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Official opening of new Met Office in 1930

The history of MetService

Sails to Satellites

Despite being New Zealand's oldest scientific institution, it was 125 years before MetService's history was first recorded for posterity. Sails to Satellites is a history of meteorology in New Zealand, written by MetService's 1973-77 Director of Meteorological Services, John de Lisle. It was written in 1986, a time of massive change for MetService as it transitioned from government department to state-owned enterprise, and drew together a number of earlier attempts to chronicle the history of a constantly-evolving organisation.

In his forward to that book, John Hickman (Director of Meteorological Services 1977-1988) describes it as "a story of a pilgrim people, journeying towards the elusive goal of understanding nature". It is no accident that he focuses on people as the heroes of our story. People - their safety, prosperity and enjoyment - have always been the driver for observing and reporting on the weather. The history of MetService is not only the history of the people at MetService - it is a history of the people of New Zealand.


Many, many people have contributed to the success of MetService's operations over the years. Even in the early years, the efforts of forecasters were supported by those who collected observations - and they were many and varied. And through its history MetService has been part of a number of different organisations, which often influenced the daily working lives of its people. In the People section of this history, we hope to capture their stories. This is an ongoing project, and we encourage all those with stories to tell to Contribute what they know about friends and relatives who have worked at MetService over the years.


Forecasting is heavily reliant on technology throughout all stages of the process. We receive and process huge amounts of data every day from our own observation network, as well as satellite data and global weather models. Forecasters then use a wide range of software tools to visualise and interpret that data in order to produce forecasts and warnings. Communicating this information back out into the world is equally as technology dependent - from programmers building packages of data for transmission to customers around the world, through to email, websites and social media. Technology is making constant advances, and MetService needs to stay at the forefront of technology in all parts of its operations. In the Technology section of this history, we'll look at some of the technologies that have revolutionised forecasting and communications for MetService.