Guest blog: ‘Risk of summer drought at normal levels’

17 06 2014

There have been some reports in the press that the Met Office has warned dry weather this June could bring a return of drought conditions to the UK – this is not the case. Here Victoria Williams, Water Resources Advisor at the Environment Agency, explains what the real risks are at the moment:

Every week we measure water resources in England to assess how dry the soils are and how much rain they can soak up, the amount of water flowing in rivers, stored below ground in aquifers and above ground in reservoirs, and the outlook for the coming months.

As we move into summer the overall water resources situation across England is looking generally healthy. This is not surprising given England has experienced the wettest six month period (Dec-May) on record.

Regionally it has also been a record breaker with the wettest six months experienced in southeast and southwest England and the second wettest in central and northwest England.

All our rivers have responded to the rainfall and are currently within normal ranges.  Groundwater levels throughout England are within normal ranges and are now starting to recede as expected for the time of year.

We also look ahead by modelling how rivers and groundwaters may respond to different future rainfall patterns over the summer. The results shows a broadly positive picture even if rainfall is below average and point to the risk of drought this summer being no greater than average.

However it is still as important as ever to use water wisely. If the weather does turn hot and dry there can be localised impacts on rivers, the environment and for farming. If this happens we work with abstractors to reduce the effects where possible and water companies will keep their customers informed if needed.

For more information see the Environment Agency water situation reports.





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.





Early figures suggest third warmest spring on record

30 05 2014

Early statistics from the Met Office National Climate Information Centre show that this has been one of the warmest springs in records dating back to 1910.

Based on figures up until 28 May and then assuming average conditions to the end of the month, the mean temperature for the UK for the season is 8.97 °C, third warmest in the records (beaten by 2007 with 9.05 °C and 2011 with 9.15 °C).

Looking at specific countries, it is currently the third warmest spring for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, it has been particularly warm in Scotland compared to average. Depending on temperatures in the final three days of May, this spring could be Scotland’s warmest since records began with a current mean temperature of 7.63 °C, just above the record set in 2011 of 7.61 °C.

Each of the three months of spring have seen above average temperatures. The figures for May up to the 28th of the month show it has been 0.8 °C above the long-term average for the UK.

This continues a run of six months where the UK mean temperature was warmer than average, with all the months from December through to April each being at least 1 °C warmer than the long-term average.

Apart from the above average temperatures, statistics for May otherwise show it has been duller and wetter than average so far.

Sunshine is down compared to the long-term average, with the UK having seen 141.8 hours which is 76% of what we would normally expect.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have seen particularly low levels of sun – Scotland has seen 103.8 hours which is 58% of the average, and Northern Ireland has seen just 51% of its average with 92.9 hours.

Rainfall statistics for May show that it has been a wet month so far, with the UK having seen 97.7mm of rain which is 140% of the long-term average.

When it comes to rainfall for spring overall, it has been only slightly wetter than average. The figures show that spring is about 7% wetter than the long-term average.

Northern Ireland actually had a slightly drier spring, with only 91.8% of the average rainfall.

 

Mean Temperature Rainfall
Spring* Actual Diff from Avg Actual % of Avg
degC degC mm %
UK 8.97 1.23 255.1 107
England 9.76 1.24 201 111
Wales 9.04 1.03 295.5 101
Scotland 7.63 1.3 339.8 107
N Ireland 9 1.12 222.7 92

*Please note these are projected numbers that include statistics from 1 March to 28 May, then assume average conditions for the final few days of the season. They may not accurately represent the final full-season figures.

 

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall
May** Actual Diff from Avg Actual % of Avg Actual % of Avg
degC degC hours % mm %
UK 11.1 0.8 141.8 76 97.7 140
England 12 0.8 170.6 90 91.1 156
Wales 11.1 0.5 138 74 124.2 145
Scotland 9.7 0.9 103.8 58 102.9 122
N Ireland 11.2 1 92.9 51 90.1 124

** Please note these are preliminary statistics from 1-28 May. The final figures will change once statistics from the final few days of the month are included.





