Is it really going to snow?

29 03 2012

Over the last few days the UK has been under the influence of high pressure giving us plenty of sunshine and record breaking temperatures but also overnight frosts in places. This weekend sees a gradual return to weather we would normally expect for the time of year.

Visible satellite images at 0900 GMT for 26 March 2012 (left) and 28 March (right) showing cloud slowly increasing from the northwest

Temperatures will return to the low teens during Saturday and Sunday as winds become north-westerly and bring in colder air from the Arctic. We will also get more in the way of cloud and perhaps a little rain too, although this will mostly be confined to the northern half of the UK. Some newspapers have made a lot of the potential for snow as we head through the weekend and into next week. Although this is possible it should be pointed out that any snow will be mostly over the tops of the Scottish hills and mountains, where a few snow showers are possible but no sizeable accumulations are expected. By Monday, even parts of the Pennines may see a dusting of snow over the peaks.

Although the chance of some snow flurries is a marked change to the weather of the last week or so, it is certainly not unusual for this time of year. In fact you are more likely to see snow at Easter than you are at Christmas in the British Isles.

The southern half of the country is likely to remain dry with sunny spells over the next few days but some light rain is on the cards by mid-week.

Here, Chief Forecaster Anthony Astbury explains how the weather is going to change from the recent warm sunshine to much colder conditions with night frosts as we head towards Easter.

For the latest forecast for your area, visit our new refreshed website.





The Met Office and space weather

29 03 2012

The Met Office is commonly associated with producing forecasts for Earth. However, since February 2011, we have been working in partnership with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the British Geological Survey (BGS) to develop a UK-based space weather forecasting service that will monitor the way the Sun’s matter and energy changes and then predicts how these changes are likely to affect the Earth’s environment.

The Sun is constantly moving and changing and often throws out large eruptions of plasma called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) which can cause geomagnetic storms and send currents through power lines if they track towards and reach the Earth. These can then damage transformers and entire power grids. CMEs can also disrupt high frequency radio communications and GPS.

The last major geomagnetic storm affected Quebec, Canada on 13 March 1989 when six million people were plunged into darkness as their power grid failed.

The Met Office Hazard Centre currently has forecasters trained in space weather forecasting, and awareness is being raised across different industry sectors to make them aware of their potential vulnerability and how we can help lessen the risks.

On a slightly different note, many universities are currently using the expertise from the Met Office by utilising our Unified Model of global weather to “forecast the weather” on planets outside of our Solar System, or “exoplanets”. This is not something that the Met Office is independently producing but we are working in partnership with academic and research groups to help them understand how atmospheres react on planets which have different gravitational fields and gases, for example. 

More information can be found about space weather in our online magazine, Barometer.





Met Office scientists to feature in BBC Horizon programme ‘Global Weirding’

27 03 2012

BBC Horizon will broadcast ‘Global Weirding’ on BBC Two tonight at 9pm, exploring the science behind why the world’s weather seems to be getting more extreme and if these patterns are a taste of what is to come.

Horizon say: “Something weird seems to be happening to our weather – it appears to be getting more extreme. In the past few years we have shivered through two record-breaking cold winters and parts of the country have experienced intense droughts and torrential floods. It is a pattern that appears to be playing out across the globe. Hurricane chasers are recording bigger storms and in Texas, record-breaking rain has been followed by record-breaking drought.

“Horizon follows the scientists who are trying to understand what’s been happening to our weather and investigates if these extremes are a taste of what’s to come.”

The producers of the programme visited the Met Office headquarters and Operations Centre in Exeter to film for the programme at the end of last year, interviewing Adam Scaife, Head of Monthly to Decadal Forecasting and Helen Chivers, a Met Office Forecaster.  In the programme we discuss the science being undertaken here at the Met Office into the effects of Climate Change on ourt weather including the effects of Arctic sea ice depletion on European winter weather, and our role in forecasting extreme weather for the UK.

Adam Scaife and Helen Chivers from the Met Office appear in the programme

Other contributors to the programme include Mike Lockwood (University of Reading) on solar observations, Kerry Emmanuel (MIT) on hurricanes and Katharine Hayhoe (Texas Tech University) on extreme wet and dry conditions in Texas.

This weeks Radio Times also previewed the programme saying:

“This week’s Very Big Number from Horizon: the Met Office’s computer can do one hundred trillion calculations — a second. It needs to, in order to process the gouts of data gathered from satellites, data which means, we’re told, that a five-day forecast today is as accurate as a one-day forecast was 30 years ago. (Were we so long-suffering in 1982?)

All this technology isn’t to feed some quaint British obsession with weather, it’s to keep track of increasingly freakish extremes in meteorology, not just here but around the world: from record rains in Scotland to droughts in Texas and a boom in hurricanes. Scientists are trying to get to grips with it all and Horizon follows them, in one amazing scene, right into the heart of the storm.”





