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.





Spring has sprung

5 03 2014

Warmer, drier weather is on the way for parts of the country.  As we move through the week a north–south divide develops across the UK with Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England and parts of Wales being changeable and windy. However in the south high pressure will dominate  bringing dry weather for the weekend, with the best of the weather in the Southeast.

Temperatures are expected to reach mid to high teens in the South this weekend (8th – 9th March), while northwest England and Scotland are likely to see spells of strong winds and rain and there is a risk of overnight frosts.

This is in sharp contrast to the record breaking winter we have just experienced.  It was the wettest winter for the UK, England, Wales and Scotland, and the second wettest winter for Northern Ireland in the record series dating from 1910. It was the stormiest UK weather for 20 years with at least 12 major winter storms affecting the UK in two spells from mid-December to early January, and again from late January to mid-February.

For a time early next week the temperatures are expected to return to nearer normal, or slightly above, the average for the time of year (9 °C).  High pressure is again expected to dominate through next week leaving largely settled conditions it should continue to feel “spring like” with some sunshine around and light winds.

When does Spring start?

Meteorologically speaking spring stretches from 1 March to the end of May. Astronomically, spring typically starts on the day of spring equinox, around the 20 March in the Northern Hemisphere.

Weather in spring is often calm and dry with temperatures rising in the day but staying cool at night.





Spring on track to be coldest for 30 years

22 05 2013

Early figures from the Met Office show spring (March, April and May) 2013 is on course to be the coldest in the UK since 1979.

Estimates of the mean temperature for the whole season have been made based on data from 1 March up to 15 May as well as an assumption of average conditions through to the end of this month. The final figures could therefore be different, depending on the temperatures we actually see up to the end of May.

The estimates suggest the mean UK temperature for spring will be around 6.1 °C, which would make it the 6th coldest spring in national records dating back to 1910 and the coldest since 1979 when the mean temperature was 6.0 °C.

The estimated figure this year goes against recent form for spring, with eight of the past ten years being above the long-term (1981-2010) average for the season of 7.7 °C.

However, looking further back, the most recent colder spring of 1979 came in the middle of a long run, lasting from 1962 to 1989, of springs which were almost all colder than the current average*.

This year’s particularly cold spring was heavily influenced by an exceptionally cold March which had a mean temperature 3.3 °C below the long-term average. April and May (so far) have been less cold, but have also registered slightly below average mean temperatures.

The colder than average conditions have been caused by frequent east and northerly winds which have brought cold air to the UK from polar and northern European regions.

This spring also looks to be slightly drier than average, with an estimate of about 214 mm of rain which would be roughly 90% of the average amount we would expect through the season. This isn’t that notable when compared with the the springs of 2010 and 2011, which were much drier – notching up 79% and 70% of the average respectively.

Estimated provisional statistics for spring 2013

UK England Wales Scotland NI
Mean temp (° C) 6.1 6.8 6.2 4.7 6.3
Diff from avg (° C) -1.7 -1.7 -1.8 -1.6 -1.5
Coldest since: 1979 1962 1979 1979 1986
Rainfall (mm) 214 158 246 292 240
% of avg 89.8 87.3 84.3 92.3 99

*The Met Office operates 30-year climate averages which are updated every decade. Looking at the 30-year averages of 1961-90, 1971-2000 and the current climate averages of 1981-2010, you can see the average mean temperatures for spring have increased over that period. This means defining what is ‘below-average’ depends on which 30-year period is used. All references in this article use the current 1981-2010 climate averages.

30-year period                 Average spring UK mean temperature

1961-1990                                            7.1 °C

1971-2000                                            7.4 °C

1981-2010                                            7.7 °C





Warm but unsettled weekend ahead as cold eases grip on UK

10 04 2013

The UK is set to see some warmer temperatures this weekend as the colder than average weather seen so far this April eases its grip.

Temperatures have been steadily climbing since the exceptionally cold weather towards the start of the month, with today through to Friday set to see double-digit figures for many places.

On Saturday temperatures will be generally between 11 and 13 °C, feeling much milder than recent days. However, the weather will be wet, fairly windy and unsettled for many parts – with the best of any drier and brighter weather in the south and east.

Forecast chart for midday Saturday shows low pressure moving in from the Atlantic to bring mild but wet and windy weather for most of the country. High pressure still dominates in the south and east, bringing the best of any drier and brighter weather.

Forecast chart for midday Saturday shows low pressure moving in from the Atlantic to bring mild but wet and windy weather for most of the country. High pressure still dominates in the south and east, bringing the best of any drier and brighter weather.

Warmest day of the year so far

Sunday looks set to be the warmest day of 2013 so far, with temperatures expected to be widely in the mid-teens Celsius. While the weather will be slightly more settled than Saturday, many places will see cloudy and breezy conditions with a risk of some light showers.

Once again the south and east will see the best of the weather, with drier and brighter conditions and temperatures of 15-18 °C – with a possibility that some isolated spots could reach around 20 °C.

Leading in to next week temperatures look set to cool slightly, but remain around average for the time of year.

Jet stream shift brings milder weather

The reason for the shift away from the colder weather is the re-alignment of the jet stream, a band of fast moving westerly winds high up in the atmosphere which tends to guide Atlantic weather systems. It’s these weather systems that bring us the mild and unsettled weather we normally expect at this time of year.

During the prolonged cold conditions the jet stream tracked far to the south of the UK, guiding those mild weather systems towards the Mediterranean. The UK, meanwhile, saw an easterly flow – bringing in cold conditions from the cold winter climes of north-east Europe.

