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.





Science and Technology Select Committee to explore Met Office Science

19 07 2011

At its meeting on 18 July 2011 the Science and Technology Science Committee agreed to hold an inquiry into Science in the Met Office.

The Committee is focusing on the Met Office Public Weather Service remit and on its science strategy as set out in Met Office science strategy for 2010-2015.

We welcome the Science and Technology Select Committee announcement they are to explore the world-leading science that is undertaken at the Met Office and we look forward to working with them.  

Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist said “I am rightly proud of the science undertaken and technology exploited at the Met Office. Our world renowned science ensures that we are consistently ranked in the top two National Met Services in the world by the WMO and have been recognised as the number one geophysical science research institute in the Times Higher Education Supplement in 2010.”    

This study is a great opportunity for the Committee to learn more about our weather and climate science and how it is applied every day for the benefit of the UK, both domestically and overseas. For example, the Met Office provides public weather forecasts and warnings, services for world-wide aviation, support for UK and NATO troops and the provision of climate science to help create resilient communities. 

If you want to find out more about our science and scientists then you can explore the full range of our work on our website   

The Role of the Met Office

 The PWS remit

 The value of the PWS

 Science Strategy





Met Office in the Media: 14 December 2010

14 12 2010

The current cold weather continues to feature across the media, with widespread coverage of the predicted return to arctic conditions on Thursday this week.  The Guardian reports that the ‘Weather set to take Arctic turn as big freeze returns to Britain’ whilst the Telegraph reports that ‘The second Big Chill set to last a month‘‎. Wales online have reported ‘Arctic blast blowing in on Thursday‘, whilst in Scotland, where there is the risk of significant snow showers in northern and western parts through Thursday and Friday, The Scotsman warns of ‘The disruption: Motorists warned to expect black Thursday’.

There has been much discussion today about whether we will see a White Christmas this year, with some other forecasters coming out and saying it is “guaranteed”. Most weather forecasters would agree that nothing is ever guaranteed in meteorology and regarding whether it will snow on December 25th it is still too early to provide a detailed forecast. More information is in a post made yesterday on a White Christmas.

Elsewhere there has been widespread coverage of new research by Met Office scientists on using lightning to measure the height of the plume emitted from erupting volcanoes. It is hoped this can be used to help in forecasting ash plume movements. EnvironmentalResearchWeb reported that ‘Volcanic lightning could help monitor plume height‘, along with MSNBC and The Economist.

We have also released verification of our North Atlantic Hurricane season forecast this week. The Met Office accurately predicted the above-average North Atlantic tropical storm season again this year, maintaining the excellent record of its forecast since it was introduced in 2007, and more detail can be found in ‘Continued success for tropical storm forecast’.

Finally, The Armstrong and Miller Show on BBC One on Saturday night used Met Office graphics to support a sketch about the difference between weather and climate. Ben Miller gave us a timely reminder that what is happening outside the window right now is ‘weather’, and the long-term trend averaged over many years is the ‘climate’. You can watch this on BBC iPlayer starting at 7 minutes and 5 seconds in.








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