Video: The amateur weatherman who's a match for the Met Office

From an early age John Livesley was fascinated with predicting and forecasting the weather.

Ultimately his career took him away from meteorology but the connection with the elements persisted.

So on his retirement he decided to pursue his love of predicting the weather with the establishment of a website providing localised weather forecasts for the Yorkshire Dales – a website which is now providing a hugely reliable service to thousands of people.

Using a network of weather stations around the Yorkshire Dales Mr Livesley runs www.mylocalweather.org.uk from his home at Menston near Leeds.

Although technically classed as an amateur, his operation is anything but, with his website offering an updated forecast every 10 seconds and providing users with the ability to download updates to their mobile phones so they can keep track of the weather when out and about.

It is being used by everyone from local leisure operators to the Yorkshire Dales National Park authority and on a good day attracts more than a thousand people to the site.

The site is coming on leaps and bounds since being set up just over two years ago and this month, in association with the Wensleydale Creamery and the two community groups, he hopes to install two new weather stations, one in Wensleydale and one at Settle.

"It has worked up from just an idea and grown from there very rapidly," he said.

Mr Livesley uses highly sophisticated equipment and software in the production of his website's forecasts and as well as being used by the national park on its website, various community and leisure groups around the region are actively linking to his website.

He runs the site on a not-for-profit basis and said he hopes soon to establish a weather station in each of the individual Dales so as to provide them with the specialised local coverage.

This would run alongside the five weather stations he currently runs at Kirkby Stephen, Ribblehead, Swaledale, Upper Wharfedale and Lower Wharfedale.

He said that his aim was to give visitors to his a site a localised weather forecast to be viewed in combination with the national picture from the Met Office.

"The Met Office will give you a good long range forecast whereas we will tell you what is happening over the next six to 12 hours.

"If you are a walker or a hiker heading into the Dales we can give you an idea of what will be happening when you plan to walk.

"When the weather is bad we can get around 1,000 visitors in a day. If you told me two years ago that things would be going this well I would have had a big smile on my face."

Mr Livesley said he knew he could produce excellent weather forecasts after seeing the software in action. It automatically receives information from all of his weather stations and produces an updated forecast every 10 seconds.

"We know that weather patterns can change dramatically during the day," he said. "I can look from my house towards Harrogate and see there are dark clouds there and heavy rain but nearer to home it can be blue skies. The weather stations are significantly sophisticated for what they are."

A large part of its audience comes from people interested in tourism and leisure, with hikers, walkers and campers logging onto see what the weather will be like that day,

"I get a big smile on my face when people send me emails telling me what a great and wonderful service it is. People do email me to tell me that they use the site a lot.

So popular is the website that he is already attracting sponsorship from around the area, the proceeds of which he ploughs back into his work, investing in new equipment to augment the operation.

"It costs a lot of money to run in terms of time and equipment."

The www.mylocalweather.org.uk website has also seen Mr Livesley work to bring together fellow amateur weather forecasters under one umbrella, with providing links to other websites around the country – the first time in the UK.

Despite all the hard work and investment, however, the forecasting service remains very much a labour of love for Mr Livesley – who traces his enthusiasm for weather forecasting back to his childhood.

"It is just something that I have grown up with," he added. "I have always had a fascination with the weather.

PUBLIC ACCESS TO THE RECORDS

A Feature of Mr Livesley's website is that it stores for the public to see any weather records set since he began operating.

The highest temperature his weather stations have detected since he set up was on July 1 2009 when Upper Wharfedale enjoyed a sweltering 28.9 degrees celcius.

The coldest temperature was seen during the recent cold snap, when Swaledale's weather station saw the mercury plunge to -13.7 degrees celcius on December 3 last year.

The station has picked up its fair share of rainfall too, with the most rain being seen on November 19 2009 when 99.3mm of rain fell.