Met Office chief executive Penelope Endersby on international collaboration, climate research and carols

Written by Civil Service World on 2 January 2020 in Feature
Feature

As 2020 approaches, senior figures from across government reflect on their highlights and challenges of 2019, look ahead to the next 12 months and share their favourite festive memories

Credit: PA

What was your highlight of 2019?

It would have to be the World Meteorological Organisation Congress in June. It was the first time I had attended the event, which only happens every four years, and I was there as the UK’s principal representative. It brought home to me just what a huge role the UK Met Office plays in the large collaborative endeavour which is international meteorology. I met opposite numbers from national meteorology services around the globe, both large and small. It was particularly moving to hear about the impact that some of our capacity development work has had in developing nations – an example being our support to the Mozambique Met Service during the terrible Cyclones Kenneth (pictured) and Idei.

What has been the most significant change in your organisation this year?

It has been a year full of exciting change as I got to grips with my new role, but one of the most significant has got to be the launch of our new strategy. In future the staff at the Met Office should now better understand how their work contributes to our purpose, “helping you make better decisions to stay safe and thrive” and how it aligns with our three strategic anchors of excellent people and culture, exceptional science, technology and operations and extraordinary impact and benefit. The October strategy launch was the culmination of months of consultation and refinement and another highlight of the year.

2020 is the 30th anniversary of the Met Office Hadley Centre and this will also link to the UK’s hosting of COP26 in Glasgow at the end of 2020

What will be the biggest challenge of 2020 – and how are you preparing to meet it?

Delivering on the promises made in the strategy is the first challenge – the most complex bits are around how we design our platforms and services to get the most relevant and beneficial data into the hands of our meteorologists and clients in the best form at the optimum time. We’re also gearing up for a big year on climate research: 2020 is the 30th anniversary of the Met Office Hadley Centre and this will also link to the UK’s hosting of COP26 in Glasgow at the end of 2020. We all know that our work here contributes to addressing the one defining challenge of our age.

Tell us a favourite festive memory from your youth...

It’s all about the carols. I’ve been a singer since I was a child; festivities started when we were given the Christmas music to rehearse after October half term. My school used to hold its annual carol service in St Martin’s-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, so we could always enjoy the big Christmas tree and lights. I love the Advent music even better than the Christmas staples. This year I’ll be singing midnight mass with Exeter Cathedral’s voluntary choir.

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