Rain over the Bank Holiday Weekend, with more to come

27 05 2014

The Bank Holiday weekend saw a good deal of dry and bright weather in places, but there was also heavy rainfall in some spots over the three days with some significant rainfall totals.

Much of England and Wales had a wet Saturday as rain pushed northwestwards with heavy, and thundery showers following.

Sunday brought heavy showery rain to western and northern parts of the UK, with 25 mm of rain falling in three hours around the Edinburgh area.

Heavy rain pushed in from the southeast on Bank Holiday Monday, whilst to the west and north of this there was some sunny weather, but also heavy and thundery showers for Cornwall, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Here are the highest UK rainfall totals for each of the three days of the Bank Holiday:

 

Rainfall totals from 0900 Saturday 24 May – 0900 Sunday 25 May
Site Area Amount (mm)
Liscombe Somerset 32.2
Usk Monmouthshire 29.0
Tredegar Gwent 23.4
Okehampton Devon 22.5
Waddington Lincolnshire 22.0
Sheffield South Yorkshire 22.0

 

Rainfall totals from 0900 Sunday 25 May – 0900 Monday 26 May
Site Area Amount (mm)
Edinburgh, Gogarbank Midlothian 26.2
Cardinham Cornwall 17.8
Edinburgh, Royal Botanic Garden Midlothian 17.4
Tyndrum Perthshire 17.2
Camborne Cornwall 14.2

 

Rainfall totals from 0900 Monday 26 May – 0900 Tuesday 27 May
Site Area Amount (mm)
Wattisham Suffolk 31.2
Brooms Barn Suffolk 25.4
Cavendish Suffolk 21.8
Charsfield Suffolk 19.2
Cambridge Cambridgeshire 17.0

 

Looking ahead through the rest of this week there is more rain to come, particularly for eastern and northeastern England, while Scotland (especially the north) has the best of the warm, sunny weather.

Suffolk has already seen heavy rainfall through Tuesday morning with over 30 mm of rainfall at Wattisham through the first 9 hours of the day.

This is going to push northwards through Tuesday into Norfolk and Lincolnshire. A Met Office yellow warning has been issued to warn of rainfall amounts reaching around 30mm in some spots which could lead to some localised flooding.

There are also going to be some heavy showers over southern parts of Wales and parts of the West Country.

Wednesday will again be wet for many, especially around northeast England with parts of Yorkshire at risk of over 30 mm, for which another yellow rainfall warning has been issued. With strengthening winds this will make it feel quite unpleasant at times.

More showers or longer spells of rain are expected for Thursday, before things should turn generally drier, brighter and warmer by the weekend.





Met Office predicts below average Atlantic hurricane season

22 05 2014

The Met Office Atlantic tropical storm forecast for 2014 is for 10 tropical storms between June and November, with a 70% chance that the number will be in the range 7 to 13. The long-term average over the period 1980–2010 is 12 tropical storms.

Specifically for hurricanes (storms with winds of at least 74 mph) the best estimate is 6, with a 70% chance that the number will be in the range 3 to 9; the 1980–2010 average is 6 hurricanes.

The most likely value for the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index — a measure of the strength and duration of storms over the season — is 84, with a 70% chance that the index will be in the range 47 to 121; the 1980–2010 average ACE index is 104.

An image of Hurricane Sandy taken on October 28, 2012.  CREDIT: NOAA/NASA GOES Project.

An image of Hurricane Sandy taken on October 28, 2012. CREDIT: NOAA/NASA GOES Project.

The evolution of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) over the next few months will likely play a large part in the North Atlantic hurricane season.

Joanne Camp, climate scientist at the Met Office, said: “El Niño conditions in the Pacific can hinder the development of tropical storms in the Atlantic whereas La Niña conditions can enhance tropical storm activity, so how these conditions develop will be important for the storm season ahead.”

Current evidence from observations and forecast models indicates a 70% chance of an El Niño event developing this year, with thresholds likely to be reached by the peak of the hurricane season. This is no guarantee, however, that El Niño conditions will occur.

