Met Office

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Met Office
Met Office.svg
Logo of the Met Office since 2009
Agency overview
Formed1 August 1854;168 years ago (1 August 1854)
JurisdictionUnited Kingdom
Headquarters Met Office Operations Centre, Exeter, Devon (since December 2003)
Employees2,223 (March 2022) [1]
Agency executive
Parent agency Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The Meteorological Office, abbreviated as the Met Office, [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 and is led by CEO [3] Penelope Endersby, who took on the role as Chief Executive in December 2018 and is the first woman to do so. [4] The Met Office makes meteorological predictions across all timescales from weather forecasts to climate change.



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 on 1 August 1854 [5] 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.

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. [6] [7] Publication of forecasts ceased in May 1866 after FitzRoy's death but recommenced in April 1879.

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.

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

Changes of ministry

Following a machinery of government change, the Met Office became part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on 18 July 2011, [8] 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. [9]

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 MetOffice@Reading (formerly the Joint Centre for Mesoscale Meteorology) 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). [10] 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'. [11]

The Met Office along with Irish counterpart Met Éireann introduced a storm naming system in September 2015 to provide a single authoritative naming system for the storms that affect the UK and Ireland. [12] [13] The first named storm under this system, Abigail was announced on 10 November 2015. [14] In 2019, the Met Office and Met Éireann were joined by Dutch national weather forecasting service the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute(KNMI). [15]

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 [16] (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). [17] 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. [18] [ failed verification ] 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. [19] 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. [20]

Seasonal forecasts

The Met Office makes seasonal and long range forecasts and distributes them to customers and users globally. [21] 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. [22]

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. [23] [24]

Supply of forecasts for broadcasting companies

One of the main media companies, ITV produce forecasts for ITV Weather using the Met Office's data and animated weather symbols.

The BBC used to use Met Office forecasts for all of its output, but 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. [25] The BBC still uses some Met Office data for certain forecasts, particularly severe weather warnings and the Shipping Forecast.

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). [26] 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). [27] The London VAAC makes use of satellite images, plus seismic, radar and visual observation data from Iceland, [28] 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 United Kingdom Chemistry and Aerosols 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. [29]

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. [30]

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 Contact Centre Panel's 'Top 50 Companies for Customer Service' programme. [31]

In 2015 the Met Office won awards in the following categories: [32]

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. The six main radiosonde stations in the UK are Camborne, Lerwick, Albemarle, Watnall, Castor Bay and Herstmonceux.

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. [34] [35]


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. [34]

The FAAM was established as part of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), [36] 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. [37]

Areas of application include: [38]

Directors General and Chief Executives

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Meteorology</span> Interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere focusing on weather forecasting

Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences with a major focus on weather forecasting. The study of meteorology dates back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not begin until the 18th century. The 19th century saw modest progress in the field after weather observation networks were formed across broad regions. Prior attempts at prediction of weather depended on historical data. It was not until after the elucidation of the laws of physics, and more particularly in the latter half of the 20th century the development of the computer that significant breakthroughs in weather forecasting were achieved. An important branch of weather forecasting is marine weather forecasting as it relates to maritime and coastal safety, in which weather effects also include atmospheric interactions with large bodies of water.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration</span> US government scientific agency

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a scientific and regulatory agency within the United States Department of Commerce that forecasts weather, monitors oceanic and atmospheric conditions, charts the seas, conducts deep sea exploration, and manages fishing and protection of marine mammals and endangered species in the U.S. exclusive economic zone.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Meteorological Service of Canada</span>

The Meteorological Service of Canada is a division of Environment and Climate Change Canada, which primarily provides public meteorological information and weather forecasts and warnings of severe weather and other environmental hazards. MSC also monitors and conducts research on the climate, atmospheric science, air quality, water quantities, ice and other environmental issues. MSC operates a network of radio stations throughout Canada transmitting weather and environmental information 24 hours a day called Weatheradio Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Weather forecasting</span> Science and technology application

Weather forecasting is the application of science and technology to predict the conditions of the atmosphere for a given location and time. People have attempted to predict the weather informally for millennia and formally since the 19th century. Weather forecasts are made by collecting quantitative data about the current state of the atmosphere, land, and ocean and using meteorology to project how the atmosphere will change at a given place.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Meteorologist</span> Scientist specialising in meteorology

A meteorologist is a scientist who studies and works in the field of meteorology aiming to understand or predict Earth's atmospheric phenomena including the weather. Those who study meteorological phenomena are meteorologists in research, while those using mathematical models and knowledge to prepare daily weather forecasts are called weather forecasters or operational meteorologists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National Weather Service</span> U.S. forecasting agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The National Weather Service (NWS) is an agency of the United States federal government that is tasked with providing weather forecasts, warnings of hazardous weather, and other weather-related products to organizations and the public for the purposes of protection, safety, and general information. It is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) branch of the Department of Commerce, and is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, within the Washington metropolitan area. The agency was known as the United States Weather Bureau from 1890 until it adopted its current name in 1970.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Numerical weather prediction</span> Weather prediction using mathematical models of the atmosphere and oceans

Numerical weather prediction (NWP) uses mathematical models of the atmosphere and oceans to predict the weather based on current weather conditions. Though first attempted in the 1920s, it was not until the advent of computer simulation in the 1950s that numerical weather predictions produced realistic results. A number of global and regional forecast models are run in different countries worldwide, using current weather observations relayed from radiosondes, weather satellites and other observing systems as inputs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gale warning</span> Weather forecast that includes a warning of a gale and high winds

