Green shift at Met Office

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The Independent Online
THE FORECAST from the Met Office is that industry will have to tailor its activities to the weather if it is to stay within laws aiming to protect the environment.

The office is starting a consultancy service, Enviromet, to offer companies weather advice. Enviromet is running its first seminars this week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, to inform companies - and pollution control regulators - how the Met Office can help them. Electricity generators, which are permitted to emit visible smoke for only a limited period each day, are among the first customers.

Bob Chadwick, the manager of Enviromet, said: 'Local authorities and HMIP (Her Majesty's Inspector of Pollution) will gradually get and enforce powers that industry won't be able to avoid.

'There is already a factory in Wales that has got planning permission to operate only in certain weather conditions, and there is a power station that is not allowed to operate when the wind is blowing in a certain direction,' he added.

'With us, managers can anticipate weather for up to five days and can plan shut-downs and save money.'

Quarry operators can consult the Met Office for details of future wind speed and direction, to plan blasting with a minimum of inconvenience, reducing complaints and claims for broken windows in nearby villages.

'For businesses that have problems with local public relations, or health problems in certain areas, we can give footprints where pollution actually goes, using our database for the last 10 years,' Mr Chadwick said.

The Met Office said that factory managers, guided by accurate weather forecasts, would be able to plan activity involving high pollution for those days which offered the greatest dispersal.

Mr Chadwick said modern forecasting involved satellite monitoring and computer models, taking into account inversion layers 'that act like a blanket on the atmosphere, trapping whatever you've got underneath'.

The Met Office's new commercial approach reflects its status as an executive agency that is semi-independent of government and required to maximise income.

Metstar Consultants, another branch of the Met Office, is seeking larger contracts - in excess of pounds 100,000 - for jobs such as consultancy at the new Hong Kong airport.

Mr Chadwick was brought in just over a year ago to launch Enviromet.

Among his previous positions he acted as an adviser to the RAF during the Gulf war, telling it how planes could avoid flight paths affected by burning oil-wells.

Seminar details from the Met Office, tel 0344 856655.

(Photograph omitted)