Defence cuts hit Met Office jobs: Sixty staff to go as spending is reduced

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BRITAIN'S weather forecasters have cut staff because of reduced spending on defence.

Presenting its annual report yesterday, the Meteorological Office said more than 60 staff will be lost by 1995. The closure of RAF Brawdy in Wales, and reductions at RAF bases in Germany, have also meant a contraction and loss of jobs.

The Met Office, which has been run as a government agency for the past three years, reported a 2 per cent drop in income from the Ministry of Defence, its biggest customer, after inflation is taken into account.

Peter Ryder, director of operations, said demand for its services was shifting within the armed forces. The Army Air Corps, for example, needs weather forecasting services to deal with new technology and the increased use of helicopters.

But the Met Office is having to expand its non-military operations. 'We are selling a lot of our services elsewhere and lowering the demands on the taxpayer,' Mr Ryder said. Customers include private companies, television stations and British Rail. 'We are finding life difficult because funding is difficult to obtain. We are responding in the best way we can and in a positive way. It is a challenge, but we are meeting the challenge.'

The Met Office claimed its rain forecasts improved slightly during 1992. The improvement of an estimated one or two percentage points comes from better representation of clouds in the weather model used.

The accuracy of early evening radio forecasts for the following day continued to improve during 1992. Eighty-five per cent of the forecasts for wind, weather, cloud and maximum temperatures were considered to be correct. The forecasts must be accurate at least 80 per cent of the time or the Met Office falls foul of the 'Weather Charter', which sets standards.