Q and A with Helen Roberts from the Met Office, UK.
Helen has had a passion for the weather since being a young child fascinated by thunderstorms. She is currently a Senior Operational Meteorologist and Media Advisor at the Met Office.
“I qualified as a forecaster over fourteen years ago, and have worked in many different areas of forecasting during that time, including military, aviation and commercial. I also spent a few years as a regional Weather Presenter for BBC Spotlight in South West England. My particular area of interest is communicating weather, which after all is Britain’s favourite topic of conversation!”
Question 1. What was your most memorable weather event?
My husband and I had a winter wedding. Mostly because we love Christmas, but also because having a December wedding meant we weren’t relying on the weather, as everything was of course indoors. However, it was December 2010 – the coldest December on record. There had been severe and widespread frosts leading up to our wedding day, with snow, ice and temperatures well below freezing both by night and also by day. It meant getting to the remote Dartmoor barn in the proceeding days to decorate was treacherous, and also that some of our guests were unable to make it due to being snowed in. However, in the end, the weather didn’t cause as much disruption as it might have done, and it was still the most perfect day.
Question 2. What is your favourite and least favourite type of weather?
My favourite weather is cold and crisp with blue skies, due high pressure in the Autumn and Winter. It’s perfect weather for a walk. I find it uplifting, it makes me want to get out and about.
My least favourite weather is probably the same as many people; grey skies with wind and rain. There’s not much you can do with that type of weather, it’s rather depressing.
Question 3. If you weren’t a meteorologist what would you most like to be?
If I wasn’t in the forecasting business, I’d most like to be an astronaut. You can see the weather from above in that job. Conducting scientific research in space would be awesome. However, being slightly more realistic, I’d probably be a fitness instructor, I love working out and keeping myself fit.
Question 4. From a purely meteorological point of view, where would you most like to live?
The UK! It’s the best, most interesting place to forecast for. We have six different air masses that bring us such different weather conditions, with a slight shift in the wind direction having dramatic consequences. It’s so varied, and interesting, and keeps us meteorologists on our toes – I love it!
However, the place I’d most like to visit meteorologically is the Arctic. My husband and I went to Lappish Finland; the snow-covered ground and snow-capped fir trees were stunningly beautiful, but I didn’t get to see the two things I really wanted to see: diamond dust and the aurora. I’d like to go back to see these, as well as perhaps some noctilucent clouds.
Question 5. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
For the last few months I’ve been developing an online course for the general public. Learn About Weather is an exciting, new course that will launch in September. The course will run over four weeks, with a few hours of learning per week. Weeks one to three cover the basics of weather, starting with the big picture, moving on to synoptic charts, air masses, fronts, wind and clouds. Then at week four, there is the option of some more specialist learning for gardeners, photographers and walkers.
To sign up or see more information on the course visit www.futurelearn.com/courses/learn-about-weather. On Twitter use the hashtag #FLLearnAboutWeather
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