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The work of a Climatologist ...
15 November 2017

Climatologist, Mary

Met Éireann has 25 synoptic stations, approximately 70 climate stations and over 700 rainfall stations to monitor the weather and climate of Ireland. The synoptic stations which are automated measure  important parameters such as temperature, air pressure, wind speed and direction, rainfall amounts, radiation , present weather. The data come into Met Éireann every hour with readings for every minute of the hour. Volunteer observers take readings at our climate and rainfall stations once a day at 09:00 UTC, 365 days a year and send the data to us either electronically or by post.

Figure: Synoptic stations

The Climatology and Observations Division (C&O), with assistance from the Technology Division are responsible for collecting and maintaining these data which we store in our database. We have data in our database going back to the early 1940s from the synoptic and rainfall network and back to 1961 from our climate stations. This climate data are very important as it helps us understand the past and present climate of our country and is used to validate forecast and climate change models. It is also used by many industries such as agriculture, energy, building, tourism, etc.

I work as a meteorologist in the C&O division. At present one of my roles involves data rescue. In our archive we have manuscripts, diaries and forms with climate data dating back to the mid to late 1800s and we want to rescue this by imaging and digitising it. We have imaged all our rainfall collection and are collaborating with Maynooth University to digitise the data. We also provide advice to a PhD student in NUI Galway who is rescuing the maximum and minimum air temperature data. When both of these projects are completed we will have a long time-series of rainfall and maximum and minimum air temperature data stretching back over 100 to 150 years or more.  We are also involved in rescuing the metadata of these time-series (i.e. information on when there were changes such as a new instrument, new observer, relocation of station and change from Fahrenheit to Celsius etc).

Another area that I am involved in is homogenisation, particularly of temperature data. We want any variations in our climate time-series to be caused only by variations in weather and climate. Long series are often inhomogeneous due to changes in the measurement conditions such as relocation of a station or change of instrumentation. In order to remove these inhomogeneities I use statistical techniques along with the metadata to correct the data. I have homogenised monthly maximum and minimum air temperature series for the period 1961 to 2010 and I am currently updating the series to 2015.

I participate in a European project on Climate Services which aims to provide an integrated approach to producing a set of relevant climate indicators for agriculture, disaster risk reduction, energy, health, water and tourism in Europe. Another very important project which I am involved in is the automation of our Climate station network. We have just started to automate the network and over the next few years we will have 60 automatic stations which will provide us with minute by minute data. I provide project ideas to universities for MSc and final year undergraduate theses and when required I write legal reports involving weather for solicitors, insurance companies, the gardaí and engineers. I also review papers for journals, liaise with wind energy industries and have been involved in projects on flooding and building regulations.

I present my work at national and international conferences, seminars and workshops. These events are important as I obtain new ideas and network with meteorologists from other national meteorological services and universities. My job is very varied and always interesting and it is good to know that the work that my colleagues and I do in C&O Division  helps our society and economy and informs policy makers when deciding on  adaptation and mitigation strategies for Ireland.

 
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