Volcanic Ash Guidance ceases from Met Office as Iceland Volcano remains ‘paused’

29 05 2011

Latest information received from the Icelandic Meteorological Office indicate that the volcanic activity in Iceland has paused.

As a result of this lower activity, UK airspace is not expected to be affected by any further ash cloud and the Met Office will no longer issue Volcanic Ash Guidance from the VAAC.

Volcanologists and Geologists term this quieter spell of volcanic activity as a “paused” phase. However, it is typical for a volcano like this to have several “pauses” as part of its overall eruption phase. Only when the volcano has been “paused” for three months will it then be regarded as being dormant.

Although no ash cloud is being emitted at the moment, while any volcanic activity continues the Met Office will continue to monitor the situation.





Spring rainfall shows big contrasts across the UK

27 05 2011

Provisional Met Office climate figures for spring 2011 indicate that rainfall amounts across the UK have varied widely from north and west to south and east.

Even though further rain is expected across much of the country before the season ends, parts of the east and south are likely to be heading towards their driest spring on record. These records date back more than 100 years to 1910.

For statistical purposes, the meteorological spring is the combined months of March, April and May and provisional figures are from 1 March to 25 May.

The driest region has been East Anglia, where rainfall amounts show that only 17mm of rain has fallen, just 13% of the long term spring average which is 134.9mm.

However, at the opposite of the country, parts of north and west Scotland have had a wet season, with Argyll recording 538.6mm of rain, well above the long term average of 422.0mm.

This table shows rainfall figures for Spring across the UK. All figures are provisional up to 25th May 2011.

Location Actual (mm) 1 March to 25 May Percentage of 1971 to 2000 average Long term spring average (mm)
UK 164.9 mm 71 % 231.7 mm
England 65.4 mm 36 % 179.4 mm
Northern Ireland 180.6 mm 78 % 232.2 mm
Scotland 336.3 mm 111 % 304.1 mm
Wales 128.6 mm 45 % 285.4 mm

This map shows rainfall figures for Spring across the UK as a percentage of the 1971-2000 long term average. All figures are provisional up to 25th May 2011.

Map showing UK rainfall as a percentage of the 1971-2000 long-term average

The big differences in rainfall pattern across the UK, illustrate just how varied the weather can be over the country. ‘Blocked’ weather patterns have kept many southern and eastern counties dry but Atlantic weather systems and their rain-bearing fronts have affected regions further north and west.

Spring featured high temperatures especially during April, helping to make it one of the warmest springs on record. However, with several more days to go we need to wait until next week to see if it becomes a record-breaker.

Across the UK, the Bank Holiday weather forecast looks set to offer rather changeable conditions, with a mixture of bright or sunny spells but also some rain or showers at times.





Met Office issues Atlantic tropical storm forecast for the 2011 season

26 05 2011

Our forecast for this year’s North Atlantic tropical storm season states it is likely to be quieter than 2010, with 13 tropical storms between June and November 2011, with a 70% chance that the number will be in the range 10 to 17.

This is very close to the 1980-2010 long-term average of 12, and is in contrast to 2010 which had a total of 19 tropical storms.

Tropical storm frequency forecast. June to November 2011

Tropical storm frequency forecast. June to November 2011

The most likely Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index – a measure of the storm lifetimes and intensities as well as total numbers over a season – is 151, with a 70% chance that the index will be in the range 89 to 212: well above the 1980-2010 average of 104.

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index. forecast  June to November 2011

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index forecast . June to November 2011

For the past four years, the Met Office forecast has given accurate guidance of Atlantic tropical cyclone activity, identifying the relatively quiet seasons of 2007 and 2009 from the active seasons of 2008 and 2010.

Matt Huddleston, Principal Consultant on climate change at the Met Office said: “North Atlantic tropical storms affect all of us through fluctuating oil, food and insurance markets. Seasonal and multi-year forecasts are the focus for key research at the Met Office and the benefits of that are being realised through the increasing accuracy of its predictions”.

This is the second year of operation of the Met Office’s new seasonal prediction system called GloSea4. The new generation model has better representation of the complex physical processes that cause tropical storms and hurricanes to form, thus improving the accuracy of the forecast. The forecast also uses information from the seasonal prediction system of the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts.

One of the key indicators for a tropical storm season is the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which affects sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific and, remotely, conditions in the North Atlantic. It’s therefore vital to be able to accurately predict the ENSO cycle and GloSea4 has shown good skill in such predictions.





Met Office in the Media: 26th May 2011

26 05 2011

Our scientists and forecasters have been at the centre of providing advice to the aviation, industry and government over the last week in support of the eruption of the Grimsvotn eruption in Iceland this week. Following ash across the UK we continue to see an improving picture as we head toward the Bank Holiday weekend.

