Recent climate research in the news

21 05 2013

A research paper published in Nature Geoscience (Otto et al, 2013) led to a fair amount of media coverage yesterday, including articles in the Guardian, BBC and an opinion piece by Matt Ridley in The Times (this article is behind a pay wall).

The research paper looked at a ‘best estimate’ of the warming expected when the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere is doubled over pre-industrial levels (known as the Transient Climate Response).

Alexander Otto, Research Fellow in Climate Decisions at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, was the lead author of the research.

He has written an article discussing the science and the implications of the research which can be seen on the Research News pages on our website.

Here is a short extract from Alexander Otto’s article :

“We published a paper in Nature Geoscience on Sunday giving a new best-estimate of 1.3°C for the Transient Climate Response, or the warming expected at the time carbon dioxide reaches double its pre-industrial concentration, using data from the most recent climate observations.

This best-estimate is lower than the HadGEM2 [one of the Met Office climate models] TCR value of 2.5°C and it is also 30% lower than the multi-model average of 1.8°C of the CMIP5 models used in the current IPCC assessment. Does this mean that the Met Office’s advice to government is based on a flawed model? Certainly not.

It is well acknowledged by all that the HadGEM2 model is at the top end of the range of TCR values in CMIP5, but we need a diverse range of TCR values to represent the uncertainties in our understanding of climate system processes. And the Met Office’s advice to government, like any solid policy advice, is based on the range of results from different models, not just their own.

The ‘warming pause’ over the recent decade does not show that climate change is not happening. And it certainly does not mean that climate scientists are “backing away” from our fundamental understanding.

Every new decade of data brings new information that helps reduce uncertainties in climate forecasts. In some ways, the picture changes surprisingly slowly for such an intensely scrutinised problem… This study highlights the importance of continued careful monitoring of the climate system, and also the dangers of over-interpreting any single decade’s worth of data.”





Big Bang Fair twitter interviews with Dallas Campbell and Simon Watt

13 03 2013

Ahead of the Big Bang Fair, which starts tomorrow, we held Twitter interviews with science communicators Dallas Campbell and Simon Watt. In case you missed the interviews and their excellent answers, you can see them in full below.

Going to the Big Bang Fair? Come and see us in the Met Office science zone (stand 31) to have a go at presenting your own weather forecast, chat to Met Office staff or have a hands-on science experience.





Weather satellite set for launch

17 09 2012

Metop-B, the second of the EUMETSAT Polar orbiting satellites, which provide data for use by meteorologists and climate scientists at the Met Office and around the world, will be launched today.

Metop-B is scheduled to be launched by a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, at 17:28 BST and once in orbit will collect critical data for weather forecasters, such as the Met Office.

Using satellites to help create weather forecasts

Along with its partner satellite Metop-A, it will orbit the earth from pole to pole at an altitude of around 800 km, taking measurements including temperature, humidity and  cloud properties, as well as snow and ice cover, sea surface temperature and land vegetation.

All of this data is fed into the Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) models that produce our weather forecasts up to 10 days ahead. NWP is the basis of all modern global and regional weather forecasting, providing forecast advice, severe weather warnings and other support to public and private decision making.

Information from the Metop satellites has become indispensible to weather forecasters. A recent study by the Met Office demonstrated that Metop-A observations contribute close to 25% of the performance of numerical weather prediction (NWP) forecasts.

The data gathered by Metop have revolutionised the way the Earth’s weather, climate and environment are monitored, both in the short term and in monitoring climate over decade-long data series of temperature, humidity, cloud cover and atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen dioxide.

David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science said: “I welcome the launch of Metop B which will enable the Met Office to stay at the forefront of weather forecasting and climate monitoring. I am also very pleased that a crucial piece of onboard instrumentation, the microwave humidity sounder, was built and designed in the UK, demonstrating our leading role in this area of technology.”

You can watch a live stream of the launch of Metop-B at http://www.livestream.com/metop from 15:30 BST  this afternoon.

You can also read the transcript of the  twitterview between the Met Office and EUMETSAT that was held last week.





‘Spot on’ snow forecast supported by latest science from the Met Office

6 02 2012

Over the weekend our highly accurate forecasts of heavy snow and widespread ice enabled the country to prepare for the hazardous conditions helping to keep the country moving.

At Heathrow Airport, for example, snow arrived within ten minutes of when Met Office forecasters had predicted – giving vital guidance for those managing the situation.

This level of forecasting accuracy is far from easy to achieve, however. Snow is an example of a small-scale weather feature, affected by a number of variables and notoriously difficult to forecast.

The Met Office is using cutting-edge developments to improve the accuracy of forecasts in these challenging situations which deal with so-called ‘small scale’ weather.

This includes things like intense rain showers or thunderstorms – which can be just a few hundred metres across, or weather which depends on fine details of the land surface, such as snow or valley fog.

These types of weather can be very difficult to represent in forecasting models, which are the computer generated simulations of what the atmosphere – and weather – will do next.

Because the weather at a particular location is influenced by much larger scale weather patterns, models need to be run on a global scale even just to forecast for the UK.

Forecast models require a very large number of calculations and, with the computing power available, the global model the Met office runs uses a grid-scale of 25km (i.e. every grid-box is 25km x 25km).

At this resolution, large scale weather patterns will be well reproduced but the model will be unable to capture the detail of small scale weather. To tackle this, the Met Office has developed UKV.

This involves running a version of the model which focuses on the UK, allowing a much smaller 1.5km scale to be used. Information is fed in to the edges of UKV from the 25km global model.

The 1.5km grid-boxes enable UKV to capture things like snow much better, leading to improved forecasts in many situations.

In most situations, even with a 1.5km grid, current science and technology does not enable the prediction of the exact location and timing of each shower that passes over the UK. However, the increased detail gives a better indication of the character of the weather and could be useful for giving probabilistic forecasts – which give the chances of, for example, rainfall in a given place at a given time.

As well as the the 1.5km weather model helping with our forecasts in the last couple of days, they also helped with the accuracy of our snow forecasts in the very cold and snowy weather at the end of 2010. Back in November of that year, we saw numerous heavy snow-showers being carried inland from the sea in a NE wind caused significant disruption in the north east of England. The picture below shows that for the coarser 12 km model (NAE) showers stall over the coast causing a major underestimate of snow inland. This is a well known problem with models of this grid length. In contrast, the UKV is able to represent the showers more realistically and brings the showers inland, producing a much better forecast. The UKV better represents what actually happened as shown by the radar image to the left.

24 hour accumulations for 25 Nov 2010 from UKV and 12 km (NAE) models compared to that actually observed by radar. This shows an example of the advantages of a high resolution models

We are continuing to look at ways of even further improving the accuracy and detail of our forecasts. You can find a more in-depth article about UKV in our Research News section.








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