The Met Office’s outlook to the end of 2014

5 10 2014

There are some headlines in the media today which suggest the UK faces another mild, wet and stormy winter this year based on the latest Met Office three month outlook for contingency planners.

Every month the Met Office updates its three month outlook for contingency planners, which is available for anyone to view on our website.

However, it’s not like a normal weather forecast. It’s an experimental and complex outlook based on probabilities which is designed specifically for those who plan ahead for various contingencies based on possible likelihoods.

As we’ve discussed previously, the outlook assesses the likelihood of five different scenarios for both temperature and rainfall for the whole of the UK for the whole three months, based on the most probable prevailing weather patterns.

It’s a bit like the science-equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race and like any horse race, it’s always possible the favourite won’t win.

This is why the outlook has to be used in the right context. So it’s useful for contingency planners, but not that useful for the public who want to know when we might see unsettled weather or which weekend looks good for an outdoor event.

What does the current outlook say?

Our latest three-month outlook suggests an increased risk of milder and wetter than average conditions for the period Oct-Nov-Dec based on our seasonal forecasts and those from other leading centres around the world.

However, there are still substantial probabilities that average or opposite (ie cool and/or dry) conditions may occur. This is because there are many competing factors that determine what our weather will be like in the coming months.

The outlook also highlights an increased risk of unsettled weather relative to what is usual for the time of year, but – again – there are still reasonable chances of other scenarios.

The increased risk of more unsettled than average conditions does not mean the late autumn and early winter will necessarily be like that of last year.

Some more context on the outlook

 

The outlook suggests that the risk of our weather coming in from the Atlantic, which brings unsettled conditions, increases from mid-October through November and December.

This is a fairly typical set up for the time of year, when we do expect unsettled weather, but the outlook does suggest the risk of more unsettled than normal conditions.

As the outlook covers the transition from autumn into the start of winter, there will be big changes in how UK weather is influenced by prevailing weather patterns during the period.

The current settled conditions bring us generally warm weather in early autumn, but the same weather pattern in winter would likely bring cold weather in from the rapidly cooling continent.





Latest wind and rain data as ex-hurricane Bertha crosses the UK

10 08 2014

As forecast ex-hurricane Bertha is crossing the UK today (10 August 2014) bringing heavy and strong, gusty winds.

ex-hurricane Bertha crosses the UK on 10 August 2014

ex-hurricane Bertha crosses the UK on 10 August 2014

 

The heaviest rainfall overnight was recorded at Balatasound in Shetland where 48.8mm of rain was recorded as a previous low pressure system moved away from the UK, while Bute Park in Cardiff saw 40.6mm as the remnants of ex-hurricane Bertha move in from the southwest.

The highest hourly total was 18.4mm at Wisley in Surrey between 9 and 10am this morning and Coventry in the West Midlands seeing 18.2mm in the same time.

The table below shows a selection of the rainfall recorded at Met Office observing sites across the UK between 10pm on Saturday 9 August and 10am on Sunday 10 August 2014.

12hr UK RAINFALL 10pm 9 Aug to 10am 10 Aug 2014
SITE NAME AREA Rainfall (MM)
BALTASOUND SHETLAND 48.8
CARDIFF, BUTE PARK SOUTH GLAMORGAN 40.6
MILFORD HAVEN CONSERVANCY BOARD DYFED 37.0
SCOLTON COUNTRY PARK DYFED 35.4
ST ATHAN SOUTH GLAMORGAN 34.4
PERSHORE COLLEGE HEREFORD & WORCESTER 28.2
USK NO 2 MONMOUTHSHIRE 27.6
ASTWOOD BANK HEREFORD & WORCESTER 26.0
PERSHORE HEREFORD & WORCESTER 23.6
MURLOUGH DOWN 23.2
TREDEGAR, BRYN BACH PARK GWENT 22.8
KILLOWEN DOWN 22.4
WHITECHURCH DYFED 22.2
CHIVENOR DEVON 22.0
COVENTRY, COUNDON WEST MIDLANDS 21.8
WISLEY SURREY 21.2

The winds have picked up as well with a gust of 53mph being recorded at Berry Head, Devon betwen 5am and 6am this morning. The table below shows the wind speeds recorded between 1am and 10am today.