What’s causing the warm weather in the UK?

27 03 2012

Temperatures continue to break records across parts of the UK. Cromdale in Moray reached 23.2 deg C on Monday breaking the record set the day before for the warmest March day in Scotland.

Following on from our post yesterday ‘Why is it so warm?‘ we have put together a video explaining the meteorological reasons behind this fine spring weather. We also provide an outlook for the rest of the week.

 





Why is it so warm?

26 03 2012

The last few days have been unseasonably warm but why is this happening so early in the year? The answer lies largely in the air flow directly above the United Kingdom but more importantly where that air has come from.

Over the last week or so we have been under the influence of high pressure which has given us very settled conditions, with light winds and a lot of sunshine. During the daytime, the sun has injected plenty of warmth and the light south to south-easterly winds have drawn further warm air towards us from continental Europe.

UK visible satellite image from 0900 GMT 26 March 2012. Source: Met Office/EUMETSAT

We would normally expect average maximum temperatures in March to edge into double figures across the south of the country and stay much cooler further north. However, over the last few days temperatures have reached the low twenties and we have seen a new record high for Scotland in March as the temperature reached 22.8 °C at Fyvie Castle in Aberdeenshire on Sunday 25 March and temperatures are expected to reach similar values over the next couple of days.

The last time we had a comparable warm spell in March was during 2005 between the 16th and 26th when temperatures reached 21.8 °C at Kew Gardens on the 19th. Before that we have to go back to 1968 and 1965 when two shorter spells (which coincidentally both happened for the same two-day period in March, from 29th to 30th) saw highs of 25.6 °C at Mepal, Cambridgeshire and 25.0 °C in Wakefield respectively, both on the 29th.

Average maximum temperatures for March.

The settled and clear conditions by day continue during the night time and allow much of the sun’s energy to escape from the earth’s surface back into the atmosphere, allowing temperatures to fall quickly after dusk. So, in contrast to the warm, sunny days, the nights are clear and cool, especially this time of year. Although we are seeing temperatures reaching in excess of 20 °C by day, we have seen overnight minima fall below freezing in some areas and many of us are waking up to frosty mornings. With light winds, mist or fog patches are also likely to form.

The weather forecast for the next few days remains settled and warm for much of the country with temperatures in the high teens or low twenties. But later in the week, the area of high pressure will drift to the west of the UK and allow a northerly wind to bring in more cloud and cooler air to all parts, with the chance of a few showers.

 





Citizen science looks at future warming uncertainty

26 03 2012

A project running almost 10,000 climate simulations on volunteers’ home computers has found that a global warming of 3 degrees Celsius by 2050 is ‘equally plausible’ as a rise of 1.4 degrees.

The study addresses some of the uncertainties that previous forecasts, using simpler models or only a few dozen simulations, may have over-looked.

Importantly, the forecast range is derived from using a complex Met Office model that accurately reproduces observed temperature changes over the last 50 years.

The results suggest that the world is very likely to cross the ‘2 degrees barrier’ at some point this century if emissions continue unabated.

It also suggests that those planning for the impacts of climate change need to consider the possibility of warming of up to 3 degrees (above the 1961-1990 average) by 2050, even on a mid-range emission scenario. This is a faster rate of warming than most other models predict.

The research was made possible because volunteers donated time to run the simulations on their home computers through climateprediction.net as part of the BBC Climate Change Experiment. A report of the research is published in Nature Geoscience.

“It’s only by running such a large number of simulations – with model versions deliberately chosen to display a range of behaviour – that you can get a handle on the uncertainty present in a complex system such as our climate,” said Dr Dan Rowlands of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, lead author of the paper. “Our work was only possible because thousands of people donated their home computer time to run these simulations.”

Dr Ben Booth, Senior Climate Scientist at the Met Office Hadley Centre, an author of the paper, said: “There have been substantial efforts within the international community to quantify and understand the consequence of climate uncertainties for future projections. Perhaps the most ambitious effort to date, this work illustrates how the citizen science movement is making an important contribution to this field.”

The model used in the project was supplied by the Met Office and the work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the European Union FP6 WATCH and ENSEMBLES projects, the Oxford Martin School, the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, and Microsoft Research.

You can see this research covered here:

ABC Australia

USA Today

BBC





World Meteorological Day

23 03 2012

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the worldwide meteorological community celebrate World Meteorological Day on 23 March. This year the theme is “Powering our future with weather, climate and water”.

World Meteorological Day 2012 - Powering our future with weather, climate and water

As a world leader in weather, climate and science, the Met Office delivers various products and services to the UK and across the globe, supporting the general public, government and local authorities, the armed forces, civil aviation, media, transport, utilities and most of the industry sector.

From the collection of data around the world, to its processing and analysis, the Met Office provides bespoke weather and climate predictions for specialist customers, and adds value to forecasts for commercial, defence and aviation customers.

