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From the Airfield to the High Street: The Met Office’s Role in the Emergence of Commercial Weather Services

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  • 1 Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom
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Abstract

This paper explores the role of the United Kingdom’s National Meteorological Service, the Met Office (MO), in the early development (1945–65) of applied, and subsequently commercial, weather and climatological services in the United Kingdom. Through examination of archival records it shows how theoretical and technological developments led to the postwar expansion of services for the general public and new user groups, resulting in funding pressure on the organization and the proactive seeking of nongovernment funding sources. The paper then explores the influence of these early developments on the subsequent large-scale expansion of applied and commercial services at the MO, which were to be enshrined in the organization’s mandate when it became an executive agency under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s efficiency review in 1990.

It is shown that the history of the Met Office’s role in applied weather services is important for understanding the organization’s position today as a civil agency that acts commercially, the broader process of “agentification” of the scientific civil service, and the United Kingdom’s prominence internationally in the private weather services market. By considering developments in the context of other National Meteorological Services and the international forum provided by the World Meteorological Organization, the development of weather services at the Met Office is shown to have been influenced by international best practice while remaining distinct in its approach to delivering a broad range of both public and commercial services.

Current affiliation: Newman University, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Alexander Hall, Newman University, Genners Lane, Birmingham, B32 3NT, United Kingdom. E-mail: alexanderfrederickhall@gmail.com

Abstract

This paper explores the role of the United Kingdom’s National Meteorological Service, the Met Office (MO), in the early development (1945–65) of applied, and subsequently commercial, weather and climatological services in the United Kingdom. Through examination of archival records it shows how theoretical and technological developments led to the postwar expansion of services for the general public and new user groups, resulting in funding pressure on the organization and the proactive seeking of nongovernment funding sources. The paper then explores the influence of these early developments on the subsequent large-scale expansion of applied and commercial services at the MO, which were to be enshrined in the organization’s mandate when it became an executive agency under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s efficiency review in 1990.

It is shown that the history of the Met Office’s role in applied weather services is important for understanding the organization’s position today as a civil agency that acts commercially, the broader process of “agentification” of the scientific civil service, and the United Kingdom’s prominence internationally in the private weather services market. By considering developments in the context of other National Meteorological Services and the international forum provided by the World Meteorological Organization, the development of weather services at the Met Office is shown to have been influenced by international best practice while remaining distinct in its approach to delivering a broad range of both public and commercial services.

Current affiliation: Newman University, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Alexander Hall, Newman University, Genners Lane, Birmingham, B32 3NT, United Kingdom. E-mail: alexanderfrederickhall@gmail.com
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