The tropical storm forecast is produced using the Met Office’s new seasonal prediction system GloSea5.

It has higher resolution than its predecessor, with better representation of the complex physical processes that cause tropical storm and hurricane development.

The forecast also uses information from the seasonal prediction system of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).

For regular updates on tropical cyclones worldwide follow @metofficestorms on Twitter.





Balkan flooding

19 05 2014

Over 100mm of rainfall was recorded over Bosnia and Serbia during Wednesday and Thursday last week (14th & 15th May 2014), with media reports of much higher rainfall accumulations in places.

The heavy rainfall was caused by a slow moving area of low pressure through the whole depth of the atmosphere

The subsequent flooding was reported to be the worst in 120 years in Bosnia since records began in 1894. A state of emergency has been declared in 18 towns and cities, including Belgrade. The Serbian Prime Minister declared this the greatest flooding disaster ever, with more than four months worth of rain falling on one day. Rivers across the region are now believed to be at record levels.

The system that caused the heavy rainfall has now moved away eastwards with predominately dry weather expected for the rest of this week. Temperatures are expected to be close to normal for the time of year with relatively light winds.  However the longer range forecast shows the potential for further heavy rainfall next week.

There have been reports in the media that the flooding has sparked a mass evacuation with fears that flooding and mudslides could expose landmines left by the Bosnian war.

River gauges show many of the rivers have peaked, but despite the dry forecast for the next few days there are concerns (from local hydromet departments) that river levels may rise again on Tuesday evening (20th May) and Wednesday morning(21st May) on the River Sava and River Danube.  Further flooding could threaten a major power station on the River Sava.





End personal attacks on scientists – regardless of their views

19 05 2014

The Met Office’s Chief Scientist, Professor Dame Julia Slingo, is appealing for an end to personal attacks on scientists – no matter what their viewpoint on the climate debate.

Her call follows recent articles in the media claiming that some scientists have felt pressured due to their views.

Professor Lennart Bengtsson, a research fellow at the University of Reading, featured in the articles after saying he was worried by a wider trend that science is being ‘gradually influenced by political views’. You can read a statement from him and other climate scientists in response to the articles on the Science Media Centre’s website.

In a letter, published in The Times today, Professor Dame Slingo says scientists should be free to review and debate their research without fear of personal attacks.

You can read the full letter below:

Sir

Your articles on the recent events surrounding Prof. Lennart Bengtsson are not a true reflection of the way the climate community conducts its research. My position, and my passion, is that all scientists – no matter what their viewpoint – must be free to review and debate their research unfettered and without personal attacks.

Science is about seeking the truth and acknowledging the uncertainties in what we currently know; it cannot be about subjective, unscientific beliefs and personal attacks of the kind that some of us have had to endure.

Just as we are very clear that climate models do not give us a definitive answer about the possible magnitude of future warming, neither do the estimates from observations as some in the climate sceptic community would claim.

I welcome scientific debate with those whose research challenges my understanding of climate change and scientists have a well established and robust peer review process for doing this. This process is there for good reason because it ensures the debate is rigorous but never personal.

Professor Dame Julia Slingo
Chief Scientist
Met Office





Guest Blog: Ten Tors 2014

9 05 2014

Ten Tors 2014 begins this evening and the Met Office, as part of its Public Weather Service will be providing specific forecasts for the event throughout the course of the weekend to organisers as well as to members of the public through the events pages on the website.

Here Ronnie Jones, from the South West Army Press Office explains a bit more about the event:

The Army, which runs the Ten Tors challenge, relies heavily on The Met Office for its dedicated weather forecasts which are specifically created for the event. Ten Tors is called a challenge for a reason and the weather often plays a leading role in making it so tough for the teams of teenagers trekking 35, 45 or 55 miles over some of the highest peaks in southern England, and navigating by themselves across the emptiness of one of the last true wildernesses in Britain.

This year the weather is already playing a big part in Ten Tors, and the challenge hasn’t even begun! Unfortunately several days of rain have made the usual car park on the site at Okehampton Camp unusable.

