Words by Lauren Hopkins

Excalibur catches up with Lauren Hopkins from the Met Office, who has just returned from an overseas detachment to Gibraltar.

“I have just returned to Leeming after an interesting 2.5 months working in Gibraltar (I promise it wasn’t all sunshine, beaches and cocktails…)! Based within the British Forces, I was responsible for producing weather forecasts for the whole force, with particular focus on the airport (which serves for both military and civilian aircraft).

It was nice to have an extended summer by flying over to work in Gibraltar, and from a weather perspective, it is incredibly interesting. Gibraltar is a 6.7?km?^2 peninsular on the Southern Coast of Spain, with the Rock of Gibraltar standing at 1398ft tall and taking up a large proportion of the territory. With the Alboran Sea to the East, the Bay of Gibraltar to the West and the Rock to the South of the runway, this can create some hazardous weather for the airfield.

Wind directions are generally either Easterly or Westerly due to the Strait of Gibraltar. During an Easterly, one of the most common and recognisable features is cloud forming on the Rock top, caused by warm, moist air coming from the Mediterranean. Locally, this is known as Levante cloud.

Summer months – when sea temperatures are warmer – can bring a lot of misty or foggy mornings. This can impact aircraft having to hold or divert. When Westerly winds were in place, this would generally bring much clearer, sunnier and often hotter conditions due to air coming from the Atlantic. However, in some set ups, a Southwesterly sea breeze can develop and create turbulence to the North of the Rock (i.e. across the runway), which can be very hazardous for incoming aircraft.

In addition to the interesting weather, Gibraltar was a lovely place to live for a couple of months. The views were stunning, the food yummy, history interesting, and the people all very friendly. There was also a lot of wildlife; I particularly enjoyed visiting the cheeky Macaques who live on the Rock!