Chairman’s viewpoint – COL’s 500th monthly bulletin

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Chairman’s viewpoint – COL’s 500th monthly bulletin

Postby Stephen Burt » 2012 Jan 09, 16:04

In May 2010, COL celebrated its 40th anniversary. This month, we reach another notable milestone – our 500th monthly bulletin. For those of you who don’t already know me, I’d like to use this opportunity to introduce myself as your new Chairman, and say a few words about the future of our organisation, as well as our past.

I have been a member of COL for a long time - I joined COL in my teens in August 1973, later taking over from Tom Suttie as its second Editor (1975-77) and subsequently serving as Secretary (1977-80). It was therefore a great privilege to be elected COL Chairman at last year’s AGM in November, and to be in a position to help steer the organisation towards its half-century and our 600th issue.

My professional background is in physics, meteorology and climatology, information technology and marketing. I spent my early working years in the UK Met Office, where I undertook a variety of research roles, before moving to a business career within the computer industry: over 25 years I was employed in international marketing roles for several of the world’s largest high-technology firms. In 2010 I decided to leave the world of international business to concentrate full-time on science writing. This change of direction has allowed me more time to take up other roles – as well as chairing COL I am also actively involved in several Royal Meteorological Society groups, including the Society’s south-east local centre based in Reading, which I also Chair. I have been a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society (FRMetS) since 1979: I am also a member of the American Meteorological Society and the Irish Meteorological Society, and a Trustee of the Chilterns Observatory Trust. Within the last 30 years or so, I have had over 100 papers or articles on meteorology published, together with several hundred weather-related photographs to date. I have recently completed a book on weather instruments and observing, The Weather Observer’s Handbook, to be published by Cambridge University Press later this year. I have maintained my own meteorological records for over 40 years, originally at Long Lawford in Warwickshire (1971-77), and since 1977 at various sites in Berkshire. Over the years I have expanded my range of instruments as time, finances and advances in technology have permitted, and now run a sophisticated multi-AWS system located in Stratfield Mortimer, about 10 km south-west of Reading, where I live with my wife and two daughters.

Reaching one’s Forties is often a time to take stock, reflect on life’s achievements and plan ahead for the future, and so it should be with COL. Our 500th bulletin is a significant milestone for the organisation, but as well as congratulating ourselves on providing detailed coverage of weather in the British Isles and Europe over the last four decades, we must make sure that we have plans in place to ensure we continue to do so for the next four. There are many opportunities for the organisation to grow and develop, particularly alongside the great advances made in technology and communications during our 500 months existence, but there are also threats to our continued existence. Roger outlined some of these at last year’s AGM and in last month’s bulletin, and to ensure COL remains viable we need to put steps in place to identify and tackle these. Without taking appropriate action in good time, our organisation will quietly fade away as our membership ages and Father Time does his worst. To remain in existence we need to broaden our membership, increasing its appeal particularly to younger age groups and the ‘internet generation’ who see less need to subscribe to membership-based organisations, and increase our visibility on the web. Interest in our subject is continually stimulated by global debates on climate change, extreme weather events and wider environmental awareness, and these together with the increased availability of basic but good-quality weather instruments at very affordable prices mean that our organisation should be of interest to a greater number of people than ever before. To this end, the COL Committee under my Chairmanship is looking at a number of projects intended to increase our visibility and enhance and broaden the range and appeal of membership.

This new forum is a key part of this strategy: we owe Peter Wright many thanks for the sterling work he has put in to setting this up. To make it an effective forum, it needs lively and regular member input, so do please register (the process is very easy, and if you are an existing COL member it is free). The forum can only be successful where it has a wide range of participants, so please join in and feel free to expand the content currently offered.

This forum will complement the monthly bulletin by providing a facility for posting real-time weather observations, comments, questions on instruments, photographs of unusual phenomena – almost anything weather-related, in fact. Many other internet forums are spoiled by the activities of a few social misfits hiding behind childish pseudonyms, who take delight in insulting other contributors behind the cloak of web anonymity, thereby spoiling it for the majority and putting off others from joining in. To ensure this does not happen with the COL Forum, to post you will need to register under your own name (working on the assumption that removing anonymity will deter contributions from such ill-mannered individuals - the likes of ‘Weatherlawyer’ or ‘D Nyer’ need not apply). Anyone with an internet connection can read the Forum, but only COL members can post. If you regularly read and/or post to other weather fora, why not bookmark the new COL forum, and add your contributions there too?

Note that the forum is intended to augment, and not replace, the existing monthly bulletin content.

Other initiatives
We have already begun to implement a number of other suggestions and initiatives. You will see more of these over the coming months, but the following are planned or in hand:
• Membership questionnaire – look out for this in Spring
• Redesigned COL logo – suggestions and proposals welcome
• Subscriptions via PayPal
• Increased use of photographs in the bulletin
• Revamped AGM content and more speakers

Why not get involved?
I encourage you to let the committee know of any ideas, suggestions or initiatives you may have for enhancing our organisation and broadening its appeal, particularly to younger members and especially if you are able to offer help in making those initiatives happen. At present, COL exists due to the efforts of a few individuals who undertake most of the work involved. We want to encourage more members to get involved and contribute to the production of the bulletin or the running of the organisation. We won’t ask you for a lot of your time, but another dozen people able to contribute a couple of hours per month, perhaps as a regional editor or with web development skills, would make a big difference to what we can offer. We would also like to hear from members with professional skills who would be willing to advise the committee occasionally on aspects of running the organisation. Are you an accountant who could help COL manage its finances? Do you have a graphic designer in the family who could help design a new COL logo and rebrand our organisation more attractively? We’d welcome your help – please get in touch.

If you have thoughts, comments or suggestions, do please come forward, especially if you are able to assist in making them happen. As a membership-based organisation, we depend upon the voluntary work undertaken by our members for all we do. To ensure we continue to thrive and thereby reach our 50th anniversary and our 600th issue, we do need to adapt and change, and we welcome your active participation going forward.

Please feel free to contact me or any of the COL committee directly with any suggestions, initiatives or offers of help, either via this forum or through our contact details which are given in the monthly bulletin. We look forward to hearing from you!

Stephen Burt

EDITOR - Roger Brugge, Maidenhead
MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY - John Goulding, Normanby, Middlesbrough
TREASURER - John Morris, Guildford
WEBSITE EDITOR - Paul Swinhoe, Newcastle-under-Lyme
CHAIRMAN - Stephen Burt, Stratfield Mortimer, Berkshire
Stratfield Mortimer, Berkshire - central southern England
51.4°N, 1.0°W, 60 m AMSL, station grade A - AAAA47R
Records commenced here 1987 - local records available back to 1862
The Weather Observer's Handbook:
Stephen Burt
Posts: 247
Joined: 2011 Dec 02, 19:36
Location: Stratfield Mortimer, Berkshire; a well-exposed rural site, 10 km SW of Reading

Re: Chairman’s viewpoint – COL’s 500th monthly bulletin

Postby Nicholas Bentley » 2012 Feb 09, 23:24

Well done COL and all its staff on reaching this milestone! I very much appreciate the effort, particularly on the part of the editor, put into producing the bulletin which I enjoy reading every month.

COL is about the same age as myself, and I have been a member for over half of it's life (since June 1986). I think I've only missed about 3 months data submissions - this was about the time of the 'split' when the Weather Observers Network was formed and I couldn't decide which one to go with!
Nicholas Bentley
Posts: 8
Joined: 2011 Dec 21, 22:11

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