THE MOUNTAIN Weather Information Service (MWIS) has announced it is to close at the end of the year. The news comes with the news that SportScotland, the government- and Lottery-funded public body dedicated to outdoor sports and recreation, is to cease its financial support of the service at the end of 2016. In a statement on the MWIS website lead forecaster Geoff Monk stated the ‘safety of climbers and walkers in the mountains will be put at risk if funding is not continued’.
SportScotland has responded asserting the statements on the MWIS were 'disappointing and misleading,’ adding: ‘over the past year MWIS has been directly involved in collaboration discussions with the Met Office and SportScotland. These discussions sought to find a resilient and development-focussed structure to ensure the provision of reliable and authoritative mountain weather forecasts. [We] can confirm that SportScotland will ensure the provision of mountain weather forecasting as we enter this coming winter.’
The statement stopped short of whether MWIS in its current form would be part of the future collaboration, or if the forecasts will continue beyond December 31st, which is when MWIS funding is due to cease.
Considered by many mountain professionals and hillwalkers as the go-to forecast, the MWIS service has long been known for its detailed, daily weather forecasts of mountain areas in England, Wales and Scotland. The service - a small operation run from the Scottish Southern Uplands - is a non-profit making forecasting organisation that has been providing detailed mountain forecasts for the last 13 years. SportScotland's funding covered the Scottish forecasts, but additional forecasts are also provided for English and Welsh mountain areas without supplementary funding.
The website recieves millions of hits a year and the distinctive detailed, two-page forecasts displayed throughout mountain communities and online. Increasingly other services such as those offered by the Met Office – who MWIS and SportScotland have been in collaboration with– have been producing forecasts hosted on their own website. But the level of detail and usability of the daily forecasts on the MWIS site have made them invaluable to a large range of users.
The outcry to Saturday's announcement on social media was immediate, with most in the mountain community voicing support for the MWIS service. Within 24 hours of the announcement a petition was set up calling for funding to be reinstated. Mountaineering Scotland made their feelings known on their website calling for a continuity of forecasting to at least the same level of functionality as that provided by MWIS.
Geoff Monk, lead forecaster at MWIS 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."
All parties seem keen to continue negotiations, though MWIS has asked anyone who values the service to voice their support. Details can be found here.
- What do you think about this story? Let us know on our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Trailmagazine/