The Meteorological Office at Malta International Airport is celebrating World Meteorological Day by shedding light on the growing importance of weather forecasting to various industries, and the team’s responsibility in keeping the inhabitants of an entire country safe and informed when severe weather hits.

Weather forecasting has come a long way since the first meteorological office in Malta opened its doors, evolving from drawings on maps and extensive calculations, to extraordinarily high resolution digital models. Initially, the meteorological office was only able to provide 3-day forecasts. Advances in technology, investments in new equipment and further training then permitted forecasters to provide up to 7-day forecasts.

The 5 forecasters at the Met Office, who make up almost half of the entire 12 member team, regularly update a detailed 3-day mariners’ forecast, diagnosing weather conditions such as sea swell and the sea state, in an effort to warn mariners of potential hazards at sea. Given that weather guides and facilitates air travel, a team of 5 weather observers at the Met Office also advises sectors of the industry, including pilots, airlines and ground handlers, regarding weather and runway conditions, ensuring that airline operations remain efficient and schedules are kept, while the airport’s high levels of safety are maintained. Detailed weather data is gathered from various localities around the Maltese Islands, allowing a Meteorological Systems Administrator to draw up monthly weather reports, which are made accessible to the public through Malta International Airport’s website.

While the Maltese Islands remain synonymous with warm, bright and sunny weather, the country has seen its fair share of rather extreme weather in recent years. Last year was the stormiest year on record, with the 16 thunderstorms registered in October 2018, leading the month to become the stormiest to ever be recorded by the Met Office. In these circumstances, the Met Office, as Malta’s sole weather services provider, is responsible for issuing weather warnings to alert the general public, mariners and emergency responders when severe or hazardous weather has the potential to cause widespread disruption in the country. The colours allocated to weather warnings are yellow, amber and red, with the degree of impact and likelihood of disruption increasing as the colours become more saturated.

So what type of weather can we expect on the Islands during the coming months? As the peak summer months of June and August have started to experience bouts of rain, less precipitation is being recorded during the shoulder months when, conversely, pleasant weather has become the norm. While a white winter for the country remains highly unlikely since the Maltese Islands are surrounded by perennially warm sea, snow has in fact fallen on the islands in the past. However, as it fell, it accumulated water particles and often came down as soft hail or graupel, which were last observed on the Maltese Islands on New Year’s Eve in 2014.

Published on: 22.03.2019