Sunday, 11 September 2016 08:51

Mountain Weather Information Service future uncertain as funding called into question

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The future of the highly respected Mountain Weather Information Service run by Geoff Monk is in serious doubt as stories of a funding crisis have emerged over the weekend.

Gearr Aonach

In a press release issued on Saturday Lead forcaster at MWIS, Geoff Monk, issued stating "The most-used mountain weather service in the UK, the Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS), is set to close after SportScotland, the Scottish Government sporting body, withdraws funding and walks away from a key mountain forecast collaboration project." but by Sunday morning SportScotland had responded, calling the clain "disappointing and misleading".

In the MWIS press release Geoff Monk said:

"The funding withdrawal by SportScotland, following their previous decision to collaborate with MWIS (together with the Met Office), was a real shock and jeopardises the safety of those who use the mountains every day. All we want is for MWIS to continue to provide a consistent, quality service so that mountain users can enjoy the mountains safely, fully aware of what the weather will throw at them.

"MWIS has a stable, long-term future and the service will continue to be enhanced provided funding continues. We are asking SportScotland to come back to the negotiating table and commit to the continued funding of MWIS so its long-term future is secured."

Closure would particularly impact on Scottish hill walking and mountaineering as while the Met Office has introduced its own mountain weather forecasts over recent years in Scotland the service is split into 2 areas compared with MWIS's 5 areas.

In 2015, MWIS, SportScotland and the Met Office began a 3-5 year collaborative project aimed at ensuring the long-term future of MWIS's quality mountain forecasts. On 7th March 2016 the Met Office wrote "Sportscotland, MWIS and the Met Office are now exploring ways of working more closely together so that we can really maximise the skills and strengths of our organisations to provide even better mountain weather services for Scotland. We are listening to the feedback and looking at how forecast services can be improved. For example we are looking at the content, format, frequency and language used as well as how digital technologies can be used to increase access to mountain weather information." but it now appears that funding from SportScotland will end on December 31st 2016.

In responding to the MWIS statement SportScotland have said "Investment into MWIS continues until the end of this year and we have been involved in collaboration discussions for over a year with the Met Office and Geoff about building a resilient and development-focused mountain weather forecast provision for Scotland together.“sportscotland has been investing in mountain weather provision since 2007 and this investment has established bespoke mountain weather forecasts as a critical part of risk evaluation for those who want to participate in outdoor activities in the Scottish mountains.

“Lines of communications with MWIS have always been open and remain so. sportscotland’s priority is to ensure there is a sustainable mountain forecast for Scotland through the provision of reliable, authoritative forecasts, which are relevant to outdoor activities and enable forecast users to make informed judgements about their chosen activities. This is precisely what we will deliver and we will ensure there is a continuity of this service.”

As news broke of the December closure on social media there were calls for a petition, for lobbying both SportScotland and the Met Office and calls for clarification from Mountaineering Scotland. Having run for 13 years the service has built up a following that's seen it become the most popular and trusted mountain weather safety information service in Scotland, receiving millions of hits per year. While at least two of the three sides of the funding issue say that "lines of communication remain open" both agree that as things stand funding is only assured "until the end of the year".

As the story coninued to dominate social media Mountainnering Scotland issued a statement on Sunday saying:

"MWIS is not the only option available to users but it offers unique features that have earned massive support in the mountaineering community and made it the number one choice.

Mountaineering Scotland wish to see continuity in the daily production of Scottish mountain weather forecasts, which are publicly funded, available free to users, and which provide at least the same range of forecast features as MWIS.

We believe there is an urgent need for the three parties to reconvene their dialogue to ensure that there is continuity, especially with the onset of winter and the critical need for mountaineers and skiers to be able to assess forecast conditions and plan their activities accordingly."

Last modified on Sunday, 23 October 2016 13:58