This was covered on the BBC Ten O’Clock News last night as flights resumed across the UK, highlighting the latest ash cloud forecast outlook charts.  The Daily Express and The Sun have also both reported on the clearance of ash.  The Daily Mail reported that ‘Half term is on again‘ after yesterday reporting that there was likely to be widespread disruption into the weekend.  However we had previously made it very clear that beyond 24 hours the situation becomes more uncertain as it is difficult for the Iceland Meteorological Office to know how the volcano will behave. Weather patterns also become more variable leading to a dynamic situation. Both these facts mean that longer range charts  have less confidence than short range output and this should be considered when they are used. Following the volcano stopping to erupt and more observational data being gathered on ash emitted at the beginning of the eruption, ash concentrations over the UK on Friday and into the weekend are likely to be at levels that, according to the CAA, are not prohibitive to flying safely.

Finally, Steve Connor in the Independent has written an article  ‘The real danger to air passengers is not the ash cloud – it’s these men’. The article looks at the danger volcanic ash poses to aircraft and the work of the CAA and Met Office in ensuring that airlines can operate safely, highlighting the ‘ plethora of scientific instruments, from optical sensing machines on the ground to satellites in space’ used to identify whereabouts of the ash.





“Heatwave” newspaper reports not from Met Office

26 05 2011

A couple of weeks ago several daily newspapers reported that we were likely to see a heatwave through the last two weeks of May.  In fact one newspaper reported that we were likely to see temperatures of 88 °F (or 31 °C) on its front page.  This has recently led to some to comment about what has happened to the “heatwave”

These forecasts were based on comments from Positive Weather Solutions, NetWeather and other forecasters.  At no time did the Met Office say that we were likely to see a heat wave in the last two weeks of May.  The longer term 6-15 day forecast issued on the Met Office website on the 16th May for the period up to the end of the month said:

Occasional rain or showers are likely in the north and west this weekend, with weakening rainbands occasionally straying further south, whilst the southeast stays mainly fine. Temperatures exhibit a similar split, with the north and west rather cool (and windy), whilst the south and east sees above-average daytime temperatures, and light winds. Into the new week, heavy, even thundery showers may develop in parts of England and Wales, but sunny periods are also likely, and it may well stay warm here. The northwest should be cooler, with Northern Ireland and particularly northwestern Scotland seeing further rain or showers, but also some brighter interludes. Later in the week and following weekend, there are some indications that more unsettled conditions will become more commonplace, though there is considerable uncertainty.

Met Office weather forecasts for the next five days, 6 to 15 days ahead and 16 to 30 days ahead are available on the Met Office website.





Grímsvötn ash cloud – better news for the Bank Holiday

25 05 2011

Latest information received from the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) indicates that the Grímsvötn volcano is no longer emitting ash, and only minor steam plumes from the crater up to around 300 metres. According to the British Geological Survey (BGS), the volcano is still active with on-going low level seismic activity reported, even though this has decreased.

Our advice for today is that the ash has now moved away from the UK toward the continent. Further ahead, Met Office latest volcanic ash cloud advice is that we continue to be in an improving situation and it seems likely that there will only be minimal ash over the UK and Europeas we enter the Bank Holiday weekend. CAA and NATS together with the individual airlines can advise how this improving picture will affect flights.

The movement of the ash cloud will depend on whether we see any further volcanic eruptions and how weather patterns develop. The Met Office London VAAC continues to provide forecast guidance up to 24 hours ahead to support decision-making.

Met Office volcanic ash cloud advice is based on a combination of model output, satellite data and other information from radar, lidar and aircraft. Model information is validated using this observational data and is routinely modified to provide the best advice possible.





Grimsvötn Volcano Latest

25 05 2011

Latest information received from the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) indicates that the Grimsvötn volcano is no longer emitting ash, only minor steam plumes from the crater up to 300 meters.

According to the British Geological Survey (BGS), the volcano is still active with on-going low level seismic activity reported, even though this has decreased. This means it is still possible that further ash emissions may occur at anytime.

As a result, the UK Met Office will continue to receive information from the IMO and BGS on whether the eruption may – or may not – continue.





Ash observations confirm Met Office ash forecasts

24 05 2011

The Grímsvötn volcano continues to eject ash according to latest information  from colleagues in the Iceland Met Office and British Geological Survey. As the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre for the northwest Europe region, the Met Office uses this information to provide guidance on the movement of the ash plume.