Similarly, climate monitoring enables the Met Office to examine and interpret climate variations and change. This is done throughout the atmosphere, oceans and the cryosphere (ice), which enable us to develop predictions of our future climate change. This means that we can plan ahead and explore the impacts of climate change on Earth and human systems such as; water resources, agriculture, ecosystems, health and energy.

From heatwaves to periods of extreme rainfall, the weather can have a significant impact on the water industry. The Met Office is able to forecast the demand for water in a particular area based on this relationship. By working with the Environment Agency and the Flood Forecasting Centre, we have been able to produce a more in-depth knowledge of how different parts of the United Kingdom respond to rainfall, whether it is a fast responding urban catchment or a low-lying rural location with a greater capability to store water.

Weather, climate and water have moulded, shaped and changed our world in the past and it is more important than ever to look forward and understand how they might change things in the future.





Met Office in the Media: 20 March 2012

20 03 2012

There has been widespread coverage of a scientific paper detailing an update to the joint Met Office Hadley Centre and University of East Anglia, HadCRUT global temperature dataset. The paper is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Compiled from temperature observations obtained over land and sea, HadCRUT is used as a basis for a global temperature record going back to 1850. The latest version of the dataset, called HadCRUT4, includes newly available data – notably adding much more information from the sparsely observed northern higher latitude region. Differences in the way sea surface temperature observations have been collected have been taken account of and the new version also provides much more detail on uncertainty.

The amendments do not change the long-term trend. Annual global mean temperature record under HadCRUT3 and HadCRUT4 can be found on the Met Office website.

The BBC reported on the ‘Update for world temperature data‘, while the Telegraph reported ‘World warmed even more in last ten years than previously thought when Arctic data added’. Elsewhere the Mail Online reported that ‘New temperature record confirms world HAS warmed 0.75C since 1900‘. Other reports included the Herald, Scotsman, ClickGreen and the New York Times.

The Telegraph and CCRMagazine.com have written about the Government publication of the Terms of Reference for the Data Strategy Board & the Public Data Group. The Met Office, as part of the Public Data Group, with Ordnance Survey, Land Registry and Companies House is already making data available allowing the public and businesses access to our data that will allow it to be re-used and repackaged.

Real-time weather observation and forecast datasets made available for the first time by the Met Office in November are an example of the kind of data that will promote the creation of high-value businesses, while widening the marketplace and empowering the individual citizen. Following this Golfmagic.com reports on how Marriot Golf has launched a new app which has Met Office weather forecasts embedded into the App.

In other news the BBC reports on the British team that is developing a car that will capable of reaching 1,000mph. The Met Office is supporting Bloodhound SSC (SuperSonic Car), by providing scientific monitoring of the weather ahead of any record attempt. The Mail Online and the Observer both report on the inclusion of Space Weather in the National Risk Register. The Met Office is working with partners in the UK and the US on developing an operational space weather service.





Blog about fog: why has fog been so persistent this week?

15 03 2012

Foggy weather has been especially persistent this week, not clearing all day in some areas of the UK.

Fog forms when relatively moist and mild air close to the ground cools quickly, causing the moisture in the air to condense (at which point it becomes visible to the human eye). This normally happens in autumn and winter under clear skies, which allows heat from the ground to escape quickly to cause rapid temperature drops.

Over the last few days winds have been light with an area of high pressure sitting rather stubbornly over the UK. This creates the ideal conditions for fog to form. As the fog is so dense in places the temperature has not been warm enough to cause the fog to evaporate, such as in more western parts yesterday.  However in eastern parts both yesterday and today the sun has got to work quite quickly on the fog, either lifting it into low cloud or breaking holes in it and eventually clearing it completely.

The fog is expected to clear today, with more changable weather on the way over the next few days. Keep up to date with your local forecast for the latest.

If you want to find out more about fog, have a look at our fog blog, ‘what is fog?‘ or our water in the atmosphere factsheet.





Carol Kirkwood picks up fourth TRIC award

14 03 2012

Met Office broadcaster Carol Kirkwood has been named as the UK’s best TV weather presenter by the Television and Radio Industries Club for a fourth time.

Carol joined the Met Office weather team at the BBC in 1998 and is best known for her weather presenting during morning television on BBC Breakfast but also works for the BBC News Channel, BBC One and, more recently, the Great British Weather show.

Carol said: “This is the jewel in the crown of a fantastic start to the year, which has included presenting to Her Majesty the Queen, and the Sandringham Women’s Institute in January. I’m privileged to work within so many fantastic teams from the forecasters at the Met Office to BBC Weather and BBC Breakfast”

The Met Office in association with BBC Weather provide more than 120 weather broadcasts a day and more than 1,000 hours of television and radio each year – with forecasts for the whole world.








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