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Meteorology Meeting Report

Meteorology Section

 

Notes following a talk held on Wednesday 15th July 2015

Starting at 7:30pm at Jersey Airport

 

Present: Chris Sutton, Darlene Hewitt, Frank Le Blancq, Jennie Holley, Margaret Cabot, Mary Billot, Mary Whiteley, Paul Aked, Rosemary Betts.

 

Apologies: Angela Swindell, Derek Gray, Eileen Lerche-Thomesen, Georgia Le Maistre, Mayda Reynolds, Roger Long, Sheila Mallet and Sue Hardy.

 

Thanks to everyone who attended on what started as a fine summer’s evening and ended at 9:15pm as fog shrouded the Airport.  Since the meeting I’ve had some positive feedback which I have passed on to John Searson in a letter of thanks.

 

Admin:  

Normal admin information was suspended as this was an outside meeting.

 

Discussion:

The Chairman introduced John Searson, acting Head of the Jersey Met Department.  John started work there in 1982 and has remained since, apart from a 3 year break from 1986 while reading for an oceanography degree at Plymouth University.

 

His degree subject is closely linked with his love of the sea, having been a very competent canoeist, kayaker and former British and European surf ski champion.  His other claim to fame was rowing the Atlantic in the mid 1900’s.  With his rowing partner injured early in the race in stormy weather, John elected to continue single handed and finished in a very creditable time, helped by daily advice on routing from colleagues in Jersey Met.

 

The theme of John’s talk was past and present working methods and how they are likely to evolve as austerity measures are put in place and everyone in government service is required to do more with less.   

 

Historically, Jersey Met had 24 staff in its heyday when most of the work was aviation related; all other services were also paid for from the Airport budget.  In the 1990’s as the ‘public’ weather service took increasing time and resources, there were moves by Airport management to shed this unfair share of the costs. 

 

About 15 years ago agreement was reached that the Airport would pay for its share, Guernsey would pay for services provided to them and the Jersey government would fund the rest.  The flip side of coin was that staff numbers would have to reduce from 21 to 15.  This was achieved gradually by various means, including retirement and voluntary redundancy.  A further reduction has taken place recently and with part time work now permitted, the equivalent is 13.6 staff but more streamlining may occur as a financial black hole looms. 

 

John explained the current philosophy of distributing forecasts.  The same forecast can be compiled and almost instantly distributed to any number of customers by electronic means.  Additionally, more information is available on the Jersey Met website – www.gov.je/Weather/ - which has recently undergone a major revamp.  With so many forecasts available over the internet, often unattributed, an effort is being made to make the local website the first port of call for local weather.

 

Jersey Met was actively involved in the recent Natwest Island Games, disseminating general and specific information for events such as archery, which was suspended on issue of a thunderstorm warning.  The Games were used as testbed for a number of ideas, including a temporary wind mast on St. Aubin’s Fort to help with the sailing events.  An idea of the success can be gauged from the fact that on the only rainy morning of the Games, the website crashed due to too many requests for the radar information, a problem which has now been rectified and should not happen again.    

 

Use of a Twitter account is another method being used to disseminate local weather information quickly, with the payback of less phone calls to distract the forecaster.   

 

During his talk John demonstrated the use of his work station for compiling forecasts and the various animated graphics available to a forecaster.  From time to time he was interrupted, as fog to the north slowly advanced and finally covered the airfield by the end of the talk.  The last flight landed, but was heard rather than seen, even though the office is only about 300 meters from the runway.  Thanks to John for giving time to the Section and also to evening Observer Paul Aked, who stayed on for nearly an hour beyond the end of his shift. 

 

Remaining 2015 meeting date: 14th October in the SJ Meeting Room at 8pm.

 

Frank Le Blancq  

Chairman – SJ Meteorology Group

 

 

Photographs:  At the end of June while driving along the Five Mile Road I spotted this unusual altocumulus cloud formation.  Below you can see the interesting part in more detail and wonder at the infinite variety of cloud forms.  Keep your eyes peeled!

 

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