Insights of a Broadcast Meteorologist - An interview with Chris Page - Flood Protection Solutions

Posted 25. 06. 2018

Chris Page is a Broadcast Meteorologist who specialises in weather and climatic change. Chris has worked for ITV since December 2017, but prior to this he qualified as a Meteorologist at the Met Office and also appeared regularly on Channel 5 Weather.

How long have you been involved as a Broadcast Meteorologist?

I have been a meteorologist for five years and started doing broadcast meteorology in 2015. I started my career with the Met Office, broadcasting with them and then later worked for Channel 5 Weather throughout 2016/17. Since December 2017, I left my role at the Met Office and Channel 5 and now form part of the ITV Weather presenting team, mostly based at ITV Anglia.

What inspired you to take this career path?

I was first inspired by my high school geography teacher, where her love for the subject later became my passion. I quickly identified that it was Physical Geography that I loved the most. It was the study of the natural world and its environment that really interested me. Glaciers, rivers, climate and coastal landforms, to name a few, where all the areas that I thoroughly enjoyed learning about.

Following this, I later took a Physical Geography degree at the University of Reading, after completing my A-levels, to further my knowledge and my passion for the subject. In the final two years, I specialised primarily in weather and climate, as well as glaciology. I have always had a strong interest in polar and alpine climates, as these are most susceptible to small changes in global temperature.

Do you think the general public are as aware as they should be of climate change and its consequences?

The public are definitely more educated in terms of understanding climate change and global warming. For starters, younger generations are receiving more education than ever before about climate change, global warming, recycling, energy and promoting a sustainable environment for everyone to enjoy in the future. For example, households now have separate bins, one for general waste, one for garden waste, one for food waste and then another for recycling. Understanding about renewables and recycling is important and the education of these subjects is much better today than it has ever been.

One thing I think we need to consider is that people often get weather and climate mixed up. Weather is what happens on a day to day basis, e.g. changes in wind, rainfall and temperature, say, from now until the weekend. Climate on the other hand, are much longer time scales. We look a weather trends over a much longer period, typically around 30 years.

Carbon Dioxide, Methane and water vapour are all greenhouse gases and are considered the main gases that are leading to global warming. Increased concentrations of these gases, fuelled by anthropogenic activity, causes more of the sun’s rays to become trapped, leading to rising temperatures seen globally.

Awareness in the public is definitely at an all time high as the subject matter is talked about more than ever. Having said that, we must not attribute a singular weather event, such as one flood or heatwave to climate change. Climate change is a shifting trend seen over many events across a much longer period of time. What we can say with climate change is we are more likely to get the extreme weather types more often. More severe rainfall. Longer dry spells. Hotter summers.

Would you say we have seen a rise in extreme and unpredictable weather patterns, potentially as a symptom of climate change?

Since the industrial revolution, as we have already said, there has been a rapid rise in greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere, which has led to a warming climate.

Have we seen a rise in the extreme weather events? Yes – if you look at temperature change, particularly in in the UK, we have seen 15 of the top 16 warmest years on record since the year 2000. What we have seen in recent times and what we forecast will continue is that the summers are becoming a lot drier whilst the winters are set to become far wetter, if warming continues at the current rate. With anthropogenic activity continuing at the current rate, we are more and more likely to have weather extremes in the near future.

Are our predictions, of weather and climate, becoming more accurate?

To give you a short answer, yes, they are, particularly in short term weather forecasting. There are a few factors that have played a role in this increase in accuracy. Firstly, we have far greater computing power available to us today than say, 30 years ago. More computing power allows our models to be of higher resolution and we can accommodate many of the smaller factors affecting weather within the models. Because of this, we can model small scale weather systems at great details, allowing for a better understanding of current weather patterns. Our five-day forecast today, is as accurate as our one-day forecast was 30 years ago.

The advances in technology are also seen in our climate modelling, with model accuracy, as a whole, improving. An increase in our computing powers allows us to model the atmosphere and oceans at a higher resolution in all 3 dimensions. They range from the higher reaches of our atmosphere, to the depths of the oceans, as there is a link between ocean behaviour and climate.

There is also a better understanding of how human activity effects weather and climate, which has been aided by our enhanced understanding of the atmosphere. Our knowledge of atmospheric aerosols such as Methane has improved, plus our understanding about the importance of the melting permafrost. Overall, our predictions are improving due to: increases in computing power, better understanding of our atmosphere and more money being invested into scientific research into this area.

Do you think that, since we started naming storms in 2015, awareness of storm events has increased?

To give a short answer, yes definitely. It was an initiative set up by the Met Office in conjunction with Met Eireann, the Irish met service back in 2015.

However, there was some backlash when the scheme was first implemented. There was some uncertainty as to how the scheme would work, with the media further confusing things by naming storms themselves once they received the list of names, rather than waiting for official lines from the partnering met centres.

Unlike America, where hurricanes are named once they reach a sustained wind speed of 74 mph, storms in the UK are named when they are considered a medium or high level of impact from snow, wind and/or rain. For example, a vicious area of low pressure tracking over London would have far greater impacts than a similar system moving over the far northwest of Scotland where population is scarce and disruptive weather patterns occur more frequently. The storm over London would have a higher likelihood of being names, as it would lead to greater impacts compared to the same in the northwest of Scotland.

It has helped us, in the media, in the way in which we portray storms to the public. It allows for easier comparisons to be made between storm systems whilst impacts can also be grouped. I believe it has increased awareness of storms massively and it allows us to define certain events to certain weather systems.

Final words

I think the important thing to consider, as we have touched on previously, is that we cannot attribute one extreme weather event to climate change. Climate change and global warming is happening. It is most likely been exacerbated due to human activity since the industrial revolution.

Methane and Carbon Dioxide last a long time in the atmosphere so even if we completely stopped burning fossil fuels and increasing greenhouse gases today, the impact would not be instant due to the lag in the atmospheres response.

What we need to do now is to start mitigating and dealing with the impacts of climate change, such as flooding and increases in temperature and try to slow the rate of such symptoms.

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