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.





Stats reveal so-so September

2 10 2013

Provisional Met Office statistics show September has been fairly average for the UK, with lower than average rainfall being the only notable feature.

The UK mean temperature for the month was 12.8C, which is just 0.1C above the long-term (1981-2010) average. It’s the same story with maximum and minimum temperatures, which at 16.6C and 8.9C respectively, are both 0.1C above the long-term average.

September UK rainfall as a % of 1981-2010 average

September UK rainfall as a % of 1981-2010 average

There were 115.8 hours of sunshine in the UK during the month which adds up to 93% of the long term average – again, fairly normal. However, there were some big regional differences. Sunshine amounts were below normal in the west and south, but near or above normal in the north and east. For south Wales and south-west England this was provisionally the dullest September since 1994.

When it comes to rainfall, it has been a drier than average month for the UK. There was 70.7mm of rain during September, which is 73% of the long-term average. Parts of Wales, eastern England and Scotland had less than half the normal amount. For Scotland overall this was provisionally the driest September since 2003.

The drier than average September continues a theme for 2013 as a whole, with every month this year apart from May registering below average rainfall.

You can explore Met Office statistics on our UK Climate pages.

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall  
September Actual Diff to Avg Actual % of Avg Actual % of Avg
  degC degC hours % mm %
UK 12.8 0.1 115.8 93 70.7 73
England 13.7 0.0 126.1 92 54.5 78
Wales 13.1 0.3 104.0 81 79.6 68
Scotland 11.2 0.3 104.9 100 95.1 70
N Ireland 12.7 0.3 98.1 86 69.3 76




July finishes in top three sunniest and warmest

2 08 2013

Met Office figures show that, with a mean temperature of 17 °C, July 2013 was the third warmest in the national record going back to 1910, behind 2006 (17.8 °C) and 1983 (17.3 °C).

This July’s heatwave was more notable for its duration than its intensity, although it is not particularly unusual in a historical context. The last year in which 30 °C was not recorded at any station was in 1993. However, this July stands out in contrast to the run of unsettled summers from 2007 to 2012, and was the most significant UK heatwave since July 2006.

Through the month we saw high pressure sitting over the UK bringing a prolonged period of high temperatures between Saturday 6 July and Thursday 24 July, when a maximum of 28 °C was recorded at one or more locations on each of those 19 days.

The last time the UK saw such a long period of hot weather was August 1997 which also had a 19- day run of high temperatures. The highest temperature for July 2013 was recorded jointly at Heathrow and Northolt on 22 July (33.5 °C). (Although this high temperature has already been surpassed in August, with 34.1 °C recorded at Heathrow on 1 August.

July 2006 still stands as the hottest month on record in the UK with a mean temperature of 17.8 °C and also saw the record July temperature of 36.5 °C at Wisley (19 July 2006).

The heatwave broke on 22 July with thunder and some very heavy downpours. The wettest day in July was in Cumbria, when 79.8mm of rain fell at Carlisle on 28 July (97.4 mm on a 48 hour rainfall total between 0900 GMT 27 July to GMT 29 July 2013).

Looking at the individual countries, the hottest day in Scotland was on 20 July (30.5 °C) at Glenlee, with Castlederg in Northern Ireland and Porthmadog in Wales recording their highest temperatures on 19 July (30.1 °C and 31.4 °C respectively). England’s hottest day was also the aforementioned UK’s hottest day (33.5 °C on 22 July Heathrow and Northolt).

July’s UK rainfall total was 64mm, with Scotland receiving near normal levels at 83.1 mm and the whole of England drier than average at 52.3 mm (but with Northern England registering above average rainfall with 75.8 mm and Southern England below average at 39.8 mm). Wales (58.0 mm) and Northern Ireland (78.2 mm) were slightly drier than average.

Statistics:

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall  
July Actual Diff from Avg Actual % of Avg Actual % of Avg
  degC degC hours % mm %
UK 17.0 1.9 250.7 145 64.1 82
England 18.1 1.8 274.1 142 52.3 83
Wales 17.2 2.0 288.9 161 58.0 63
Scotland 15.2 1.9 205.8 146 83.1 84
N Ireland 17.0 2.4 227.3 162 78.2 96




April drier and colder than average

2 05 2013

After the wettest April on record in 2012, provisional full-month Met Office figures show this April has been slightly drier than average in the UK.

Rainfall throughout the UK was 64 mm this year, compared to the 1981-2010 average of 72.7 mm. That’s considerably less than the 128 mm we saw last year.

