The science you can actually see

Meteorologist Kirsty Pendlebury (inset) has worked at Ronaldsway Met Office for nine years

Subscribe newsletter

Subscribe to our email and get updates right in your inbox.

Charity Love Tech is hosting an event at the Isle of Man Met Office, which is based at Ronaldsway Airport, this weekend.

Love Tech was launched by Claire Milne of Appleby, Deb Byron of Hansard and Roberta Castle of Continent 8. All of them have worked for years in and alongside the technology sector.

Their aim is to inspire and empower girls and young women to explore opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through events, workshops and mentorship in the Isle of Man.

One of the meteorologists who will be welcoming inquisitive minds with open arms is Kirsty Pendlebury, who joined the team at Ronaldsway around nine years ago.

But her career path was actually set after her parents took her to see the film Twister. Yes, really.

She told me: ‘Way back when, when Twister first came out they took me to see it at the cinema.

‘It’s obviously all about tornadoes and stuff out in America, and I saw that and I just was fixed on it, and that was the reason why I’ve always wanted to study weather.

‘I suppose in the island as well you see quite a lot of weather, but they took me to see that, and that’s what made me do it.’

Born and raised here in the Isle of Man, Kirsty credits the island with solidifying her fascination with the subject.

She said: ‘Living on the Isle of Man gives you such a good opportunity to be aware of and witness weather, because we see a lot of it.

‘Naturally by living on the island you pick up on stuff - like the south of the island’s quite often in fog, and the north of the island’s the sunniest bit – and I think even from quite a young age you can recognise those sorts of things.

She took what she describes as ‘the hard way round’ to end up in the job.

She said: ‘I failed my maths AS at Castle Rushen twice before I resat it a third time to even get onto my degree.

‘So my advice to anyone out there is even if maths for example isn’t your strongest subject, come and speak to us and we can try and help give an idea of different ways you could go.

‘One of my teachers said to me at one point “you’ve failed twice how are you going to do it again?”

‘But sometimes it just takes somebody different or someone to explain it differently for it to click.

‘I think now, in hindsight, when I was trying to go into doing meteorology I probably didn’t have the right people on the Isle of Man at the time to sort of help explain to me the route to go, that there were other routes to getting there, as opposed to in my head I was like “I need maths and physics”.

‘I had to go to Reading because it was the only place to do it at the time, to get onto the Met Office course, but now there is a little bit more scope for how you can get to things.

‘It’s funny when you look back and you think: you know what, I definitely came the hard way round.’

So, What advice would you give to kids who want to get into meteorology?

‘The one thing I think that is really important is to just have a general interest and enthusiasm for the weather.

‘The thing I think is quite cool about weather, is that it’s a science you can actually see happening out of the window.

‘I was never somebody that particularly got on well with things like atoms because it’s so small you can’t see it or envisage it. I’m one of those people I need to see it to believe it.

‘So just keeping an eye on the sky, and what different clouds there are and how the sky can change in such a short period of time - in half an hour it can make such a difference - and I think just having a general interest in it.

‘Watching what’s happening in the skies, reading up on maybe some of the different equipment that measures the types of weather, that’s kind of what we’ll be talking about with the younger groups - the different types of weather we see on the island, what equipment we use to measure it - the wind, sunshine, temperature, stuff like that.

‘To forecast the future, a really key thing is you need to know what’s happening with the weather right now.

‘We do reports for air traffic every half an hour, so you’re constantly looking out the window and assessing what the sky looks like and what the weather’s doing now.

‘You have to have that before you can work out what’s happening in the future.’

Love Tech’s core message is all about getting more girls into STEM careers - what has been your experience and do you think it is changing?

‘The demographic is massively changing. It used to be quite male dominated.

‘During [the Second World War] when all the guys went off to fight, there were a lot more women involved because they used to do all of the actual weather reports at the time, because obviously the guys weren’t there to do it. And then they came back and took on the forecasting roles again.

‘When I started - I did my forecaster training course in 2011 - we were the second training course that had a higher proportion of ladies on it than men. So that was a big change, and the same with my meteorology degree as well actually - that was one of the first years where they had more women on it than men.

‘It is something that’s taken a while to change, but you are seeing that change now.

‘I came to the office on the Isle of Man nine years ago and I was the first lady forecaster. But now there are two of us out of a team of 10. So we are still the minority, but we’re definitely seeing change.

‘If someone asks you what you do as a job, and you say “oh I’m a weather forecaster”, they don’t expect it. I don’t know why, but I think sometimes there’s still a stereotype of what jobs maybe people do.

What can the kids who come to the event expect to learn?

‘Some of it will be talking about the different types of weather and what weather they’ve experienced as well, what they remember.

‘Also we will talk about what equipment we use, and who the weather is important for. You know, what kind of weather do the Captains of the Ben-my-Chree care about (the state of the sea and what the wind’s like). What kind of weather is a farmer interested in, and so on.

‘At the end of the day, we’re trying to give people information to help them go about their daily jobs, whether it’s doing their work, or keeping people safe when there’s severe weather.

‘And where they can get the best information from for the Isle of Man specifically as well. There’s a lot of information these days on the internet, but obviously we’re at a major advantage that we’ve got a local Met Office.

l All budding meteorologists are being invited to go along and get involved at the ‘Cloud Coding’ event. It all kicks off at 11am, with a session for Years 5 and 6, followed by a session for Years 7, 8 and 9 at 12.30pm. Book online ahead of time via lovetech.im/whats-on/

Comments

To leave a comment you need to create an account. |

All comments 0