Interview with Gavin Gallagher
Meteorological Officer, Met Éireann
1. When did you first become interested in meteorology?
The moment I realised that heavy snow meant a day off school. From that point on I would watch the weather forecast every night hoping for more snow. Also, growing up on a farm, the weather played a huge part in daily life.
2. You recently completed a Masters in Meteorology, what was your favourite part of that course?
I particularly enjoyed the practical aspects of the course, preparing forecasts etc. Also the field trips to Met Éireann HQ in Glasnevin and the Valentia Observatory in Kerry (where I now work) were informative and enjoyable.
3. You used to work on construction sites - how important is weather to this line of work?
I was a Civil Engineering assistant on many projects over the years, including the M50 Upgrade from 2008 -2010. Along with farming and fishing, the construction industry relies heavily on favourable weather conditions and it's not uncommon for construction sites to close due to adverse weather. For example, tower cranes are not permitted to work in winds gusting above 38mph, roofers must stop working if the average wind speed is above 23mph, concrete should not be poured in temperatures less than 4 degrees Celsius, tar cannot be laid in heavy rain while brick-layers are allergic to even the smallest amounts of rain. Whilst working on the M50 upgrade, I was in almost daily contact with the site foreman regarding weather forecasts.
4. What might a typical work day involve in Valentia Observatory?
Valentia Observatory is both a synoptic weather station and a geophysical observatory. So we not only deal with meteorological issues, but we also monitor air quality, rainwater samples, seismic (earthquake) activity etc. In the weather station we take hourly observations of the weather 24 hours a day 365 days a year. We also compile daily climatic and environmental data and deal with queries from the public. The fun part of the job is that we are the only weather station in Ireland that gets to launch and monitor four weather balloon ascents every day. The balloons can climb to over 35km above the surface, before they burst and fall back to earth.
5. What is your favourite/least favourite part of the job?
My least favourite part would have to be working night shifts, although on the rare occasions when the sky is clear, we get to witness beautiful sun rises over the Kerry mountains. My favourite part of the job is everything else. It's great to be able to work in an area I've always been interested in. Also no matter what age you are, you always get a kick out of launching weather balloons.
6. You hail from Donegal, a county which probably has the most extreme weather in Ireland. How does it compare to Valentia?
Donegal has unbroken sunshine all year round, with temperatures in the high twenties. Therefore it's very different to Valentia.
7. If you had a weather wand, what weather would you chose?
If you had asked me 2 years ago I would have asked for a white Christmas, but I think we're all bored of white Christmases at this stage. I'd rather have a climate wand, and give Ireland four distinct seasons. With long, hot summers and snowy winters. At the moment we only have two seasons - six months of spring and six months of autumn. I'd also throw a few Atlantic storms into the mix, to keep work interesting.
8. What's your view on Climate Change?
Undoubtedly global temperatures on average are rising steadily. Historically, periods of high temperatures have coincided neatly with periods of high CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Therefore the higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels would suggest that the current warming of the planet is man made. However in my opinion, the view that current climate change is solely the result of recent human activity is slightly naive and somewhat egotistical. Natural forces such as fluctuations in ocean currents, solar orbit, volcanic activity and the solar cycle have to be taken into account.
9. We heard that you have a photographic memory, how useful has this been?
This myth can easily be disproved by asking my girlfriend how many birthday's and anniversaries I've missed!
10. Who would you like to have at your dream dinner party?
Jesus, Noel & Liam Gallagher and Adriana Lima... I would have to sit Jesus between Liam and Noel to keep the peace.