The Met Office team on a south Atlantic island reveal the extreme lengths they go to in order to forecast the weather
At 11.15am on a blustery spring morning, Lori Bennett stands on an exposed bluff on the remote south Atlantic island of St Helena, holding a gigantic, wobbling balloon. The wind is roaring, waves are churning up a swell and the sea air is charged with industrial hydrogen pumped from a nearby outhouse and used for blowing up the inflatable.
The Met Office station manager, born in Northern Ireland and now living half a world away from his friends and family in Swindon, is a picture of calm in a drab boiler suit, old ski goggles and a flash hood he jokingly calls his “Star Wars outfit”. Moments later, he prepares to let the weather balloon slip from his fingers. Swinging it around, so that it lifts straight up rather than floating across the weather station car park, he is soon watching it jiggle steadily upwards before it disappears into the clouds.
It affects people’s lives every day – we’re the frontline in Atlantic forecasting
Satellites only do so much. Honestly, there’s still nothing as reliable as a land-based station