Brigadier Piers Hankinson, Director of the Ten Tors explains why:

“I have conducted a further assessment of the condition of the car parks. Unfortunately the state of the ground has deteriorated severely as a result of the poor weather conditions today.

“While I am still content that I will be able to get all team vehicles into the car park, the condition of the ground has made it impossible for us to accept spectators’ cars on Saturday. Only team vehicles will be admitted into Okehampton Camp.

“I have arranged for a Park and Ride system to be operated from Okehampton College but be aware that the parking is very limited at 200 cars. Please consider the lack of available parking when planning your journeys and share vehicles where possible.”

The weather is set to play a further part as we head into the weekend, with the Met Office warning of gale force winds for parts of South West England and forecasting heavy showers throughout Saturday.

For up-to-date weather forecasts over the course of the event you can visit the Met Office’s Ten Tors events page and more information on the event itself can be found on the official Ten Tors website.





May Bank Holiday – Fine and dry for most

29 04 2014

Despite some reports, Met Office forecasters are expecting pleasant weather for many over the Bank Holiday weekend, with a good deal of dry weather, rising daytime temperatures and some spells of strong sunshine at times.

Although air of polar origin moving southwards will cause much colder nights on Thursday and Friday this week, bringing air frost to some northern parts, daytime temperatures are set to recover quickly and most parts of the UK will begin to feel pleasantly warm in the sunshine this weekend.

After a chilly start on both Saturday and Sunday, many places will see dry conditions with clear and sunny periods. The best of the sunshine will be in southern and eastern areas. Some northern and western parts may be cloudier with outbreaks of rain and drizzle. However, where conditions are brighter on Sunday and Monday temperatures should be above average making it feel pleasantly warm.

Although it is too early to be certain, indications are that many parts of the country will have a fine and warm Bank Holiday Monday.

Check our local 5-day forecast for the weather forecast in your area.





Met Office weatherman in Camp Bastion

22 04 2014

Met Office meteorologist Simon King has just returned from Afghanistan where he has been part of a crack team forecasting the weather for our Armed Forces. He has been working with the Met Office’s Mobile Met Unit (MMU) which gives advice on the potential impact of weather on armed operations.

Simon King, MMU, Camp Bastion

Simon King, MMU, Camp Bastion

Simon has been a Met Office meteorologist for eight years and is also an Officer in the Royal Air Force Reserve having completed tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a war zone weather can have a major influence on military operations and during his most recent tour in Afghanistan, Simon says his forecasts helped “forewarn of a major thunderstorm which turned the ‘normal’ dirt and sand into very unpleasant muddy conditions and enabled the military to take appropriate action mitigating any major impacts to their operations.”
The MMU is a sponsored RAF reserve unit made up of around 50 Met Office volunteers who have undergone military as well as meteorological training. They help the UK’s Armed Forces and allies understand the impact of weather on military activities and can help keep troops safe.

Simon explains: “Work at the Met Office in Camp Bastion is intense, with four members of staff providing 24/7 cover doing both observations and forecasts. While the weather and forecasting is a challenge, we are also working in a hostile environment with numerous threats.”

On his most recent tour temperatures were much cooler than the average and perhaps not quite as warm as people might think for a desert. While Simon was there temperatures were around 5/6 °C or lower at night with maximum temperatures around 16-20 °C, occasionally reaching 25 °C.

In addition to his work for the military Simon King also presented the weather on 5Live Breakfast one morning live from Afghanistan. He says “as I had access to the same meteorological information in Camp Bastion as I would at my desk in the UK, it wasn’t an issue to put together a UK forecast. In fact, as Afghanistan is four and a half hours ahead of the UK, it did mean there was no 4.15am alarm call and the first broadcast was at 11am!”

As well as working in Afghanistan MMU advisors work closely with our armed forces involved in other operations and exercises in the UK and overseas. A reliable and efficient delivery system, managed by a team of dedicated MMU Engineers, ensures our advisors have access to the most up-to-date weather information, when ever and where ever they need it. This includes outputs from our high-resolution forecasting models and support from many other Met Office teams such as IT, Science, Observations, and Operations.








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