.

Francis Ronalds British meteorlogist

Sir Francis Ronalds FRS was an English scientist and inventor, and arguably the first electrical engineer. He was knighted for creating the first electric telegraph over a substantial distance. In 1816 he laid eight miles of iron wire between wooden frames in his garden and sent pulses using electrostatic generators. Others like Francisco Salva Campillo in 1804 or Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring in 1809 already built telegraphs but with lengths of only 0.4 - 2.2 miles.

Connection with the Ministry of Defence

Former Met Office building in Bracknell, Berkshire, before relocation to Exeter, since demolished The Meteorological Office, Bracknell - - 489065.jpg
Former 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 (where the 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 to the Royal Navy being provided by its own forecasting services.

Air Ministry former department of the British Government

The Air Ministry was a department of the Government of the United Kingdom with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Royal Air Force, that existed from 1918 to 1964. It was under the political authority of the Secretary of State for Air.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

It became an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence in April 1990, a quasi-governmental role, being required to act commercially.

Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom) United Kingdom government department responsible for implementing the defence policy

The Ministry of Defence is the British government department responsible for implementing the defence policy set by Her Majesty's Government and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces.

Change in ownership

Following a machinery of government change, the Met Office became part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on 18 July 2011, [7] 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. [8]

The machinery of government means the interconnected structures and processes of government, such as the functions and accountability of departments in the executive branch of government. The term is used particularly in the context of changes to established systems of public administration where different elements of machinery are created.

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Defunct ministerial department of the government of the United Kingdom

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) was a ministerial department of the United Kingdom Government created on 5 June 2009 by the merger of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). It was disbanded on the creation of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on 14 July 2016.

Department of Energy and Climate Change United Kingdom government ministerial department

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was a British government department created on 3 October 2008, by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown to take over some of the functions related to energy of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, and those relating to climate change of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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 Ukmo-exeter-panorama.JPG
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 Exeter Business 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 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). [9] Royal Navy weather forecasts are generally provided by naval officers, not Met Office personnel.


Shipping forecast

The 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

The Met Office issues Severe Weather Warnings for the United Kingdom through the 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'. [10]

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. [11]

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 [12] (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). [13] 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. [14] [ 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 PP-format.

Flood Forecasting Centre

Formed in 2009, the Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC) is a joint venture between the 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 at the Met Office headquarters in Exeter. [15] In Scotland this role is performed by the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service, a joint venture between the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Met Office. [16]

Seasonal forecasts

The Met Office makes seasonal and long range forecasts and distributes them to customers and users globally. [17] 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. [18]

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 and winter climate for Europe and North America. [19] [20]

Supply of forecasts for broadcasting companies

Two of the main media companies, the BBC and ITV produce forecasts using the Met Office's data. At the BBC Weather Centre, they are continuously updated on the information by computer, fax and email. [21] [22] The BBC's new graphics are used on all of their television weather broadcasts. ITV Weather use animated weather symbols. The forecasters at the BBC Weather Centre are employed by the Met Office, not the BBC. [23] On 23 August 2015, it was announced that the BBC would be replacing the Met Office with MeteoGroup, a competing provider, as part of the corporation's legal obligation to provide best value for money for the licence fee payers.

World Area Forecast Centre

The 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

As part of its aviation forecast operation the Met Office operates the London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC). [24] 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 Organization (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations, as part of the International Airways Volcano Watch (IAVW). [25] The London VAAC makes use of satellite images, plus seismic, radar and visual observation data from Iceland, [26] 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.

Air quality

The 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 model.

The forecast is produced for pollutants and their typical health effects are shown in the following table.

PollutantHealth Effects at High Level
Nitrogen dioxide
Sulphur dioxide
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


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 Atmospheric Administration. [27]

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. [28]

YearComputerCalculations per secondHorizontal resolution (global/local)Number of vertical levels
1959 Ferranti Mercury 3 kiloflops(N.A./320 km)2 levels
1965 English Electric KDF9 50 kiloflops(N.A./300 km)3 levels
1972 IBM System/360 1954 megaflops(300 km/100 km)10 levels
1982 CDC Cyber 205200 megaflops(150 km/75 km)15 levels
1991 Cray Y-MP C90/1610 gigaflops(90 km/17 km)19 levels
1997 Cray T3E 900/1200430 gigaflops(60 km/12 km)38 levels
2004 NEC SX-6 2.0 teraflops(40 km/12 km)50 levels
2006 NEC SX-8 and SX-65.4 teraflops(40 km/4 km)50 levels
2009 IBM Power6 140 teraflops(17 km/1.5 km)70 levels
2015 Cray XC40 16 petaflops(10 km/1.5 km)

Customer service

Since 2012 the Met Office Contact Centre (known as the Weather Desk) has been part of the[ which? ] 'Top 50 Companies for Customer Service' programme.

In 2015 the Met Office won awards in the following categories: [29] • 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 Small Centre

Weather stations

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 staff, coastguards, university staff and so on.

Meteorological Research Unit and the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM)

Meteorological Research was carried out at RAE Bedford with instruments being carried by barrage balloons until the RAE facility closed in the 1980s.

The 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 hangar. [31] [32]


FAAM BAe146-300 takes off at RIAT, RAF Fairford, England FAAM BAe146 (G-LUXE) takeoff RIAT 14thJuly2014 arp.jpg
FAAM BAe146-300 takes off at RIAT, RAF Fairford, England

The 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 Council. [31]

The FAAM was established as part of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), [33] 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. [34]

Areas of application include: [35]

Directors General and Chief Executives

See also

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Coordinates: 50°43′38″N3°28′30″W / 50.72722°N 3.47500°W / 50.72722; -3.47500

Further reading