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…





Guest blog: Stay safe this summer with Norfolk’s firefighters

19 07 2013

With summer finally making an appearance Norfolk’s firefighters are offering some timely safety advice.

Every year fire destroys thousands of acres of countryside, forestry and other wildlife habitats across the country. Some fires are started deliberately, but most could easily be prevented by following some simple safety advice.

Roy Harold, Deputy Chief Fire Officer at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “After something of a slow start to the summer to say the least we will all no doubt want to make the most of the sunshine. Norfolk Fire and Rescue has a few simple tips for making sure you and your family stay safe this summer whatever you are planning, be it a barbecue or a boat trip.”

As well as issuing general safety advice about being careful with matches, barbecues and discarded cigarettes fire officers are asking people to please be aware of the following:

  • One of the biggest dangers is people using flammable liquids to light the barbecue. Please prepare well in advance and light the charcoal early.
  • Don’t have a bonfire of any size during a sustained dry period. This is particularly important in rural areas.
  • If you see a fire please ring 999 and ask for the fire and rescue service even for a small fire, it can very soon become a big fire and get out of control.
  • We may be very busy but we are never too busy to answer your call.
  • For anyone working on the land it is essential to have at least one fire extinguisher on your vehicle, preferably water. If possible have a water browser, slurry tanker or sprayer nearby when harvesting or baling.
  • Do not fill your fuel tank completely full during hot weather. Fuel must have room to expand.
  • Anyone planning to use fireworks/Chinese lanterns is asked to exercise caution as a stray firework/lantern is an obvious hazard.

Firefighters are also reminding people to follow the safety advice printed on all barbecues especially disposable ones, following a number of tragic fatal incidents in the UK in the last year.

Mr Harold said: “Our key message is to never take a lit or smouldering barbecue into a tent or caravan awning. Even a smouldering barbecue can give off deadly carbon monoxide for many hours after it’s been used.”

For further fire safety information including Out and About, Fire Safety on Boats, Fire Safety Outside, Camping and Outdoors, Barbecue Safety and Carbon Monoxide – The Silent Killer please visit us at www.norfolkfireservice.co.uk or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

 





Met Office in the Media: 23 June 2013

23 06 2013

There has been further coverage in the weekend papers following a workshop held here at the Met Office HQ in Exeter on a recent run of unusual seasons in the UK.

During the workshop new, early stage research by the University of Reading suggested that long-term Atlantic currents may be playing an important role in wet summers.

These are understood to operate on cycles of a decade or more, which suggests that we may see their influence on our summers for a few more years to come. While these influence the odds of a wet summer, it doesn’t rule out the possibility of decent summers over the next few years. Professor Rowan Sutton of the University of Reading has provided a guest blog which explains the research in more detail.

The Met Office has been at the forefront of global weather and climate science for 150 years through continued investment in our scientific expertise and supercomputing technology.

We use more than 10 million weather observations a day, an advanced atmospheric model and a high-performance supercomputer to create 3,000 tailored forecasts and briefings a day. These are delivered to a huge range of customers from the Government, to businesses, the general public, armed forces and other organisations.

Weather forecasting isn’t an exact science and we know that accuracy is the main driver of peoples trust in the Met Office. Recent surveys show that 83% of people trust the Met Office, 91% of the public said they found our forecasts useful and 76% said they were accurate.

We are an island nation with island weather and we forecast as accurately as we can without bias, regardless of what weather is expected. Our forecasts are right six days out of seven and we are consistently one of the top two operational weather forecasting services in the world. We can’t change the weather, but we like to help in any other way we can.

Unbiased Met Office forecasts and warnings help us prepare for and protect ourselves in times of severe weather and help us enjoy the good weather when it is here.

The Met Office has worked with the tourism industry in recent years to provide detailed forecasts for resorts, beaches and attractions with local forecasts for up to 5,000 locations across the UK. All our forecasts provide local three-hourly detail of the weather with information on the chance of rain so that visitors can plan their day out with confidence and make the most of the great British weather come rain or shine.

We have also made these forecasts easier to access for holiday makers and attraction owners. Our website widget, which attraction owners can embed on their websites, gives visitors instant access to the latest observations, forecasts and warnings, not just for today but for the next five days.

Our award winning free weather apps for Android and iPhone also give easy access to our forecasts and warnings, 24 hours a day anywhere in the UK.

At the time of launch of these local forecasts, Mark Smith, Director of Bournemouth Tourism said: “These new forecasts from the Met Office communicate weather forecast information in clearer, more appropriate and user friendly ways that allow tourists and tourism operators to better plan activities.”








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