A gale warning is an alert issued by national weather forecasting agencies around the world in an event that maritime locations currently or imminently experiencing winds of gale force on the Beaufort scale. Gale warnings allow mariners to take precautionary actions to ensure their safety at sea or to seek safe anchorage and ride out the storm on land. Though usually associated with deep low-pressure areas, winds strong enough to catalyze a gale warning can occur in other conditions too, including from anticyclones, or high-pressure systems, in the continental interior. The winds are not directly associated with a tropical cyclone.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Index of meteorology articles</span>

This is a list of meteorology topics. The terms relate to meteorology, the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Finnish Meteorological Institute</span>

The Finnish Meteorological Institute is the government agency responsible for gathering and reporting weather data and forecasts in Finland. It is a part of the Ministry of Transport and Communications but it operates semi-autonomously.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies</span> American atmospheric research organization

The Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies is a research organization created in 1978 by a cooperative agreement between the University of Oklahoma (OU) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). CIMMS promotes collaborative research between NOAA and OU scientists on problems of mutual interest to improve basic understanding of mesoscale meteorological phenomena, weather radar, and regional climate to help produce better forecasts and warnings that save lives and property. CIMMS research contributes to the NOAA mission through improvement of the observation, analysis, understanding, and prediction of weather elements and systems and climate anomalies ranging in size from cloud nuclei to multi-state areas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">PAGASA</span> National weather, climate, and astronomy bureau of the Philippines

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration is the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) agency of the Philippines mandated to provide protection against natural calamities and to insure the safety, well-being and economic security of all the people, and for the promotion of national progress by undertaking scientific and technological services in meteorology, hydrology, climatology, astronomy and other geophysical sciences. Created on December 8, 1972, by reorganizing the Weather Bureau, PAGASA now serves as one of the Scientific and Technological Services Institutes of the Department of Science and Technology.

Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited is the national meteorological service of New Zealand. MetService was established as a state-owned enterprise in 1992. It employs about 300 staff, and its headquarters are in Wellington, New Zealand. Prior to becoming a state-owned enterprise, New Zealand's national meteorological service has existed in a number of forms since the appointment of the country's first Director of Meteorological Stations in August 1861.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute</span> Research institute

The Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute is the Dutch national weather forecasting service, which has its headquarters in De Bilt, in the province of Utrecht, central Netherlands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Atmospheric model</span>

An atmospheric model is a mathematical model constructed around the full set of primitive dynamical equations which govern atmospheric motions. It can supplement these equations with parameterizations for turbulent diffusion, radiation, moist processes, heat exchange, soil, vegetation, surface water, the kinematic effects of terrain, and convection. Most atmospheric models are numerical, i.e. they discretize equations of motion. They can predict microscale phenomena such as tornadoes and boundary layer eddies, sub-microscale turbulent flow over buildings, as well as synoptic and global flows. The horizontal domain of a model is either global, covering the entire Earth, or regional (limited-area), covering only part of the Earth. The different types of models run are thermotropic, barotropic, hydrostatic, and nonhydrostatic. Some of the model types make assumptions about the atmosphere which lengthens the time steps used and increases computational speed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pakistan Meteorological Department</span>

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), is an autonomous and independent institution tasked with providing weather forecasts and public warnings concerning weather for protection, safety and general information.

A Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) is a group of experts responsible for coordinating and disseminating information on atmospheric volcanic ash clouds that may endanger aviation. As at 2019, there are nine Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers located around the world, each one focusing on a particular geographical region. Their analyses are made public in the form of volcanic ash advisories (VAAs), involving expertise analysis of satellite observations, ground and pilot observations and interpretation of ash dispersion models.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Julia Slingo</span> British meteorologist

Dame Julia Mary Slingo is a British meteorologist and climate scientist. She was Chief Scientist at the Met Office from 2009 until 2016. She is also a Visiting Professor in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading, where she held, prior to appointment to the Met Office, the positions of Director of Climate Research in the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) National Centre for Atmospheric Science and founding Director of the Walker Institute for Climate System Research.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tuvalu Meteorological Service</span>

The Tuvalu Meteorological Service (TMS) is the principal meteorological observatory of Tuvalu and is responsible for providing weather services to the islands of Tuvalu. A meteorological office was established on Funafuti at the time the islands of Tuvalu were administered as parts of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony of the United Kingdom. The meteorological office is now an agency of the government of Tuvalu.

<i>Servicio Meteorológico Nacional</i> (Argentina) Argentinas national weather service

The Servicio Meteorológico Nacional (SMN) is Argentina's national weather service under the Ministry of Defense that is tasked with observing, understanding, and predicting the weather and climate in Argentina and its surrounding waters. It provides weather forecasts, radar images, ozone, temperature and rainfall graphs, and satellite images. The purpose of these tasks is to contribute to protection of its inhabitants, sustainable economic development and to provide representation of Argentina to international meteorological organizations. Founded on 4 October 1872 by Federal law Nº559 during the presidency of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, the organisation was the first meteorological organisation in South America and the third one in the world, after Hungary and the United States which were created in 1870 and 1871 respectively. It became a member of the World Meteorological Organization on 2 January 1951. Throughout its history, the organisation was dependent under different government ministries until in 2007 when it is currently under the Ministry of Defense.


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

Further reading