How wet has this September been?

1 10 2012

The latter part of September saw some exceptional rainfall in parts of the UK which caused disruption and flooding at times.

With such a great deal of rain falling in a short period of time, some people have asked whether it will make September one of the wettest in our national records going back to 1910.

Provisional early statistics up to 26 September show this isn’t the case, however, with the month looking set to be slightly wetter than average – but by no means a record breaker.

Up to the 26th, UK rainfall is 96.3 mm – which is 100% of the full month average. After 26 days we would, assuming rain falls fairly evenly through the month, expect this to be around 87%.

Of course, rain doesn’t always fall evenly throughout a month – as we saw this September. The first three weeks saw relatively little rain in many areas, but then a particularly active weather system brought four days of persistent heavy rain.

Northern parts of England were particularly badly affected by this, as you can see in the rainfall map below. In the map you can see a band of blue colours across northern England denoting above average rainfall for the month, whereas much of the country is coloured white to denote near-average amounts.

Two brown areas, one across central Scotland and the other in East Anglia, show it has been drier than average here – even despite the heavy rain in the latter part of the month.

 

Temperatures up to the 26 September are also fairly ordinary, being slightly below average. Mean temperature for the UK is 12.2 °C, which is 0.5 °C below the long-term average for the month.

While September looks set to be slightly wetter and cooler than average, the good news is sunshine hours were slightly up – with the UK having seen 126.1 hours of sunshine, 101% of its whole-month average.

Again, we’d expect it to be around 87% after 26 days, so we’re ahead – but not by a record-breaking amount.

So this September is set to go down as a fairly average month overall, but – as is often the case – this belies some very stark contrasts and some less-than-usual weather.

Met Office provisional 1-26 September figures
mean temperature sunshine duration rainfall
Actual Difference from 1981-2010 average Actual % of 1981-2010 average Actual % of 1981-2010 average
degC degC hours % mm %
UK 12.2 -0.5 126.1 101 96.3 100
England 13.2 -0.5 145.2 106 80.6 116
Wales 12.1 -0.8 124.5 97 115.3 99
Scotland 10.4 -0.5 98.6 94 117.2 86
N Ireland 11.8 -0.5 105.3 93 94.0 103
England & Wales 13.1 -0.5 142.3 105 85.4 112
England N 12.4 -0.4 124.0 98 121.4 150
England S 13.7 -0.5 156.4 110 59.0 93




Storm caused by most intense low to cross UK in September in 30 years

26 09 2012

The low pressure system that has brought heavy rain, strong winds and flooding to the UK is the most intense to cross the UK in September for more than 30 years, with the lowest air pressure of 973mb being recorded on Tuesday morning.

Pressure chart at 6am on 25 September 2012

To find a similarly intense low pressure system that affected a wide part of the UK in September you need to go back to 1981, when pressures below 970mb were reported across central parts of the UK.

Like this week, this low pressure system brought unsettled weather as it crossed the British Isles – tracking east over the Isle of Man before heading north to Cumbria, Northumberland, eastern Scotland, Orkney and Shetland.

But what do we mean by ‘the most intense’? The intensity of a low pressure system is measured as the lowest pressure recorded at the centre of the system, as this gives an indication of how active it may be. This will relate to the rainfall amounts and wind strengths associated with it.

However, pressure is only one indicator of how much wind and rain there will be, so it is possible that other systems have resulted in stronger winds or heavier rain in some places than we have seen over the last few days.

Although the storm we have seen this week is certainly unusual in that it crossed central parts of the UK, some parts of the UK have seen pressure systems of this kind of intensity many times before at this time of year. In fact, Met Office records show some 31 occurrences of pressure below 975mb being observed in the UK in September, but the vast majority of these were confined to north and west Scotland, Northern Ireland or the far west of England.

For example a deep low affected the northwest of Scotland with pressure as low as 972mb as recently as 12 September 2011, whilst the Isles of Scilly and part of Cornwall saw pressure as low as 966mb on 7 September 1995. So, with regard to the system which has recently affected the UK, the key to what makes it remarkable is that it has tracked over a wide area of the UK rather than those areas which are more used to storms of this intensity.





Met Office ranked in top ten social brands

29 05 2012

The Met Office has made it into the top ten social brands in the Headstream Social Brands 100 list for 2012. The Met Office came in joint ninth position and was recognised as the top ranked organisation in the services category.

Our Facebook account fared particularly well and was the eighth top performing brand on this platform. On Twitter, we scored highly for speed of response and mentions of other Twitter accounts.

The ranking takes into account the range of engagement across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and our blog.

Charlotte Howells, Social Media and online communications Manager said: “The weather is something we all love to talk about and we want to be at the centre of those conversations about our ever changing weather and climate. We are absolutely delighted to have been recognised by social brands 100 and look forward to carrying on the conversations we are having with the public about the weather.”

