I am sitting writing this article at 5.30am having been woken early by flashes of lightning, heavy rain and rumbles of thunder. The weather should of course not surprise me as Met man, Martin Crozier, told me to expect this two days ago when I met him. Martin is the Senior Meteorological Officer for the States of Guernsey and I found him at his desk in the tower at the airport observing the weather from a fantastic vantage point. He tells me that he was always a ‘weather fan’ and therefore it was a natural choice for him to go to University and complete a meteorological degree. Thinking of job prospects I ask him whether having that specific degree was slightly limiting >
> ‘Not at all, of course my aim was to be a weatherman but this career is not limited to those we think of on the television or on radio, to the contrary I had a lucrative career as a young meteorologist working in the private sector. This is basically in commercial and military aviation and with oil companies and gas operations. Think where the weather may impact an industry or operation and there are lots of privately employed individuals who will be forecasting. It is a great job for a young man with no ties and I enjoyed it immensely for ten years.’
During his time working in the private sector he spent three years in Abu Dhabi and was based for a number of years in Scotland where he could get called out at a moment’s notice.
‘When I was based in Scotland I could get a call out of nowhere and be expected to be miles away forecasting within hours. The main things I worked on were rigs in the seas off of Scotland, Norway and Spain.’ Forecasts like these were imperative as getting it wrong could impact hugely financially and I asked Martin what were his best and worst forecasts during this time.
‘The worst forecast I did I fortunately had a cop out! There was a rig anchored offshore near Morocco but quite close to land that they wanted to move on a specific date. I charted that there would be a light easterly wind, but unfortunately there was a severe gale and sandstorm. When reports were filed it showed that the location I had been given was significantly out so luckily I was not accountable. Ironically the best forecast I did ended up in a drama too because the job took longer than expected. There was a rig called the Sovereign Explorer in the North of the Shetlands and I was asked to locate a 72 hour weather window so that it could be towed out for winter. I predicted this perfectly, however due to the way these are installed it took longer than expected to get the anchors up and they were really hoping I could give them good weather news to work on the delayed project for a fourth day. Unfortunately my forecast was spot on and the delay meant they were working in gale force winds which resulted in a full emergency.’
With such interesting and varied work abroad I wondered why Martin had decided to return to Guernsey, albeit in a role still weather related.
‘When you are young it is great working like that and not knowing where you may be geographically speaking from one week to the next. However, there comes a time when you realise you need more of a work life balance and came back to settle down, marry and raise my family.’
So what about Guernsey? It is one of the selected synoptic stations in the world, partly chosen because of its geographical position and partly due to its history. There has been a weather station of some sort or another in Guernsey since 1843. Initially this was run as a passion by a private individual and because of him our weather records are the longest duration in Europe.
Even during the war records were kept, ironically the local records were better than the Luftwaffe who were much more interested in the weather around specific operations and not generally. The observation unit now operates as we are legally obligated to do and it keeps track of weather patterns and trends. Martin has been there since 2007 and certainly believes that the last decade has seen some interesting weather.
‘I have certainly noticed more severe weather more often like the gales of last winter, the snow the year before or the great prolonged summer we have been enjoying. There was a recent study done by Professor Hanna who concluded that as far as the UK there have been more extremes of weather in the last ten years than in previous decades. This is not a pattern, we cannot say there is more drought or floods or hot or cold weather, but that there are going to be and seem to be more frequent weather ‘events’.’ So what is Martin’s favourite weather and what ‘events’ have really excited him over the years?
‘I suppose I like the mix of weather we get here and ironically the total unpredictability of it. Whilst the extremes are good it does mean we are kept very busy, like when we had the non-stop gales earlier this year. I love thunder and lightning and the heavy rain that comes at the centre of a storm, I have seen some amazing storms from this vantage point, and the roof of this building is probably on the highest point of the island so it is prone to lightning strikes!
I love the snow, but I love the snow here in Guernsey because it melts, I have lived in places where it does not melt and you get fed up with that! The snow storm of last March was probably a real highlight. I was here in the tower when it started and back on shift at the end. We seem to be getting more snow in Guernsey than ever, prior to 2007 we had not had much for many years but since then there seems to have been an occurrence of some sort each year, but the blizzard last year topped everything! I never ever thought I would see something like that in the Bailiwick, so I don’t have a favourite weather, I love the mixture and volatility of it.’
So what about the rest of 2014? At the moment the media are predicting that settled weather will stay with us and we are due for an Indian summer going even as far as November. Martin said that it would be difficult to be certain so far ahead.
‘We are getting better at predicting weather and computer models can pretty accurately predict what is likely to happen for up to two weeks in advance. However, I would suggest in order to be totally spot on then it is better to only predict two or three days in advance. As for the predictions of an Indian summer through to November…well I would err on the side of caution and say that it is likely we will continue to have settled weather for a while with a sudden turn by the end of October.’