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Retired meteorologist on the changes in forecasting and the impact of climate change

PUBLISHED: 15:36 29 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:00 29 March 2019

Jim Bacon in the Weatherquest office, as he retires after 50 years working as a meteorologist. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Jim Bacon in the Weatherquest office, as he retires after 50 years working as a meteorologist. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2019

A retired meteorologist of more than 50 years has reflected on the changes in forecasting and warned of the catastrophic impact of climate change.

Meteorologist  Jim Bacon pictured in 1986. Picture: Archant LibraryMeteorologist Jim Bacon pictured in 1986. Picture: Archant Library

Jim Bacon, 69, is one of the founding directors of Norwich-based forecasters Weatherquest, which was established in 2001 and is now housed at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

And the managing director spent his last day predicting the weather on a glorious sunny Friday, bringing 51 years of weather forecasting to an end.

He began his career at 18 years old in 1968 with the Met Office in Mildenhall before making his way to the London Weather Centre, where he became a television weatherman. 
In those days, weatherman could not rely on auto cue to present the short segment, and so would have to think on the spot with only a screen and magnetic symbols to explain the climate.

“You had to hit the ground running,” he said. “The big challenge was the time, everything works to a second when you’re ad-libbing.”

Jim Bacon who is retiring as managing director of Weatherquest, after 50 years working as a meteorologist. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJim Bacon who is retiring as managing director of Weatherquest, after 50 years working as a meteorologist. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

With advanced technology, weather forecasting quickly transformed from handwritten predictions of the following day to computerised calculations for the upcoming weeks.

Growing up in rural Feltwell in west Norfolk, Mr Bacon knew the importance of weather forecasts for farmers, which is still the case today.

“There are huge sectors of the economy that rely on precise forecasts - like agriculture, aviation, transport, water utilities and wind farms,” he said.

But climate change is presenting big problems for the world and Mr Bacon believes it should be taken more seriously.

“Part of the problem with the climate discussion is convincing the public it’s a real thing,” he said.

Mr Bacon said the cost of making big societal changes in the present is outweighed by the cost of catastrophes that are to come. 
“You have to add up the cost of things like more flooding in coastal cities because of rising sea level and the damaging forest fires,” he said. 
“It will go from one every three years to 10 every year - people will migrate from areas that have poor climate to better climate. Why stay somewhere where you can’t feed yourselves?

“It’s a serious problem and it’s not something that belongs to somebody else, another generation, we have to look at the bigger picture now.”

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