Storm clouds are gathering over the future of mountain weather forecasts and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) wants hillwalkers and climbers to flood a minister’s office with demands for a decent service.
Left, Weather station, Aonach Mor
Responding to a report on the BBC that the future of the independently run and well respected Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) is in jeopardy, the council says it wants mountaineers to press for a properly structured service for Scottish mountains.
Forecaster Geoff Monk has run his free service from his base in Galloway. The MWIS uses a small team of meteorologists to provide custom-made forecasts for upland areas in Scotland, England and Wales. The web-based service has been on the go for nearly three years.
Now, the Met Office has said it is interested in taking on the service. It has met with Members of the Scottish Parliament to discuss the idea. The worry among the mountaineering community is that Geoff Monk’s team’s expertise would be lost if the Met Office took on the role.
The MWIS, (see links menu, left) which grough describes as ‘The site of choice for leaders taking groups into the mountains and moorland of Britain. Eight regions, with the emphasis on Scotland’, says on its website: “We are a small group who provide this service free of charge. We receive no government funding of any kind and rely on commercial sponsors to help cover our running costs.
Mr Monk told the BBC: “What I have tried to do is to try and improve mountain weather forecasts.
“What we have now is streets ahead of what we had three to four years ago."
In July, grough reported that the MCofS was asking for views on the comparison between the recently launched Met Office mountain forecast service and the Geoff Monk site. The Met Office had previously charged for its outmoded fax service. It is part of the Ministry of Defence, having been placed under the control of the Air Ministry just after the First World War, later moving into the MoD.
The MCofS is calling on its members to write to Patricia Ferguson, the Scottish Minster for Tourism, Culture and Sport. grough urges all those interested in continuing a decent mountain forecast to make their views known. A large number of mountaineers in England and Wales uses the MWIS website, so it’s a far wider issue than just a Scottish wrangle.
Geoff Monk used to work for the Met Office, with 25 years in local weather forecasting research and operational forecasting at a wide range of locations in Britain, and also abroad in Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands.
There will be a meeting early next month of interested parties.