There were big regional differences in April rainfall this year. Scotland saw 121.2 mm of rain which is above the 91.1 mm average and Northern Ireland saw 75.2mm, almost spot on the 75.0 mm average.

However, both England and Wales saw well below average rainfall. Wales had 50.3mm, compared to an average of 89.3mm, and England saw 30.4mm, compared to an average of 58.7 mm.

The month was characterised by generally cold and dry weather, following on from the theme set in March. Despite this, April registered as only slightly colder than average with a mean UK temperature of 6.3 °C, which is 1.1 °C below the 7.4 °C long-term average.

This is the same mean temperature as recorded in April 2012. To find a colder April than the last two years, you have to go back to 1989 – which saw a mean temperature of 5.5 °C.

Scotland saw the coldest temperatures compared to country specific averages, with a mean temperature of 4.8 °C, which is 1.3 °C below average – and is the same temperature as recorded in 1998.

The warmest day of the month was 25 April at Faversham in Kent when the temperature recorded was 23.1°C.

In terms of sunshine, Scotland was sunnier than the rest of the UK with hours of sunshine totalling 170.9, followed by Northern Ireland with 168.0, England at 167.7 and Wales at 162.7 hours.

This compares with only 127.9 hours of sunshine in April last year throughout the UK. The sunniest April in the last 10 years was 2007 with 203.5 hours.

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall
Apr-13 Actual Diff to Avg Actual Diff to Avg Actual Diff to Avg
degC degC hours % mm %
UK 6.3 -1.1 168.4 114 64 88
England 7.2 -0.9 167.7 108 30.4 52
Wales 6.4 -1.2 162.7 105 50.3 56
Scotland 4.8 -1.3 170.9 127 121.2 133
N Ireland 6.5 -1.1 168 115 75.2 100




Cold weather continues across the UK

30 11 2012

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/image/b/i/old_lady_image.jpg

The drier, colder and frosty weather currently affecting the UK has given some significant relief to those who have been hit by the heavy rain and floods over the last week or so. However, cold weather presents its own problems to the public too, not just from frost, ice and snow, but from its impact upon our health.

The link between the onset of cold weather and its effects on health is documented extensively in research journals, in the UK. Older people are particularly at risk as they do not feel the cold until their body temperature falls. People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) also have a significantly increased risk of ill-health and hospitalisation during periods of cold weather and high levels of circulating respiratory infections. So many people are affected by the wider impacts of cold weather.

From 1 November 2012, the Met Office launched its Healthy Outlook® service, which is a telehealth alert service, available to patients through participating GP practices. Upon registering, patients receive a pack full of useful tips and contact information to keep them well during the winter months. Each registered patient will also receive a recorded voice call when conditions are forecast that are expected to increase the risk of symptoms becoming worse. The alert aims to give COPD patients sufficient advance warning to avoid the cold weather and keep well. The service aims to minimise the likelihood of a COPD-related exacerbation for patients and the consequential hospital admittance.

Katie Russell, Business Health Manager at the Met Office, said: “Even short periods of extreme cold temperature can cause serious illness for COPD patients. The Met Office has created Healthy Outlook® to help people with COPD take control of their own health. We monitor environmental conditions and warn people when their health is likely to be affected, giving them the opportunity to take action to stay well.”

As well as our standard service, we are also trialling Healthy Outlook® in selected high street retail pharmacies across the UK. This trial of the service will allow people to still take advantage of Healthy Outlook® even if their primary care trust (PCT) has not signed up. Healthy Outlook® is also available for the first time, online, through an e-pharmacy, giving further reach and support to those suffering from COPD.

Jane Devenish, Clinical Services Pharmacist at The Co-operative Pharmacy, said: “Offering Healthy Outlook® online means those who may be unable to leave the house can have access to this simple, yet effective service to help them prepare for periods when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and so they can reduce the risk of their condition flaring up.”

Forecasters at the Met Office are predicting more unsettled weather during next week but it looks like it will remain on the cold side, so it is important to stay up to date with the latest forecasts and warnings.





