Tuesday 26 March 2019

'You don't need to use a script as the weather is ingrained in you'

Michelle Dillon
Michelle Dillon

Michelle Dillon, a meteorologist from Tullycrine, Co Clare has become a familiar figure as an RTÉ forecaster, and also does specialist forecasts for aviation.

When she is forecasting the weather on television, she arrives in Met Éireann's office in RTÉ, where there is a weather studio, soon after midday and leaves at 10pm after the 9.30 broadcasts.

While out in RTÉ, she can look at the computer models and other information available to Met Éireann meteorologists at the headquarters in Glasnevin, Dublin. She also talks to forecasters doing radio broadcasts back at base, so that the forecasts tally.

"We make sure we are on the same page and bounce ideas off each other," she says. "I do my analysis of the weather models, and I update it as I go through the day as more information comes in.

"I get my story together of how the weather is panning out, and I create my charts for my broadcasts."

Michelle is translating detailed scientific information into a narrative that is easy to follow

"You have to make sure the information means something to the person on the street, so that they can use it to make decisions."

When she is forecasting the weather on TV, Michelle Dillon is not working to a script, and it is broadcast live.

"The weather is ingrained because I have been working on it all day."

She cannot actually see the charts that appear to viewers behind her, but she sees a TV at the side of the studio and in front of her.

"It is actually a blue screen behind me, and you just get used to pointing to the right place."

After graduating from the University of Limerick with a degree in applied mathematics and computing, Michelle worked in the IT industry before studying for an MSc in meteorology.

When she is not broadcasting, she is working in Glasnevin or Shannon, preparing forecasts for Dublin, Shannon, Cork and Knock airports. She also advises other regional airports. She briefs pilots and search and rescue services.

"I am looking out for wind speed, wind direction, visibility, cloud heights and issues such as fog.

"Every day we discuss wind speeds at Dublin Airport, so that they can decide which runways they can use.

"If you have a really strong wind straight down a runway it's not a problem. However, if it is a crosswind, that can be a problem."


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