Archie McCluskey- Work Experience Diary
Day 1-Monday 13th December 2010
After a long journey driving down the motorway (not me personally) to Reading from Wigan the day before starting my work placement, my mum and I came to the society by car the first morning to be greeted by Rachael Fordham at the rather impressive door of the rather impressive and old building, bearing the brass plaque saying ‘The Royal Meteorological Society’. The Royal Meteorological Society’s HQ building looked quite out of place in amongst all the high rise office blocks and the smaller, less grand shops on the same street. The charm of the building continued inside, with the high ceilings and a big hallway which led up the stairs, lined with past portrait photographs of senior members of the society and various meteorological instruments, and into the more modern recently renovated conference room. It was there I left my coat and bags, under the watchful eye of James Glaisher the marble statue, who’s real self was one of the first members of the society back in 1850. In the room there were also a couple of old thermometers and another instrument next to a book shelf containing prints of the journals of the society. Erin, my work experience partner walked in a few minutes later, and we sat down with Rachael to discuss the agenda for the forthcoming week.
Dr Liz Bentley came in to give us an idea of the forecast for the forthcoming week using pressure surface charts she had printed off. We concluded with the use of isobars and the pressure gradient that it would get slightly colder, with wind coming in from Scandinavia, and later in the week we would feel a cold northerly breeze coming off the back of an area of low pressure above Scotland. After a brief talk with Paul the Chief Executive of the Society, Rachael then asked us if we could carry up some cardboard boxes from her office to the meeting room, the contents of which were to be given as a membership pack for the Weather Club’s new members. With much confusion on my part as to how to assemble the boxes, we packed the bubble-wrap lined boxes with 4 postcards each, a welcome letter, and a Galileo thermometer with instructions, and then soon let out for lunch. After I came back from town, Liz briefed us on an article we were to write to do with either recent weather, an anniversary of a major weather event, what the weather promises in the future, or the weather related to a particular event. I chose first of all the recent floods in Cornwall, which devastated a large proportion of the county, but then started another article on the hosepipe ban up in the north, which was more successful. Four 0 clock came and we were waved off by Rachael at the door, left waiting for the next day.
Day 2-Tuesday 14th December ‘10
Liz showed me into the building today, and I went upstairs and set up my laptop to start the forecast. Little had changed weather-wise for the week, but it was interesting to see how the pressure gradients tied in with the weather fronts. We were scheduled to meet Georgina to talk about the publishing of the journals of the society, and how people all over the world were asked to do book reviews for the society, and how the editing was an entirely international affair. Althea then took over control, talking about the membership of the society, and showing us the first record book they used to record the first members of the society over 150 years ago. The books were very old and looked as if they’d seen better days, but now of course, all the membership is all on databases on computers, so it is easier to find a particular name amongst the members by searching in any of the fields. We had some time to kill so we went upstairs to work on our article before being allowed out for lunch. We started to finish off our articles after lunch, but were deprived of research due to the faulty internet connection which had been causing much disruption downstairs. Due to this setback, we started to record our experiences in a diary, of which you are now reading, and all too soon four 0 clock came, our signal to return home.
Day 3-Wednesday 15th December ’10
With Rachael’s promise of a visit to the University of Reading’s meteorology department on our minds, Erin and I came in to work with much anticipation about the day ahead. Liz had to stay at home with her son who was ill, so the weather forecast we had to do ourselves that morning with the aid of a working internet. Liz did however kindly come in to take us to the university where she was delivering a talk to some employees of China’s equivalent to the Met office, all of whom didn’t speak English, so the talk took twice as long as scripted due to the need of a translator. Liz was delivering the talk on the aims of the Weather Club and how it impacted the public of Britain, as the Chinese people were looking to recreate something similar in their own country and needed ideas. Half the way through the questions and answers, Peter from the University of Reading came in and called Erin and I out of the room to give us a tour of the Meteorology block. After introductions of ourselves, our interests and our education backgrounds, we commenced the tour by looking at all the current students studying either meteorology or something similar. The number of tutors seemed to outweigh the number of students on the courses which seemed strange, but Peter told us that some were doing extended projects/additional research, and were not full time tutors. We headed downstairs to the labs where there were some impressive looking contraptions for testing the student’s instruments against a standard instrument for the same purpose, which the university’s own technicians built. In the fluid dynamics lab next door there was a class going on, so Peter and ourselves quietly loitered at the back looking at the brilliant facilities for demonstrating for example: a tornado in a bottle on a larger scale or the densities of certain fluids and how they behave with other less/more dense fluids. A five minute walk from the meteorology block was the weather stations and various other instruments used by the students for putting theory into practice.
Peter explained that because of the construction of the buildings around the observation centre, the results, especially for the wind speed/direction, didn’t give as accurate a representation as before, and that Heathrow airport (whose flight path was directly over the university) had to be informed that the university was releasing radiosondes up into the atmosphere, as the large balloons with attached instruments could be picked up by the planes radar, which could lead to confusion. We walked back to the meteorology block to find that Liz had finished answering all the questions, but we were quickly shown the library where all the books on meteorology are kept to save the students the trek to the other side of the campus to go to the main library, and there were also copies of models written by past students on their specialised subject. It was only a 10 minute drive back to the society, and when we got back it was time to go for lunch. We used the rest of the afternoon by completing our articles on current weather, and we updated our diaries for the rest of the day.
Day 4-Thursday 16th December ‘10
Today was Erin’s last day at the society, so we started to make some headway on the article debating whether it will be a white Christmas or not. We did this for the first 45 minutes because Liz was doing a radio recording so we couldn’t do the forecast first thing. When we did however, we discovered that our forecast on Monday was still very accurate, and that nothing had changed. Snow seemed to be imminent for most of Scotland and northern England, and the weekend could bring some surprises for the rest of England, with rain coming in from the Irish Sea, and maybe staying as snow.
Liz also got a call from the Daily Mail, asking her to write a 400 word article by the end of the day, and another one to ask if she could appear on BBC Radio 5live at 8am on New Year’s Day! We continued with a few questions and then were left to work on our piece for Met link. After much debate about where everything should go that we brainstormed, we eventually got a structure that we were happy with.
I had finished all my articles unlike Erin who stayed inside at the lunch break, which proved to be a very good idea as I got soaked on the way back from the town centre. Should have seen it coming. We started again upon our article, which by the end of the day we still hadn’t finished, so I will finish it tomorrow.
Day 5-Friday 17th December ‘10
Today I was scheduled for an early finish once I had finished all the things I had to do regarding writing articles and finishing off my diary entries. So I sent all my documents to Rachael who will put them on the Met link website.
I would like to thank all at the Royal Meteorological Society who allowed me to do my work experience here, and I have gained a lot from the work environment and the different people I met during my week here. A special thanks to Rachael Fordham for organizing and helping with my work experience, and to Liz Bentley who took me to the University of Reading and helped me to understand life as a forecaster.