The top 100 brands are put through a rigorous and independent judging process with an expert panel of judges from companies including Google, YouTube and Twitter helping to determine the final ranking position.

Social Brands 100 was created by social specialist agency Headstream in 2011 as an initiative to identify and acknowledge those brands leading the way in the social age. Now in its second year, Social Brands 100 has established a position as one of the leading rankings of social media performance.

You can download the full Social Brands 100 report here.





NASA Space Apps Challenge weekend

21 04 2012

Nick Skytland, Programme Manager for NASA Open Government Initiative, has opened the European lead event at the Met Office.

 

An initiative of the Open Government Partnership, the International Space Apps Challenge will showcase the impact that people working together around the world can have on addressing challenges, both on earth and in space.

60 developers, including Met Office employees, will now have the next two days to create, build, and invent new solutions in order to address challenges of global importance. Working together in small teams they will be using Open Government data resulting from space technology. Teams at the event will also be using our recently launched DataPoint web service.

Nick Skytland said “It’s great to be here collaborating with the Met Office and all of the supporting organisations. The Met Office truly represents the future of using Open Data and Open Source to drive initiative across government.”

On Sunday, the teams will present their projects to a panel of judges. Judges at the Met Office are Charles Ewen, Head of Web at the Met Office, Sarah Weller, Marketing Manager at Mubaloo, Dr Nicolas Outram, Associate Professor, School of Computing and Mathematics at Plymouth University and Becky Maynard Head of International Fundraising and Communications for ShelterBox. Each location will then put forward two projects to determine the global winners.





NASA Space Apps Challenge – Growers Nation

17 04 2012

This weekend will see the Met Office linking up with sites across the world for the NASA International Space Apps Challenge.

Challenges from Met Office employees have been accepted, including Growers Nation submitted by Selena Georgiou a Radar Products Scientist.

Grower’s Nation is an app to determine what produce to grow and when given the soil type and current seasonal conditions

This app aims to get more people around the world involved and enthusiastic about growing produce sustainably. This would be done by using the available space in their gardens, school or university grounds or work places that are not currently being used to their potential. This would be displayed on a map that enables people to see quickly and easily when the optimal time for planting seeds is in their local area, and what can be planted, dependent on local soil type.

The eventual aim is to make it an interactive app, with local produce growing enthusiasts contributing to a database of easily accessible and categorised tips and advice resulting from their gardening experiences.

The development of this app will make use of a range of data including climatology, short and longer term weather forecasts, soil type, soil moisture measurements and satellite derived evapotranspiration.





Met Office to host NASA Space Apps Challenge

13 04 2012

The NASA Space Apps Challenge is now just over a week away and the Met Office is hosting the lead event for Europe over the weekend of the 21st and 22nd April.

The Met Office building

A number of challenges, presented by Met Office employees, have been accepted by the International Space Apps Challenge and are being followed by participants across the globe.

One of those accepted is the #HazardMap – Real time hazard mapping by scraping social media. This challenge was submitted by Jo Robbins, Weather Impact Research Scientist at the Met Office and Emma Bee, a Geographical Information Specialist who is on placement at the Met Office from the British Geological Survey.

Currently, gathering real-time, on the ground information of a hazard event such as a flood or earthquake as it happens is largely limited to the professional media. Even then it can take time for journalists to report the situation.

However, as was seen during the Japanese Earthquake in 2010, social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr etc) was used extensively to gain situational awareness. Social media was also used by individuals affected by the disaster as a medium to tell their friends and family that they were safe.

The challenge for this project is to see if real-time information about hazard events can be harvested from social media, or other public data, and presented in such a way that is useful to professionals working within an operational hazard centre environment and the general public.

As well as using open government data, Teams at the event will also be using our recently launched DataPoint web service. This gives access to operational UK weather data and observations as well as exploiting other open data sets available from the Met Office and other participating organisations.





The Met Office and space weather

29 03 2012

The Met Office is commonly associated with producing forecasts for Earth. However, since February 2011, we have been working in partnership with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the British Geological Survey (BGS) to develop a UK-based space weather forecasting service that will monitor the way the Sun’s matter and energy changes and then predicts how these changes are likely to affect the Earth’s environment.

The Sun is constantly moving and changing and often throws out large eruptions of plasma called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) which can cause geomagnetic storms and send currents through power lines if they track towards and reach the Earth. These can then damage transformers and entire power grids. CMEs can also disrupt high frequency radio communications and GPS.

The last major geomagnetic storm affected Quebec, Canada on 13 March 1989 when six million people were plunged into darkness as their power grid failed.

The Met Office Hazard Centre currently has forecasters trained in space weather forecasting, and awareness is being raised across different industry sectors to make them aware of their potential vulnerability and how we can help lessen the risks.

On a slightly different note, many universities are currently using the expertise from the Met Office by utilising our Unified Model of global weather to “forecast the weather” on planets outside of our Solar System, or “exoplanets”. This is not something that the Met Office is independently producing but we are working in partnership with academic and research groups to help them understand how atmospheres react on planets which have different gravitational fields and gases, for example. 

