Reading the skies: weather forecasting in the UK

The UK experiences some of the most changeable weather in the world, so where better to learn how to forecast it?

The UK’s national weather service - better known as the Met Office - has a long history of observing and recording the weather’s 
ups and downs and predicting what it may 
do next.

But today’s meteorologists do far more than just advise the British public that it may rain. When the weather makes its presence felt, our forecasters offer around the clock support to the police, fire and ambulance services, airports, airlines, train operators and just about every other type of government body or business you can think of.

Our weather experts are in equally high demand across the world. Every day, the Met Office protects millions of people as they take to the UK’s roads, sail its coastline or fly above 24,000 feet to another country.

Multinational companies rely on longer term weather forecasts from the Met Office to assess risks and make investment decisions, often worth millions of pounds.

Our forecasters teach local people in developing countries how to use meteorology to improve their lives and livelihoods, and better understand climate change.

Army people analyzing

“The British are famous for their ability to talk about the weather - it’s a natural force that binds us together”

Met Office staff also serve on the frontline with the Mobile Met Unit - a sponsored reserved unit of the Royal Air Force - providing on-the-spot forecasts for UK and allied forces anywhere in the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

Thinking on a global scale begins with getting to grips with the British weather - a challenge in itself. The complexity of the UK’s weather is influenced by its position on the edge of the relatively warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, yet close enough to mainland Europe to be influenced by the continental land mass.

The UK is also at a ‘meteorological crossroads’, since the direction in which an airstream arrives has a huge bearing on the weather. Sources can be as varied as the Arctic, Siberia and North Africa, but predominantly it’s the North Atlantic, with westerly winds moving weather systems from west to east. The UK’s 11,000 miles of picturesque coastline and numerous islands add to the changeable conditions.

The British are famous for their ability to talk about the weather - it’s a natural force that binds us together. Even in the middle of a heat wave, the weather breaks the ice in conversations. We want your interest in studying meteorology to be the start of a dialogue with us. After all, it’s thanks to the people who work for us that we’re able to achieve so much.

To become a meteorological forecaster you’ll need a degree in a physical science, such as physics, chemistry or mathematics. A first-class honours degree (often referred to as a ‘first’), or an upper second-class honours (known as a 2:1), will increase your chances of getting a job at the Met Office. We employ about 1,800 staff at 60 sites around the world, with the majority at our headquarters in Exeter, Devon.

To find out more visit our website -

Written by Sarah Tempest (2011)
Senior Writer/Editor
Met Office