Sunny March, wet April – how the jet stream is (partly) to blame

26 04 2012

UPDATE: We’ve written a further post explaining a little more behind the continuing dissapointing weather that we have seen through the summer so far.  You can read this at ‘The UK’s wet summer, the jet stream and climate change*

After an unusually dry, sunny and warm March, April has seen some very wet and unsettled weather with below average temperatures. So what has caused this about-turn in the UK’s weather? There are many factors which can impact the notoriously changeable weather in the UK, so no single one on its own can be said to be fully responsible. However, it is possible to isolate contributing factors and, in this case, one of those is the northern hemisphere jet stream. This is a narrow band of fast flowing westerly winds (ie blowing from west to east) in the high atmosphere. This band moves around and also changes its track, from a fairly straight line to something more closely resembling a meandering river. Its position can, and does impact weather in the UK and other parts of the northern hemisphere. In both March and April we have seen what we term a ‘blocking pattern’ in the jet stream, where it meanders north and south instead of making its more usual eastward progress. Despite this, March was the 3rd warmest and 5th driest March in the all-UK record going back to 1910, while April has so far been relatively cool with rainfall already 30% above the average for the whole month across England and Wales. So what is causing the difference? It comes down to the position of the blocking feature. In March, the meandering of the jet stream caused it to pass to the north of the UK – anchoring high surface pressure over the UK. This suppressed cloud, increased sunshine and temperatures, and prevented the usual rain-bearing Atlantic weather systems coming in from the west from reaching us. Soon after the start of April, however, the whole pattern moved westwards, so the peak of the northerly meander moved over the North Atlantic Ocean. The UK, in contrast, found itself under the adjacent southerly meander, with the jet stream passing to the south of the UK over France and Spain. This atmospheric set-up brings low surface pressure, cloud and rain. Because the pattern is still blocked, without a west-to-east jet stream to blow the weather system through, the low gets stuck over the UK, resulting in high rainfall totals overall. Like the weather, we can predict the path of the jet stream with a good deal of accuracy up to about five days ahead but it is more difficult to give detail on longer timescales. Therefore it’s not possible to say exactly what the jet stream will be doing in a month’s time, for example, or exactly how it will impact our weather. You can find out more about the jet stream in our YouTube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpsRQtk6IfM

 





A tale of two halves for February and winter

28 02 2012

As February and winter draw to a close, early statistics show that both have been stories of two halves.

We often talk about why you can’t pre-judge a month or a season at its half-way stage, and the latest figures perfectly illustrate why that’s the case.

The mean temperature for the first half of February was very low as cold weather gripped the UK – particularly in England where temperatures were 4 °C colder than the long term (1971-2000) average.

If you’d projected those figures out to the end of the month you would have expected one of the coldest Februarys on record.

However, the second half of the month (figures go up 26 February) has seen some exceptionally mild weather to balance things out and we have ended up with a rather average month for overall UK mean temperature which so far, was just 0.1 °C above average.

This story of two halves can be seen in the maps below, with the blue colours denoting lower than average temperatures in the half-month figures on the left, and the more balanced situation by the end of the month on the right.

Winter, which meteorologically speaking runs from December to February, has been a fairly similar story – but in reverse.

A mild December and first half of January meant we had a very mild first half of the season, which led to some media headlines mooting one of the mildest winters on record.

However, the last few days of January and the first half of February were colder than average, bringing the overall temperature for the season down.

With a couple of days still to go, the early statistics show the UK’s mean temperature for winter is 0.7 C above average, making this a mild winter – comparable with several other mild winters in the last decade.

One common theme between this February and winter as a whole is dry weather – particularly for the south and east of the UK.

February was particularly dry, with the UK having seen just 62% of the normal amount of rainfall we’d expect for the whole month by the 26th. With a few days left, this is unlikely to change by much.

England was the driest country, having so far seen just 43% of the rainfall we’d expect for the month and Wales not far behind at 49%.

Winter has also been dry overall in England, with just 82% of the rainfall expected for the season and Wales has seen 89%. This is slightly balanced out in the statistics by Scotland being wetter than normal over the season, seeing 116% of its normal rainfall.

The relative lack of rainfall for February and the season as a whole can be seen in the two maps below, with the brown colours denoting drier than average weather for the month on the left and for the season on the right.





Very mild start to November

17 11 2011

The first part of November has been very mild, dry and quite sunny across the UK, according to provisional Met Office climate figures.

The UK average temperature for 1-15 November was 9.4 °C, which is 3.5 °C higher than the long term average. The warmest district of the UK so far this month has been East Anglia where the average temperature was 11.2 °C, some 4.5 °C above the long term average for the area.

We would normally expect the first half of November to be warmer than the second as we transition towards winter (which, meteorologically speaking, starts in December). However, even bearing this in mind, the temperatures seen in the first half of this month have been much warmer than normal.

Rainfall amounts have been well below normal across the UK for the first half of the month. The UK has seen 25.6mm of rain so far which is well below the level you would expect at the mid point of the month.  Northern Scotland has seen the driest weather with just 10.9mm of rain being recorded, a mere 6% of the monthly average.