Ash reports today across northern Scotland confirm Met Office ash forecasts issued on Monday.  Latest observations include:

  • Satellite and Lidar observations confirm the presence of ash over northern Britain in the last 24 hours.
  • A plane flying from Aberdeen to the Shetlands encountered volcanic ash during the flight with ash being deposited on the aircraft.
  • This morning ash deposits were found on a plane that had be flying in the Orkney area.
  • A plane flying from Stansted to Belfast observed a layer of ash to the north /northwest of the flight path.
  • A plane flying at a height of 18,000 feet in the Manchester area around 2pm today has observed a layer of ash of approximately 1000-2000 feet thick.
  • The research ship Discovery entered an area of thick volcanic ash on Monday between Scotland and Iceland with ash being deposited onboard.
  • Professional observers have reported ash being deposited in northern Britain.
  • Ash has been deposited on vehicles on Orkney.
  • Air quality sensors across Scotland have indicated an increased amount of ash particles (PM10s) during today and more information is available from the DEFRA website.

The movement of the ash plume will depend on how long the volcano continues to erupt and how weather patterns develop. The Met Office London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) continues to provide forecast guidance up to 24 hours ahead to support decision-making. This guidance is provided to the Civil Aviation Authority as the lead agency, NATS, airports and airline operators in order to support their decisions on whether aircraft can fly safely.

The ash is predicted to clear northern parts of the UK by early Wednesday. How this affects flight routing decisions would be determined by CAA and NATS together with the individual airlines. Met Office forecasts for the end of this week indicate mainly low levels of ash affecting parts of UK and Europe. This forecast does depend on the status of the Volcano since the wind direction and strength will remain variable. You should stay up to date with the latest advice from the Met Office. How this affects flight routing decisions would be determined by CAA and NATS together with the individual airlines.





‘Significant eruption’ of Grimsvotn likely to bring ash to UK

23 05 2011

The British Geological Survey (BGS) have described the eruption of Grimsvötn that began over the weekend as ‘a significant eruption’ and the IMO have reported ash continuing to be ejected to a height of 10km.

As the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre for the northwest Europe region the Met Office is receiving information from colleagues in the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) and the British Geological Survey (BGS) to monitor the eruption. The Met Office uses this to provide guidance on the movement of the ash plume.

The movement of the ash plume will depend on how long the volcano continues to erupt and how weather patterns develop.  The Met Office London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) continues to provide forecast guidance up to 24 hours ahead to support decision making.  This guidance is provided to the CAA as the lead agency, NATS, airport and airline operators in order to support them in decisions on whether aircraft can fly safely.

Currently the Met Office forecasts that ash is likely to reach parts of northern and western Scotland overnight tonight and into tomorrow morning. How this affects flight routing decisions would be determined by CAA and NATS together with the individual airlines.

Further ahead, the outlook is very changeable with areas of low pressure likely to track across parts of northern Britain during the remainder of the week.  The means that wind direction is likely to be quite variable and you should stay up to date with the latest advice from the Met Office.

The Met Office London VAAC uses a range of technologies to predict the movement of volcanic ash including computer models, satellite imagery and observations from Radar, Lidar and aircraft.

The Met Office dispersion model forecasts are routinely validated and verified against all available observations, such as from Satellite, Radar, Lidar and aircraft. For example, a weather balloon that can sample ash concentrations will be launched in western Scotland in the next 24 hours and we are working with airlines and others to undertake airborne measurements.

The Met Office is not responsible for decisions relating to UK airspace. Any enquiries relating to this shoul dbe passed to NATS or CAA.

The Met Office website has more information on where ash is predicted to be in the next 24 hours, recent observations and other Q&A.





Pollen forecasts bring help to Hay Fever sufferers

20 05 2011
Field Marigold flower

Different types of pollen are released throughout the year which can generate hay fever and other allergies. These symptoms can have a serious impact on the well-being of some people.

Pollen season

The pollen count season is normally March to August. However, it can start as early as January and end as late as November.

The pollen season separates into three main sections:

  1. Tree pollen – late March to mid-May.
  2. Grass pollen – mid-May to July.
  3. Weed pollen – end of June to September

Our pollen calendar has a detailed breakdown of the different types of pollen and their peak times within a season. However this year many sufferers are experiencing symptoms earlier than normal due to the fine and warm weather being experienced across the UK right now.

How can the Met Office help?

We manage the only pollen count monitoring network in the UK and produce pollen forecasts up to five days ahead. We use information from our network, our weather data and expertise from organisations such as the National Pollen and Aerobiological Unit  at the University of Worcester to produce  forecasts which are designed to help support allergy and Hay fever sufferers through the most difficult time of the year.

Pollen forecasts

We provide free, public UK pollen forecasts on the Invent section of our website. Just visit the Weather Map page and select the pollen count information.

  • Two-day pollen forecast, updated daily.
  • Three-day pollen forecast, updated daily.
  • Five-day pollen forecast, updated daily.
  • Monthly forecast, updated weekly.

These can be offered for our 16 weather forecasting regions. We can also offer a summary of the previous season and a seasonal outlook for the upcoming pollen count season. We can also provide pollen forecast information for display on your website or through other media channels.








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