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Favourable outlook for Met Office

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: November 01, 2012

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TIME flies when you are having fun – and Nostalgia readers have more fun than most.

So who would have guessed that next year sees the 10th anniversary of the Met office "going live" in Exeter.

The £79million contract to build and maintain the new Met Office was awarded to the firms Costain, Skanska and Group 4 Falck — the Stratus Consortium — in 2001.

More than two years before, Met Office bosses had decided that relocation from its offices in Bracknell, Berkshire, was essential if the organisation was to make progress.

They discovered that upgrading the old building would have cost almost as much as the full-scale move it decided upon.

An inaugural sod-cutting ceremony took place in November 2001, attended by Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw and Met Office chief executive Peter Ewins.

Hundreds of tonnes of earth were shifted and the foundations laid over the next few months.

The first steel work was laid in February 2002.

Access to the first of two big computer halls was gained in December.

The Met Office moved its ultra-powerful processors into the computer hall and in February 2003 the first data exchanges took place, when the staff based at the Exeter operation numbered just ten.

A few weeks later the Met Office weather forecast started to emanate from Exeter for the first time.

It followed months when Bracknell and Exeter were running in parallel, with the greater control at the old site.

The centres were connected by a wide bandwidth computer link which enabled fast and efficient data sharing.

The Met Office formally took possession of the building in May 2003, when IT staff began moving down to Devon.

In June, the Met Office's two Cray T3E super computers — known by staff as the Cray Twins — were transported from Bracknell to be lifted into place in Exeter.

Office support workers followed, leaving just a skeleton staff at Bracknell.

Costain project manager Geoff Hunt said: "In October 2001 work began on the two computer halls to house the two super computers; an IT workshop; a National Meteorological Library; sports facility; training facility; restaurant; innovation centre; conference centre; seminar rooms and offices — all located around an internal street.

2The buildings were being surrounded by landscaped areas and parking for 700 vehicles."

For the British engineering giant Costain — whose signature is on famous landmarks such as the Channel Tunnel, the Thames Barrier and Hong Kong airport — the Met Office relocation was one of its biggest achievements.

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