Sidmouth meteorologist who held top position in country shares her love of Sidmouth

Julia Slingo.

Julia Slingo. - Credit: Archant

I have lived in Sidmouth at Seafield Road for six years and have two grown-up daughters.

I was born and grew up in Coventry, in the Midlands, where my father was a headmaster at a school. For as long as I can remember, I have always liked trying to understand how the world works, so when I grew up and went to the University of Bristol, I decided to complete a degree in physics.

The thing that I find so nice about the weather is that, when you look out the window, you can see physics going on.

It is just something I have always been interested in - I wanted to know why the weather did what it did.

After finishing my degree, I went onto research the climate, which is what you need meteorology (the science of weather) for.

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I went on to work as an academic at the University of Reading before I was recruited as the chief scientist at the Met Office, where I looked after 500 scientists – a role which is regarded as the top job in meteorology in this country.

My personal interests were always in the climates of the tropics, particularly India and the Indian monsoon. I was involved in using big computers to simulate the earth’s climates to try and help understand how it worked.

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I moved to Devon just over eight years ago to become the chief scientist at the Met Office in Exeter.

After two years in Devon, I decided to settle in Sidmouth and bought a house in Seafield Road.

I wanted to be close to the sea and I thought Sidmouth was great - it is an unspoilt seaside town which still has its Regency seafront, lots of local shops and a thriving community all through the year.

Within five minutes I can be by the beach, doing my shopping, at the church, doctors’ or at the bus stop. It is also a very pretty place with a lovely setting, surrounded with beautiful hills.

I retired from the Met Office last December after eight years as their chief scientist and now I just do a bit of consultancy work. I also sit on some advisory boards and I am beginning to do things in the community, such as helping out with the Sidmouth Science Festival and singing in the choir at the parish church.

I had very little time to enjoy Sidmouth when I was working, so it is nice as I’m now just beginning to do that.

There are a few things I am really proud of, one of those is the time I spent at meetings in Whitehall talking to the Government about weather and climate science. I have led research across everything, from how we forecast the weather an hour ahead to what climate change might be like in the next century, or longer.

It is also nice to see my old PHD students that are now starting to become leaders in the field themselves.

I was also made a Dame for my services to meteorology in 2014 and then, the year after that, was made a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), which is the top scientific body in this country. This was for my contribution to climate research also.

Someone nominates you for these things, so it is a nice surprise when your colleagues think you are worth being elected to the FRS.

Although, I think the thing I’m most pleased about was the £97million government grant we were awarded for a new super computer when I was working at the Met Office. A large part of it is now placed in a new building on the Exeter Science Park.

It has and will allow us to drive research forward so we can provide more accurate weather forecasts and learn about future climate change.

Good weather forecasts save lives and climate change will affect us all profoundly in the future so the more we know about what it might mean, even for us in Sidmouth, the more we can be prepared for it. n

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