Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Meteorology Boot Camp in Cornwall

Hello all,

Back in Cambourne, Cambridgeshire. Not to be confused with Camborne, Cornwall, where I have spent the last week staring at clouds and playing with balloons. And getting paid to do so.

Welcome to the Cornwall Meteorology Office.

This past week has been primarily spent in the building depicted above, where Tamsin has been drilling us on clouds. Stratocumulus, Altostratus, Nimbostratus, and the seldom-spotted Altocirrus. We would traipse out every hour on the hour and identify the clouds, then come back in and code them up with an archaic code system.

And every hour, every day, we would code up this: "Stratocumulus clouds, 90% of the sky. No change in weather conditions." Cornwall isn't exactly a hotspot for exciting weather. Eventually Tamsin had to start making up weather, so it would be more educational: "Pretend it's 40 knot winds, hailing, and heavy thunderstorms!" That, by the way, is a 99 code. It trumps all other weather codes. Not surprisingly, nobody in Antarctica has had to code it yet.

Weather obs were interspersed with weather balloon launches. Pretty cool, those. The balloons are about the size of a motorcycle, say; but by the time they get to the upper atmosphere, they grow to the size of a double-decker bus before popping. This particular factoid is often told to visiting folk at the MET office.

Outside of the office, life was good. As there was seven of us, we rented a country house for the week, with a good kitchen, hot tub, and a decent view over a valley.
We also enjoyed a dinner or two out - one of our favourite spots was a Jordanian restaurant perched up on a clifftop castle:

...and, of course, we stopped at the occasional beach in the late afternoon. I even tried surfing, once - but couldn't really see the point. Maybe the waves weren't good enough, but I can't quite understand how someone can turn this activity into a "lifestyle". Here's a sample Cornwall beach:

On the other hand, my particular lifestyle choice, pub-hopping, was well-served in Cornwall. I went back to one of Britain's top two pubs, as rated by CAMRA: The Pandora Inn, in a obscure little place called Mylor Bridge. The Pandora is a wonderful place, with fresh seafood, a rich collection of ale, and a 700 year history. Bet it's seen its share of Cornish pirates.

And then, after a nice quiet weekend in Salisbury and Oxford, back to Cambridge. Two weeks to go!

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