Making the weather more accessible

Think of the meteorologists, engineers and gritter drivers this Christmas

on December 23, 2014

I recently came across an article on the Guardian website entitled: How many people in the UK work on Christmas day? I was pleased to see that the concept of people working over the Christmas period was being brought up, as I will be working during this time, but I was disappointed to see that the clergy, nurses and doctors got most the credit. Don’t get me wrong, I know they work extremely hard, but so do meteorologists, rail engineers and gritter drivers.

The weather changes constantly, especially in the UK, and that is why most weather companies operate 24/7. The weather conditions need to be constantly monitored as well as new models analysed. Over the Christmas period, I will be one of 12 forecasters working on Christmas day in my office. There will be 8 people in during the day, and then 4 overnight (including myself). To keep us all in the festive spirit, we’ve decorated the office and for my 5 night shifts, I’ve made sure I have a different Christmas jumper for each day.

Day 100

The office has been Christmasyfied to keep everyone in the festive spirit

The main job of the day shift is to analyse the latest weather models and write forecasts for our clients highlighting what hazards they may see in the next 36 hours. It’s then up to the night shift to monitor the weather and let the clients know if it will differ. However, it is not as cut and dry as that, so many of the roles overlap between day and night. For example, if the road surface temperature (RST) drops below zero, it is seen as hazard because ice or hoar frost may develop, and in parts of Scotland the RST might not rise above zero for a number of days. Additionally new weather models come in overnight and so these need to be analysed as well.

Why do we have to write these forecasts over Christmas? because our clients will be working as well. During this years Christmas period, many areas are likely to see RSTs drop below zero, and if the roads aren’t gritted, ice and hoar frost may form and there will be lots of accidents. Therefore, to prevent ice and hoar frost developing, your local councils or highways agencies will have people driving around gritting the roads and then monitoring the roads. Similarly, it looks like it will be very windy over the Christmas weekend, and this will have an impact on all the engineering work your train companies are planning on doing. They need to make sure they are not putting themselves or the public in danger by undertaking the engineering work so need to be updated on the weather conditions.

The Kent gritter drivers are ready to treat their roads over Christmas!

The Kent gritter drivers are ready to treat their roads over Christmas!

You may only see yellow lorries driving around or see disruption on the railway lines, but there is a lot of work that goes on to make sure these things are all done at the right time. So whilst you’re relaxing on Christmas day and Boxing day remember those of us that are working, often to make your life easier.

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