UK MAX GUST SPEED 10 AUG 1am to 10am
DATE / TIME SITE NAME AREA MAX GUST (MPH)
10/08/2014 0600 BERRY HEAD DEVON 53
10/08/2014 0300 BALTASOUND SHETLAND 52
10/08/2014 0800 SCILLY: ST MARYS AIRPORT ISLES OF SCILLY 51
10/08/2014 0900 CULDROSE CORNWALL 48
10/08/2014 0200 SELLA NESS SHETLAND 48
10/08/2014 1000 WIGHT: NEEDLES OLD BATTERY ISLE OF WIGHT 46
10/08/2014 0800 MUMBLES HEAD WEST GLAMORGAN 44
10/08/2014 0300 LERWICK SHETLAND 44
10/08/2014 0900 CAMBORNE CORNWALL 43
10/08/2014 0900 SOLENT HAMPSHIRE 41

The rain will continue to move north across the UK during the rest of today and the winds will stay strong and gusty and we encourage everyone to keep up to date with the latest forecasts and national severe weather warnings.





The Met Office’s outlook for the UK summer 2014

9 06 2014

There are headlines in the media today which suggest the Met Office is forecasting that this summer will be one of the hottest on record. However, the Met Office hasn’t issued a forecast along these lines.

The news stories are based on information taken from our three month outlook for contingency planners, so let’s take a closer look at that.

What does our three month outlook say?

As we’ve discussed previously, this outlook assesses the level of risk connected to five different scenarios for both temperature and rainfall for the whole season. It’s a bit like the science-equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race.

However, as with any horse race, it’s always possible that the favourite won’t win – so these probability scenarios have to be used in the right context. This is why they’re useful for planners and businesses who plan ahead based on risk, but not that useful for the general public who would like to know which fortnight in August will have the best weather for a holiday.

The current outlook for the whole of the June-July-August period for the whole of the UK says the chance of the warmest scenario happening is 25% and the chance that the period will fall into the coldest scenario is 10%.

So, while the current three month outlook suggests there is a higher chance of above average temperatures than below average, it does not tell us about the type of weather we may see.

Above average temperatures could be reached by milder nights, as can occur in summer in cloudy and wet conditions (for interest, average maximum temperatures for the UK in summer are about 18.6C and average minimum temps are about 10.2C). There is also only a small forecast signal for summer rainfall and therefore, we cannot make any strong assumptions about the weather we’ll see.

We saw a good example of this recently – the UK has just had the third warmest spring on record but the season didn’t have long stretches of blue skies and high temperatures. Instead we saw mixed weather with a lot of mild nights which contributed to the overall above-average conditions.

So, what will the summer be like?

Obviously there’s always a lot of interest to know what summer will be like – how hot will it be, how much rain will we get and where and when will it fall?

Our 30-day outlook (under the text forecast tab) provides a look ahead to the general type of weather we’re likely to see in the UK.

Currently it says that after today, the weather is expected to settle down with many areas having some warm sunshine, although showers are still likely in the northwest.

From mid June to early July, the indications are that the weather will be close to what is climatologically normal for this time of year – giving us a tendency for occasional spells of unsettled weather interspersed with fine and warm spells, much as we have seen recently.

If there is any sign of significantly hot spells or heavy downpours in the forecast, we will keep the country up to date through our forecasts and warnings. Our ‘Get Ready for the Great British Summer’ webpages also provide useful tips and information to make the most of the summer months, whatever the weather.





The Met Office’s outlook for UK winter 2013-14

21 02 2014

There are some headlines in the media today discussing the Met Office long range forecast for this winter.

Firstly it’s important to remember that it’s our short and medium term forecasts that are relied on by emergency responders to help them manage the impacts of severe weather.

The Met Office’s five-day forecasts and severe weather warnings have provided excellent guidance throughout the period of exceptionally stormy and wet weather we have experienced this winter. This advice has helped everyone from the emergency services, to government organisations and the public plan ahead for the conditions we’ve seen.

The news stories are based on information taken from our three month outlook for contingency planners, issued at the end of November 2013 so, what can our three month outlooks tell us?

These outlooks are not like our other forecasts because, as we have discussed previously, it’s not currently scientifically possible to provide a detailed forecast over these long timescales.

Instead, the outlook assesses the level of risk connected to five different scenarios for both temperature and rain/snowfall for the UK as a whole; they do not mention specific areas such as the West Country or the Somerset Levels. It’s a bit like the science-equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race.

However, as with any horse race, it’s always possible that the favourite won’t win – so these probability scenarios have to be used in the right context. This is why they’re useful for contingency planners who plan ahead based on risk, but not that useful for the general public.





Met Office in the Media: 16 February 2014, response by Professor Mat Collins and the Met Office

17 02 2014

An article by David Rose appeared yesterday in the Mail on Sunday entitled: ‘No, global warming did NOT cause the storms, says one of the Met Office’s most senior experts’

In it he says that Mat Collins, Professor in Climate Systems at Exeter University, ‘appears to contradict’ the report released by the Met Office last weekend and that he ‘declined to comment on his difference in opinion’ with one of the report’s authors, Dame Julia Slingo.