More information can be found about space weather in our online magazine, Barometer.





Citizen science looks at future warming uncertainty

26 03 2012

A project running almost 10,000 climate simulations on volunteers’ home computers has found that a global warming of 3 degrees Celsius by 2050 is ‘equally plausible’ as a rise of 1.4 degrees.

The study addresses some of the uncertainties that previous forecasts, using simpler models or only a few dozen simulations, may have over-looked.

Importantly, the forecast range is derived from using a complex Met Office model that accurately reproduces observed temperature changes over the last 50 years.

The results suggest that the world is very likely to cross the ‘2 degrees barrier’ at some point this century if emissions continue unabated.

It also suggests that those planning for the impacts of climate change need to consider the possibility of warming of up to 3 degrees (above the 1961-1990 average) by 2050, even on a mid-range emission scenario. This is a faster rate of warming than most other models predict.

The research was made possible because volunteers donated time to run the simulations on their home computers through climateprediction.net as part of the BBC Climate Change Experiment. A report of the research is published in Nature Geoscience.

“It’s only by running such a large number of simulations – with model versions deliberately chosen to display a range of behaviour – that you can get a handle on the uncertainty present in a complex system such as our climate,” said Dr Dan Rowlands of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, lead author of the paper. “Our work was only possible because thousands of people donated their home computer time to run these simulations.”

Dr Ben Booth, Senior Climate Scientist at the Met Office Hadley Centre, an author of the paper, said: “There have been substantial efforts within the international community to quantify and understand the consequence of climate uncertainties for future projections. Perhaps the most ambitious effort to date, this work illustrates how the citizen science movement is making an important contribution to this field.”

The model used in the project was supplied by the Met Office and the work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the European Union FP6 WATCH and ENSEMBLES projects, the Oxford Martin School, the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, and Microsoft Research.

You can see this research covered here:

ABC Australia

USA Today

BBC





Space Weather brings potential geomagnetic storm to Earth

7 03 2012

There has been an increase in activity on the Sun over recent days with a number of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) taking place. A high energy X Ray flare was released from the Sun early this morning, and this has sent a very fast CME towards the Earth at speeds up to 2000 km per second. At present this is expected to reach the Earth from Thursday morning.

Working with our partners at the British Geological Survey (BGS), through the Hazard Centre at the Met Office, we have provided advice on the nature of this event so that government and industry can take steps to mitigate the potential impacts a geomagnetic storm may bring, for example to the airline and power supply industries.

Solar Storm Eruption: Coronal Mass Ejection Headed for Earth (Animation courtesy of NOAA)

The impact of this will mainly be in terms of a geomagnetic storm on Earth and we understand some airlines may re-direct flights from polar routes and that the power supply industry may take routine mitigation steps.

This solar event may also increase the chances of seeing the aurora borealis or Northern Lights in the UK. Further information on Viewing Northern Lights in the UK can be obtained from the BGS.

At the governmental level UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have welcomed the growing partnership between the Met Office and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service towards the delivery of space weather advice and alerts. A memorandum was signed between the Met Office and NOAA in February 2011.

The Met Office, as part of its Natural Hazards Partnership, is working with the BGS on developing a space weather capability. We have recently become a member of the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) where a major focus of our activities will be around the influence of solar events on the earth and its surroundings.





Met Office recognised as world-leading by Science and Technology Select Committee

21 02 2012

The Met Office welcomes that the Science and Technology Committee recognises the Met Office fulfils its role as the national weather forecasting service for the UK and is underpinned by a robust science strategy that delivers a cost effective and accurate service for the UK and beyond.

John Hirst, Met Office Chief Executive said: “This endorsement from the Science and Technology Committee affirms the trust the nation has in the Met Office to provide forecasts and warnings when it matters.”

During the course of the review, the committee heard about the importance of the Met Office’s role in providing vital services for the UK and our world-class science. The Met Office is unique, combining world-leading science and operational infrastructure that supports us to ‘pull through’ our science to provide ever better forecasts and warnings.

Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist said: “I am delighted that it has been recognised that the Met Office science strategy has been very well received across the meteorological community. It provides a robust and cost-effective platform for the ‘pull through’ of our science for the benefit of the UK”

The Science and Technology Committee identified the need for additional supercomputing resource. We welcome the committee’s recommendation that further investment would be of value.

However, it is important to recognise that the Met Office has currently not secured any funding for additional supercomputing resource and the figures in the Science and Technology Committee report are purely recommendations.

The Government recognises the importance and value of investment in supercomputing capacity to improve weather and climate modelling. BIS, working closely with the Met Office and other stakeholders across Government, will continue to develop the business case for the next generation of supercomputing capacity.

In the mean time we will continue to provide the world-class forecasts the British public and our customers have come to expect.

Science and Technology Committee Thirteenth Report – Science in the Met Office

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