Mark graduated with a BSc in Meteorology from Reading University in 2005. He joined the Met Office and secured a position as forecaster after one year of working and further training.
I started in the Met Office College doing theoretical and practical training for three to four months and then I received a further four months of on-the-job training and was finally assessed.
Part of the assessment is the NVQ level 4 qualification in forecasting, which has many modules and is still a work in progress. Training as a forecaster involves a steep learning curve and you're always acquiring new techniques to deal with new weather scenarios, as well as continuously dealing with the huge variety of customers.
Since the assessments, I've been trained to do commercial forecasting, aviation forecasting and, more recently, road forecasting, a service mainly for contractors predicting the snow and ice risks on the UK's road network during the winter.
The degree in meteorology wasn't absolutely necessary, as a physical science of any kind would have been helpful. However, it did help as the content of the degree was relevant and I use it continuously in my job as a forecaster. An appropriate academic education in maths and science, particularly physics, is important, not just for application purposes but also to help you understand how the weather and atmosphere work.
Every shift starts with a handover from the previous forecaster (either coming off a night or day shift). The handover includes the general weather scenario, both for the current and forecast periods, and any other admin issues. The first hour is spent getting to grips with the weather scenario and forecast, then throughout the day various products are written and sent to customers advising them of their forecast needs. There are a wide variety of customers, including groundsmen at race/golf courses, film crews, crane operatives, engineers from utility companies, local authorities, UK civil airports, balloonists and other aviators. Customers may also ring through for bespoke consultancy.
The Met Office offers a splendid environment to work in at the HQ in Exeter and I've met a lot of great people here. Doing a job that you're already interested in also has its merits and there are good progression and working opportunities, such as working in outstations where observations are taken and weather balloons are launched, and working abroad. You might also have the opportunity to talk to high-profile customers, such as Wimbledon Tennis and the Golf Open during the summer, and civil airports all over the UK, including Heathrow.
On days when the weather is particularly bad, the pressure is on. I have to keep one eye on the weather scenario that's unfolding, at the same time as getting the forecast right and out on time. But it is very rewarding and the weather is different every day, so every working day is different. It's also gratifying to know that you're offering customers valuable advice that will aid their working procedures and, if you're advising them of potential hazards, ensure their safety. Getting involved with high profile events such as Wimbledon during the summer is also a buzz.
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