This is not the case and there is no disagreement.

The report by the Met Office states that “As yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change to the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding. This is in part due to the highly variable nature of UK weather and climate.”   This agrees with the latest IPCC Report that states: “Substantial uncertainty and thus low confidence remains in projecting changes in Northern Hemisphere storm tracks, especially for the North Atlantic basin.”

This is the basis for Prof Collins’ comment and means that we are not sure, yet, how the features that bring storms across the Atlantic to the UK – the jet-stream and storm track – might be impacted by climate change. As the Met Office report highlights for this year’s extreme conditions, there are many competing factors – from changes in the winds of the upper atmosphere to disturbed weather over Indonesia.

What the Met Office report – and indeed the IPCC – does say is that there is increasing evidence that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense. It is clear that global warming has led to an increase in moisture in the atmosphere – with about four per cent more moisture over the oceans than in the 1970s – which means that when conditions are favourable to the formation of storms there is a greater risk of intense rainfall. This is where climate change has a role to play in this year’s flooding.

With respect to changes in storminess, the good news is that recent advances in climate science are starting to pay dividends. Improved spatial resolution in models – that means that they can model weather and climate in more spatial detail – is allowing the models to represent some of the key factors that drive regional weather patterns. As the Met Office report states ‘With a credible modelling system in place it should now be possible to perform scientifically robust assessments of changes in storminess, the degree to which they are related to natural variability and the degree to which there is a contribution from human-induced climate change.’





Cold snap expected

3 12 2013

The UK is going to see a very short, sharp, cold snap.  From Wednesday night (4th Dec) into Thursday morning (5th Dec) Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland will see some strong winds, while Scotland will see some wintry showers and snow.  However temperatures will return to normal as we head through the weekend, and be more in line with what should be expected for December.

A rapidly deepening Atlantic depression is expected to move in an easterly direction to the north of Scotland bringing westerly gales, with gusts of 60 to 70 mph extending southwards across northern and some central parts of the UK on Wednesday night and Thursday.  Northern Scotland could see gusts of 80mph, and potentially 90mph for a time.

Because of this the Met Office has issued a Yellow Severe Weather Warning for strong winds. The public should be aware of possible disruption to travel, especially across Scotland, parts of Northern Ireland and Northern England.

The winds are expected to veer northerly and bring the colder arctic air southwards across northern areas before easing into Friday. The winds could exacerbate high tides and may increase the risk of coastal flooding in the Northern and Western Isles and along the East Coast of England.

A Yellow warning for snow is also in place. It runs from 6am Thursday to 12 noon on Friday, covering the northern half of Scotland, snow showers are expected to be most frequent across the Northern Isles, the North Highlands and northern Aberdeenshire.  Low laying areas could see 2 – 5cms of snow and higher altitudes 10 – 20cms. In addition the strong winds could lead to some drifting of snow and possibly blizzard conditions on higher ground.  Icy conditions may also develop on some roads across Scotland on Thursday night and Friday morning.

This winter storm is not expected to be as powerful as those in January 2012 and December 2011

This is expected to be a short-lived cold snap, with temperatures quickly recovering to near normal over the weekend.

Our video explains what to do during a Yellow warning for wind. You can also download a weather warnings widget for your website.





Typhoon Haiyan makes landfall over the Philippines

8 11 2013

As predicted Typhoon Haiyan made landfall late yesterday evening (UK time) over the central Philippines.

Typhoon Haiyan will have caused catastrophic damage near the centre of its track through the Philippine islands of Samar, Leyte and Panay. In addition to the strong winds, the storm surge and heavy rain will also have caused major impacts in these regions. The typhoon is now moving out into the South China Sea. Over the next couple of days it is likely to lose some strength before making another landfall in northern parts of Vietnam on Sunday, although is still expected to be a typhoon.

Typhoon Haiyan at 2230 UTC on 07 November 2013 as it made landfall. Image from NOAA.

Typhoon Haiyan at 2230 UTC on 07 November 2013 as it made landfall. Image from NOAA.

At the time of landfall the estimated central pressure of the typhoon was 895 mb and sustained winds averaged over one minute estimated at 195 mph with higher gusts. These estimates are based on well attested satellite techniques, but without observations exactly in the path of the eye of the typhoon it is impossible to confirm their accuracy. However, this is likely to make Haiyan one of the most intense tropical cyclones to make landfall in history.

Forecast track of Typhoon Haiyan from the Japan Meteorological Agency. (http://www.jma.go.jp/en/typh/images/zooml/1330-00.png) NOAA.

