Tell us a bit about your background
I have always had a fascination with the earth and atmosphere, so I decided to study it at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, back in the 1990s.
My first meteorology job was at Universal Weather in New York and Houston, Texas, where I provided aviation forecasts for corporate pilots flying around the world. I also worked as a marine and industrial meteorologist, which involved forecasting hurricanes for Gulf Coast oil rigs, snow forecasts, and temperature projections for gas companies.
My first foray into presenting was at WCFT-TV in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, before moving to tornado alley in Waco, Texas, where my English accent was very popular! I eventually moved back to the UK to help launch the BBC News Channel as their weather broadcaster. I have presented the weather on most of the other BBC channels, and was one of the weather broadcasters at Wimbledon.
What made you choose New Zealand?
New Zealand is an amazing country, not just for its scenic beauty, but it is fascinating for meteorologists.
In comparison to New Zealand, the UK, on the eastern side of the Atlantic, is fairly flat and its maritime climate is tempered by the surrounding water and Gulf Stream. New Zealand is located half-way between the tropics and the poles, and the topography has quite an effect on airflow, so the weather here is far more exciting and challenging to predict.
How do you predict the weather (in a nutshell)?
Weather forecasting is like a three-sided triangle where all the sides are equally important. The first side is made up of observations from around New Zealand and the world. This observational data is fed into computer models (the second side of the triangle) that generate projections of how the atmosphere will look in the near future. Weather forecasters make up the final side of the triangle, as they interpret the models and then produce the weather forecasts for specific locations. In a nutshell!
Can you explain the difference between El Nino and La Nina weather patterns?
These patterns are basically caused by the difference in water temperature across the Pacific Ocean. Warmer or cooler than normal areas of water can affect the way weather systems develop and progress. This can lead to periods of either warmer, drier weather or cooler and more unsettled weather.
El Nino represents a phase where the water around New Zealand is cooler than normal and brings more westerly winds and weather systems to western areas of the country. La Nina represents a phase where the water around New Zealand is warmer than normal and brings more north-easterly winds, and warm and humid air to north-eastern parts of New Zealand.
How is this summer shaping up for New Zealand?
Hopefully, you will all get to enjoy some nice weather wherever you happen to be in New Zealand (this summer).
We are currently in a neutral phase of El Nino-Southern Oscillation, which could help give us a good mix of weather, if it stays that way for the summer. NIWA is the agency that produces seasonal outlooks for the country and, according to their latest forecast, we should experience average or above average temperatures and near or just below normal rainfall across most parts of New Zealand.