Is the message getting through? MET Office seeks Space Weather Scientist

Posted: January 21, 2013 by tallbloke in Analysis, Astrophysics, atmosphere, Clouds, cosmic rays, data, general circulation, government, Measurement, Natural Variation, ozone, Solar physics
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There aren’t many jobs on offer at the MET Office these days, maybe belt tightening is the order of the day as they ready for privatisation. But it seems that having shot their mouths off about the Sudden Stratospheric Warming that we already knew was linked to the current cold snap, they’ve realised they need someone who knows something about the subject before they get made to look silly. Again. Finding a bright young astrophysics/Earth sciences graduate with Fortran skills might be a bit of a challenge though:

met office logoSpace Weather Research Scientist
Salary: Starting £25,500 and for exceptional candidates up to £29,100 + competitive benefits, including Civil Service Pension

Generic role: Scientist

Profession: Science and Engineering

12 month fixed-term, Full time at Met Office, Exeter

Closing date for applications: 8 February 2013

Background information

Space Weather is a developing area of work at the Met Office. The all Hazards guidance now provided by Met Office forecasters includes alerts of space weather events. We have also signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center which covers exchange of data, development of space weather services, forecaster training and collaboration on space weather research. One initial focus of Met Office space weather research is the development of a thermosphere / ionosphere data assimilation system.

This work takes place as part of collaborative European Framework 7 projects ATMOP (Advanced Thermospheric Modelling for Orbital Prediction) and ESPAS (Near-Earth Space Data Infrastructure for e-Science). The project objectives include the development of data assimilation modules for the thermosphere and ionosphere, and the assessment of the performance of the data assimilation system, and associated first principles thermospheric models, against independent observations and other data assimilation approaches. A longer term aim is to implement this system operationally at the Met Office.

Specific job purpose

Design, develop and test a data assimilation system for the thermosphere and ionosphere to meet the objectives of the ATMOP and ESPAS projects, leading to the eventual operational implementation of a space weather data assimilation system at the Met Office.

Specific job responsibilities

Lead the design, development, installation and testing of a thermosphere and ionosphere data assimilation system, and associated first principles models, to meet the requirements of the ATMOP and ESPAS projects.
Present results at ATMOP and ESPAS project meetings, international conferences, and meetings with other partners or customers, to heighten awareness of our work.
Interact with UK and international research partners, and with colleagues in other parts of the Met Office (eg Hazards Centre), to seek feedback, and opportunities for new research initiatives or operational developments.
Document and lodge relevant code into the relevant existing Met Office software systems (eg OPS), or into new, space weather-specific, software systems, as appropriate, to ensure that the code can be utilised and further developed by other Met Office staff.
Write papers for publication in peer-reviewed journals, as appropriate, to raise the visibility and reputation of the Met Office in this field.
Qualifications, skills and abilities required


A good degree (2.1 or above or 2.2 with postgraduate qualification or equivalent experience) in a physical science, mathematics or a related subject.
Evidence of effectively achieving major scientific goals with minimal supervision or guidance.
Demonstrated ability to successfully present material via briefings and seminars to scientific colleagues.
Demonstrated ability to write scientific reports and publish scientific papers.
Evidence of contributing positively to team working responsibilities and of effectively achieving team goals.
Good scientific computing skills (in eg Fortran) and demonstrated ability to effectively use software applications (eg IDL).
A background in, or demonstrated interest in, space weather and/or the thermosphere and ionosphere.

Ability to effectively communicate with non-specialists in order to publicise, and gain further support for, Met Office research activities (eg in space weather).
Experience in using Met Office numerical modelling or data assimilation software systems (UM, VAR), or equivalent.
Experience of data assimilation techniques or equivalent (eg inverse methods).
Additional supplementary information

There is a possibility for this post to be extended beyond 12 months, subject to receiving additional funding.

Application forms and further information

Please mark your request or returned application form: Space Weather Research Scientist 002650 R

Please complete this form (using Adobe Reader 9 or above). You can save the form part-way through and return to it later, using the Adobe Reader toolbar. Once you are happy with it submit it using the button at the end of the form. Alternatively, print the form out, complete by hand, and return by post.

Download application form (PDF, 199 kB)

Guidance notes and information for applicants (PDF, 57 kB)

If you require a Microsoft Word version of the application form, please email including the words ‘application request’ in the subject line. An automatic email will be returned to you immediately. If you have not received an email within 48 hours then please contact us.

Alternatively, you can call or write to:

HR Customer Services
Met Office
FitzRoy Road

Tel: 01392 885000

  1. Stephen Richards says:

    They obviously feel that Piers Corbyn’s methods are worthy of investigation although the salary is peanuts. The old saying applies. Pay peanuts get monkeys. Should be interesting.

  2. View from the Solent says:

    Fortran? Is their much-vaunted supercomputer an IBM 7090 that’s had a respray and change of number-plates?

    [Reply] And if so, who trousered the other 29M quid? 😉

  3. vukcevic says:

    They don’t need one.
    Tallbloke’s blog is free

  4. Truthseeker says:

    Met Office pwned by Vukcevic …

  5. Sparks says:

    It’s the law in the UK that they have to advertise every new position, But it’s all about who you know and not what you know in the end. This position may already have a candidate for the position and the advertisement is merely a legal formality. Civil service Jobs are all in-house. The civil service is as corrupt and sinister as any dubious third world country, it has become parasitical, self-serving, biased and has a worrying dark side running through it.

