Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Who are our Observers?

Note from the WOW team: This blog was written by the Met Office Regional Network Manager responsible for our voluntary climate sites in Wales and South West England. The Voluntary Climate Network consists of approximately 150 observing sites run by volunteers, who submit observations at 9am every morning. These volunteers allow us to better represent the climatology of the UK, with their observations supplementing those of our automated networks. This record is a valuable reference for climate statistics. WOW is the primary mechanism for our network of Voluntary Climate Observers to upload their observations. The observer's thoughts and views below are their own.

As regional Networks manager for Wales & South West England I am regularly found discussing weather with all sorts of people, both in the scientific community, and outside. One of the most common questions I get asked is who are our observers? Well here is an attempt to try and shed some light on this.

We have had a manual weather station in Prestatyn since the 1930’s. There have been many observers over the years, but the recent team began as an experiment. In the past we have generally had one, or maybe two observers at each site. We are however finding it harder to get individuals to take on such a workload. Therefore in 2011 we tried a different method. With the help of Denbighshire council, we began an advertising campaign to recruit a team of observers. This involved local papers, and even radio interviews on the BBC. After a little time and some further interviews, we settled on a team of keen observers. We had a senior observer in charge of data input and rosters, and a team of half a dozen observers. This team has changed over the years. Our new senior observer Geoff, leads a team of around a dozen observers.

The manual weather station at Prestatyn.

Below are some of the observers thoughts on why they volunteer to do this job.

Geoff - Senior Observer
"I started volunteering at the weather station after seeing an advert in my local paper (about 5-6 yrs ago), since then I have replaced the senior observer when he retired. I get a lot out of firstly being just an observer, to now being senior observer being responsible for the day to day running of the site in Prestatyn, North Wales on behalf of the Met Office & Denbighshire council. As the senior observer I have to be on hand everyday to firstly get cover in place should one of the team call to say they can not get to the site, also to receive the reading via email or phone once the duty observer sends them each day. Once I receive them I firstly check them to make sure they follow, and then I can input them into WOW. All this does take time each day but I feel a real sense of community by doing it. Other duty's I have as senior observer are sending monthly reports both to the Met Office and Denbighshire council, and putting together roster's each month in order to make sure there is a volunteer observer attending the weather station everyday."

"I was one of the first cohort of volunteers to start the rota when the gentleman that had previously manned the weather station died. Volunteering just after I retired and looking for a useful outlet for my energies.  It was something I had little knowledge of on the technical side, but having a large allotment and keeping bees gave me an insight into weather conditions and how they affect growing, insect life etc. I enjoy being on the rota and going down to the Nova to take the readings, even on the cold winter mornings, it has greatly increased my knowledge of weather conditions, wind direction etc. I wasn’t keen on the new digital equipment when it first went in, but I have got the hang of it now.  I think it is good for local people to be involved with the station and it would be a shame if we went all digital."

Maxine & Steve
"I started volunteering at the weather station after seeing an email sent round the office not long after I  started working for Denbighshire County Council. I have always found the weather a fascinating subject so the opportunity to get involved and provide the observations to the Met Office was too good an opportunity to miss. My husband Steve started to come down to the weather station with me when I no longer had my own car.  Then after a change of jobs I found it more difficult to have the time to actually take the readings, so Steve was trained to do the readings, but I still have involvement by reporting the observations to our Senior Observer Geoff. Steve volunteers because he enjoys it and finds it interesting.  He also helps to maintain the Stevenson Screen and keeps the surrounding area tidy."

"My main attraction to the position was an interest in weather, having mental health issues means I’m unable to work, so this allows me some sense of giving back to the community. I continue to do this as being married with 4 children I’ll do anything to get out of the house!, I’m joking... I continue to do this as I feel it’s invaluable to collect the data to monitor the changes in weather for the U.K, manually read stations in my opinion must be kept as they’re a much more reliable source of weather observation." 

Further information about getting involved in the UK Voluntary Climate Network can be seen here.