rain, umbrella

The Met Office needs your help to predict when it’s going to rain

The Met Office is calling on more people to record the weather from their gardens in a bid to make forecasting more accurate.

The UK’s weather service is encouraging homeowners to use weather monitors to record data such as rainfall, hours of sunlight, wind and humidity, and upload the results to its Weather Observations Website (WOW).

This information will be fed into the Met’s supercomputer, which is one of the world’s largest and can carry out 16,000 trillion calculations a second, before being used by forecasters to predict the weather more accurately, especially in remote areas of the country.


The Met Office’s Weather Observations Website showing temperature readings

“Weather has always been data driven, and we can never have enough information,” said Mark Burgoyne, Technical Adviser to the Met Office’s Chief Information Officer. “The more data we have, the better forecasts we can provide, so we are keen to access as many sources as possible.”

Weather stations can cost as little as £10 but some models cost hundreds of pounds. However, a new version of WOW, which runs on Microsoft’s Azure cloud solution, has been released that means people can also take weather readings on their mobile phone and upload the information while travelling.

Simon Gilbert, Head of Observations Partnerships at the Met Office, said: “In the previous WOW system we were only able to use information from a static site. The new capability that we have by moving to the Microsoft Azure cloud allows us to get data in near-real time from a boat, a car or a smartphone in someone’s pocket.”

Since it was set up four years ago, WOW has received more than 800 million observations, the majority of which come from amateur observers.

“We wanted to create a WOW community so amateurs feel they are part of the weather community,” Burgoyne said. “They can submit readings at 9am every morning and their data will be used to help our forecasting. They can also see graphs of their data over time and compare results.”

As well as growing the number of amateur weather-watchers, the Met Office plans to double its 7,000 remote sensors across the UK, New Zealand and Australia. It also works with the World Meteorological Organization, a part of the United Nations that coordinates the activities of 191 states and territories across the world.

Snow, girl, snowflake

The amount of data that will be collected meant the Met needed a cloud solution that was flexible and could cope with high levels of demand.

“For the Met Office, it’s about having more sophisticated tooling to do more sophisticated jobs,” Gilbert said. “When you are trying to solve grand challenges, like predict the weather, you need to use the best tools at hand. In this case, it is a blend of the tried-and-tested scientific method and cloud-based technologies from Microsoft.”