    The met office with their gazillion pound computers will never be able to compete with the blood, sweat and tears of research and study that professional and amateur scientists alike bring to the table.

  6. Craig M (@CraigM350) says:

    Having worked in the Civil Service you only get the job if you speak the lingo – for example on ethnicity and diversity policies.

    With the MetO I guess this would mean professing your undying devotion to MetO theories and denouncing everyone else as deniers and heretics (or maybe they are just jealous?) . I wonder if the qualifications actually matter to them so much as having a nodding dog they can wheel out to scare off anyone daring to question their new solar supremacy 😉

  7. oldbrew says:

    ‘Experience in using Met Office numerical modelling or data assimilation software systems’ should cut the field down a bit.

    NB Wikipedia says Fortran ‘is the primary language for some of the most intensive supercomputing tasks, such as weather and climate modeling’. The latest version is Fortran 2008.

    [Reply] Fortran is a real-time system, and it is powerful and light, and arcane. 🙂

  8. oldbrew says:

    There’s an app for that: NASA SWx ( Space Weather ) for IOS & Android

  9. vukcevic says:

    I started many moons ago with Fortran4, pure nostalgia.

  10. Paul Vaughan says:


    Figure 5 here …

    Bowman, B.R.; Tobiska, W.K.; & Kendra, M.J. (2008). The thermospheric semiannual density response to solar EUV heating. Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics. doi:10.1016/j.jastp.2008.04.020.

    Section 3.5 here gives a literature trail:

    Qian, L.; & Solomon, S.C. (2012). Thermospheric density: an overview of temporal and spatial variations. Space Science Reviews 168, 147-173. doi:10.1007/s11214-011-9810-z.


    Those working in this field admit that their physical understanding is speculative. However, the practical need to keep the satellites in orbit results in a very healthy respect & appreciation for empiricism in the meantime. They don’t have the luxury of politically dismissing observed relationships. Here we have literally an exact analogy with what’s observed lower in the atmosphere, but note well the judgement double standard. What’s observed lower in the atmosphere is fundamental to climate, so it’s existence is flat out denied by many branches of the establishment. Same methods. Same pattern. But the mainstream sees white in the thermosphere and black in the atmosphere (as if 1+1 does not equal 2). This will change…

  11. Paul Vaughan says:

    Sharing a few notes from the literature trail …

    Bowman, B.R. (2004). The semiannual thermosphere density variation from 1970 to 2002 between 200-1100 km.

    “The semiannual variation has been found to be extremely variable from year to year. The magnitude of the maximum yearly difference, from the July minimum to the October maximum, is used to characterize the yearly semiannual variability. It has been found that this maximum difference can vary by as much as 100% from one year to the next. A high correlation has been found between this maximum difference and solar EUV data.
    The semiannual variation, measured at the height of maximum amplitude variation, can vary from as little as 60% during solar minimum to over 250% during solar maximum.”

    Bowman, B.R. (2005) The semiannual thermospheric density variation at altitudes of 160-300 km.

    “This correlation is a function of altitude, with the correlation reversing sign as the altitude decreases from 300 km to 160 km.”

    Qian, L.; Solomon, S.C.; & Kane, T.J. (2009). Seasonal variation of thermospheric density and composition. Journal of Geophysical Research 114, A01312.

    “Gravity wave breaking in the MLT [mesosphere – lower thermosphere] region deposits momentum and produces small-scale turbulence […] dissipated into heat through eddy diffusion […] turbulent mixing originated from the lower atmosphere may contribute to seasonal variation in the thermosphere, particularly the asymmetry between solstices that cannot be explained by other mechanisms.
    A candidate for inducing seasonal variation in the thermosphere is changes in circulation induced by gravity wave acceleration. Zonal acceleration deposited by gravity wave drag is eastward in the summer hemisphere and westward in the winter hemisphere. Under Coriolis force, the opposite direction of the wind acceleration in the two hemispheres during solstice seasons causes interhemisphere flow from the summer hemisphere to the winter hemisphere. During equinox seasons, the wind acceleration from gravity waves is much smaller and there is no distinct difference in direction between the two hemispheres. This results in a seasonal variation in vertical motion […]”

    A really nice, simple, introductory-level graph (probably ideal to feature in some future blog article) is Figure 8 here:

    Qian, L.; & Solomon, S.C. (2012). Thermospheric density: an overview of temporal and spatial variations. Space Science Reviews 168, 147-173.

  12. Paul Vaughan says:

    TB, On quick glance I see (due) backpedaling on ‘bifurcation’ and a major title change — will look in more detail a few days from now… Thanks for the pointer.

  13. tallbloke says:

    I note that working in HR at theMET pays twice as well as being a space weather scientist.

  14. Craig M says:

    TB maybe the vetting processes are more important than the scientist?

    I wonder if the MetO HR dept are like Santa

    ‘they know when you’ve been naughty, they know when you’ve been nice’ 😉