Rainfall 1-15 November 2011

As you might expect from the low rainfall amounts we have also seen a fair amount of sunshine during the first half of the month. The UK has seen 61% of average for the month with 35.9 hours and Northern Ireland has seen a full months worth of sunshine in the first 15 days with 55.4 hours.

  Average temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall
Location 1-15 Nov 2011 Difference from 71-00 monthly average 1-15 Nov 2011 Percentage of 71-00 monthly average 1-15 Nov 2011 Percentage of 71-00 monthly average
UK 9.4 °C 3.5°C 35.9 61 % 25.6 mm 22 %
England 10.2 °C 3.8 °C 29.2 45 % 26.9 mm 32 %
Wales 9.5 °C 3.0 °C 43.5 75 % 36.3 mm 23 %
Scotland 8.1 °C 3.4 °C 41.3 86 % 20.3 mm 12 %
Northern Ireland 9.0 °C 2.9 °C 55.4 100 % 27.7 mm 25 %

For the UK, the warmest November on record was 1994 with an average temperature of 8.8C; and the driest was in 1945 when 22.1 mm fell.

However, with more than two weeks of weather still to come and temperatures expected to return to more normal levels before the month is out, it’s too early to say where this November will sit in the record books.

 





Spring rainfall shows big contrasts across the UK

27 05 2011

Provisional Met Office climate figures for spring 2011 indicate that rainfall amounts across the UK have varied widely from north and west to south and east.

Even though further rain is expected across much of the country before the season ends, parts of the east and south are likely to be heading towards their driest spring on record. These records date back more than 100 years to 1910.

For statistical purposes, the meteorological spring is the combined months of March, April and May and provisional figures are from 1 March to 25 May.

The driest region has been East Anglia, where rainfall amounts show that only 17mm of rain has fallen, just 13% of the long term spring average which is 134.9mm.

However, at the opposite of the country, parts of north and west Scotland have had a wet season, with Argyll recording 538.6mm of rain, well above the long term average of 422.0mm.

This table shows rainfall figures for Spring across the UK. All figures are provisional up to 25th May 2011.

Location Actual (mm) 1 March to 25 May Percentage of 1971 to 2000 average Long term spring average (mm)
UK 164.9 mm 71 % 231.7 mm
England 65.4 mm 36 % 179.4 mm
Northern Ireland 180.6 mm 78 % 232.2 mm
Scotland 336.3 mm 111 % 304.1 mm
Wales 128.6 mm 45 % 285.4 mm

This map shows rainfall figures for Spring across the UK as a percentage of the 1971-2000 long term average. All figures are provisional up to 25th May 2011.

Map showing UK rainfall as a percentage of the 1971-2000 long-term average

The big differences in rainfall pattern across the UK, illustrate just how varied the weather can be over the country. ‘Blocked’ weather patterns have kept many southern and eastern counties dry but Atlantic weather systems and their rain-bearing fronts have affected regions further north and west.

Spring featured high temperatures especially during April, helping to make it one of the warmest springs on record. However, with several more days to go we need to wait until next week to see if it becomes a record-breaker.

Across the UK, the Bank Holiday weather forecast looks set to offer rather changeable conditions, with a mixture of bright or sunny spells but also some rain or showers at times.





Met Office in the Media: 04 May 2011

4 05 2011

There has been widespread coverage of the April climate statistics following what has been the warmest and 11th driest April on record. The Met Office appeared on the BBC One, Six and Ten O’Clock News as well as the News Channel, BBC Radio Four 6 O’Clock News and the ITV News.   The effects of the dry and warm weather have been felt in some areas with many news channels reporting on the heathland and moorland fires in the UK and on the impacts of the fine weather on farming.

The Met Office is working closely with the Environment Agency and water companies regarding water resources and is also working with the National Farmers Union on the current spell of dry weather, its impacts and the weather in the coming weeks.

The Met Office is also working closely with a number of Fire and Rescue services across the UK, helping them with forecasts of wind and weather to support their continued efforts of bringing the wildfires under control. Breezy weather over the last few days has hampered efforts, but winds are now gradually easing and this will help the firefighters in their efforts.

The impacts of weather have been recorded in business as well with Thornton’s reporting that the fine weather has negatively affected business, while conversely the fine spring weather has boosted sales at Next. The weather is known to impact retail business and the Met Office offers a range of services to support the retail sector manage the weather.








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