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In 1859 the sailing ship Royal Charter steamed past the safety of the port of Holyhead, trying to reach Liverpool in time to maintain her record as one of the fastest ships. She anchored off the coast of Wales to wait for a pilot to take her into Liverpool docks. There was no need to rush, the weather seemed calm and non-threatening. But appearances can be deceptive. A storm struck and by the morning the ship had been driven onto the rocks and 400 of her passengers were dead. In that one storm, which had hurricane force winds, 800 people died, 133 ships were sunk and most of the British fishing fleet was driven ashore.
The tragedy, which became known as the Royal Charter Storm, was the catalyst for the start of a new type of national science, weather forecasting, and a new organization, the National Meteorological (or Met) Office. Initial forecasting was done using visual observations and measuring the barometric pressure. Now computers, radar and satellite images can tell us exactly what is happening in the clouds and where they are. This gives us a prediction as to where those clouds are going. Networks of weather stations and weather buoys send information to the meteorological station. There is even a weather station on a set of moors in England that is frequently used by scientists to tell them the weather conditions for their experiments in how bodies rot.
The science of weather forecasting has developed massively in the 150 years plus since that tragedy, but the Met Office still on occasion gets it wrong!