Forecast track of Typhoon Haiyan from the Japan Meteorological Agency.

In 1969 Hurricane Camille made landfall over the southern USA with sustained winds near 190 mph and in 1935 a hurricane which passed over the Florida Keys had an observed central pressure of 892 mb.

In terms of all time records, Typhoon Tip in 1979 holds the record for the lowest pressure in a tropical cyclone measured at 870 mb and the strongest wind gust ever recorded in a tropical cyclone was 253 mph in Cyclone Olivia off the north-west coast of Australia in 1996. As things stand these records seem likely to remain for the time being.

Regional warnings for Typhoon Haiyan are produced by the Japanese Meteological Agency (JMA) and the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). The Met Office routinely supplies predictions of typhoon tracks from its global forecast model to regional meteorological centres worldwide, which are used along with guidance from other models in the production of forecasts and guidance. Met Office model data and guidance is also used by Project NOAH in part for warning the government and the Filipino population.

Met Office StormTracker provides a mapped picture of tropical cyclones around the globe with access to track history and six-day forecast tracks for current tropical cyclones from the Met Office Unified Model and latest observed cloud cover and sea surface temperature. We also provide updates on current tropical storms via @metofficestorms on Twitter.





The severe storm this weekend and why it’s not a hurricane

26 10 2013

There is much coverage of the storm heading our way later this weekend with mentions of it being a ‘hurricane’. This is not strictly correct as we don’t get hurricanes in the UK and this is why.

Hurricanes are warm latitude storms; they draw their energy from warm seas and can only begin to form where the ocean is warmer than 26 degrees Celsius or so, and can really only become a major storm when the sea is warmer than 28 degrees Celsius. That’s like a warm bath, so you won’t find one around the UK anytime soon!

Other limitations, like wind patterns in the upper atmosphere and the forces caused by the Earth’s rotation, mean hurricanes are normally found in an area between 8 and 20 degrees north of the equator.

You can find a full explanation of what hurricanes are and how they form on our What are hurricanes? video

The storm which is due to develop tomorrow night and affect the UK during Monday is a mid latitude storm, the sort which affect us through the autumn and winter. These are formed in a very different way – by the meeting of different air masses on what is known as the polar front, leading to low pressure (storms) forming, often around the latitude of the UK.

The storm which is due tomorrow is expected to bring very strong winds and heavy rain, and we are warning of winds gusting 60-80 mph quite widely and locally over 80 mph, especially on exposed coasts, both in the southwesterly winds ahead of the low centre and west to northwesterly winds behind it.

Winds of that strength are classified on the Beaufort scale as ‘hurricane force 12’ but that is not the same as being a hurricane. Winds of this strength could bring down trees or cause structural damage, potentially causing transport disruption or power cuts and we are working closely with the resilience community to ensure they are prepared for the expected conditions.

You can find practical advice about what to do in winter weather on our Get Ready for Winter website.





Winter Forecasting – Responding to the headlines

12 10 2013

Once again it is the season for speculation and big headlines regarding what the weather will do over the winter period. The front page of the Daily Express today claims: ‘Worst winter for decades: Record-breaking snow predicted for November’.

We saw similar headlines last year and instead winter 12/13 ended up being only the 43rd coldest on record with an average temperature of 3.3C and flooding until the turn of the year.

What the Daily Express has failed to explain to its readers is that there is absolutely no certainty about what weather the UK will see over the winter period. The science simply does not exist to make detailed, long-term forecasts for temperature and snowfall even for the end of November, let alone for the winter period, which does not officially start until 1 December.

While we have seen a return to more normal, cooler temperatures for this time of year, this is no indication of what we can expect over the next four months with regards to temperatures and when we might see snow. It is far too early to tell.

Ultimately, we’re heading into winter and it is perfectly possible that we will see the whole range of weather that we get in winter at some point over the coming months, including snow and freezing temperatures, but also heavy rain, windy weather and mild conditions too.

Our five day forecasts and warnings will provide you with the best possible guidance on any periods of cold weather, frost or the likelihood of snow, giving detailed local information across the UK to help you make the most of the weather over the coming months.





September weather summary

11 10 2013

September opened with some fine, warm, sunny weather. After a brief stormy period mid-month, the second half was quieter and more typical of autumn.

The provisional UK mean temperature was 12.8 °C, which is 0.1 °C above the 1981-2010 average. The UK overall received 73% of the average rainfall amount for this month and there was provisionally 93% of the long-term average hours of sunshine. Visit our climate section for a full written summary of the month.

Your pictures

Thank you for sharing your pictures of September weather on Twitter. Here are some of our favourites…








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