Now the jet stream has started to shift its track, moving north to a position more in line with what we’d expect at this time of year. This means we expect to see milder, but also more unsettled weather coming in from the Atlantic over the coming week or so.





Is there a UK ‘heatwave’ on the way?

25 03 2013

There have been some headlines today suggesting the Met Office has forecast a ‘heatwave’ by the end of spring.

The articles reference a line from our March to May three-month outlook for contingency planners which refers to how our Spring weather can change depending on where large areas of ‘blocking’ high pressure systems lie in relation to the UK – something we recently wrote about when contrasting the weather this March to that of last year.

This is not, however, a forecast of what the weather is expected to be like at the end of the spring or whether a ‘heatwave’ is likely or not, but is an indication of how average temperatures may differ from normal throughout the whole three month period of March, April and May.

Clearly this is the time of year when temperatures rise in response to the sun getting higher in the northern hemisphere sky, the days get longer and continental Europe warms up. So we will undoubtedly get some warmer spells of weather as the months go on and these will be picked up in our accurate five-day forecasts, as well as our forecasts out to 30 days ahead, which gives a more general view of the weather ahead over a longer-timescale. It is our accurate five-day forecasts and weather warnings provide the best possible advice and detail on what weather to expect in the UK.

This week is set to remain very cold with further wintry flurries in places.





Spring swing brings colder weather and snow

7 03 2013

Frosty fence

We’ve had some very mild conditions this week with welcome sunshine pushing temperatures into the high teens. However, in a classic spring swing, colder weather is on the way as we head into the weekend.

By Saturday, we will see a return of easterly winds which will bring in much colder air from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Snow is expected across some eastern parts of the country over the weekend. By the start of next week, most of the UK will see daytime highs in low single figures with some frosty and icy nights.

So how unusual is it to see cold weather and snow in March?

The UK’s weather is very much at the mercy of where our winds come from, and throughout spring we can see sudden swings in the weather conditions. If we look back to last year we had very high temperatures at the end of March as the UK was under the influence of high pressure and light south-easterly winds. This year, this week’s south-easterly winds are now giving way to colder easterlies.

What about snow?

Statistics show that snow is more likely in March than around Christmas. As we know, heat from the sun increases as we head towards summer and this can lead to some interesting weather in March. With more heat from the sun the ground warms up more quickly and gives very unstable air, which can lead to a greater number of showers. Warmer air also holds more moisture so showers can give heavier rainfall. If this combines with cold air we can potentially see some heavy snowfall. However, easterly winds tend to be dry and so substantial snow fall is not expected over the next week.

As always, the Met Office will be working with different agencies to keep Britain on the move, and to keep people safe and well during periods of cold weather. The latest forecasts and warnings can be found online, through our mobile apps and through TV and radio broadcasts.





The start of the meteorological spring

1 03 2013

Spring

For statistical and historical reporting purposes, in meteorology, spring begins on the 1 March and ends on the 31 May. For many people though, spring begins on the date of the spring equinox, 20 March.

Although spring can be determined by calendar dates, the natural variability within the atmosphere means that, as far as the weather is concerned, year to year differences vary widely. Last spring was sunnier and warmer than average, while spring 2011 was exceptionally warm and dry. It’s too soon to tell what weather we will see this spring, but you can see the outlook for the next 30 days on our website.

Today is also St David’s Day, see our events pages for the latest weather in your area.





When does Autumn start? Defining seasons

20 09 2012

Seasons are fundamental to how we understand the UK climate and the environment around us, but how do we define when they start and end?

In meteorological terms, it’s fairly simple – each season is a three month period. So, Summer is June, July and August; Autumn is September, October and November, and so on.

Of course, this is fairly arbitrary, but provides a consistent basis for the Met Office, as the holder of the UK’s national weather and climate records, to calculate long term averages and provide seasonal climate summaries from year to year.

Mike Kendon, of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre, said: “Defining seasons in this way means we can compare weather from one season or year to the next. It also has the advantage that each season is roughly the same length, neatly dividing the year into four quarters.

“Looking at longer timescales, our recently updated 30-year averages can show us how ‘normal’ seasons are changing over time, giving us clues about trends in the UK’s climate.”

Astronomical definitions of seasons also exist – using the Earth’s position relative to the Sun as the cue for separating one season from another via equinoxes and solstices.

So the Summer begins around the Summer Solstice, when daylight hours are at their longest (around 21 June), and ends around the Equinox, when days and nights are of equal length (around 21 September, on 22 September this year). Thus astronomical Autumn begins, continuing until the Winter Solstice, when daylight hours are at their shortest (around 21 December), and so on. Astronomical seasons therefore are about three weeks behind the meteorological ones.

One thing both methods have in common is that the dates are fixed by the calendar and don’t take into account what is actually happening in nature, which is after all how most of us understand the notion of seasons.

So comes the third method, which is based on phenology – the process of noting the signs of change in plant and animal behaviour.

In this distinction, Autumn may be deemed to have arrived at the first tinting of oak or beech trees, the appearance of ripe sloes or elderberries and the arrival of winter migrant birds such as redwings and fieldfares. Winter begins when native deciduous trees are bare, and so on.

For more than a decade The Woodland Trust has been using observations from thousands of members of the public to build a phenological record for the UK, called Nature’s Calendar. This builds on records going back over much longer periods of time.

It aims to give a comprehensive view of how nature defines the seasons in a record which takes into account how weather in individual years or longer term changes to climate may affect natural signs from one year to the next. As such it is a more fluid, natural definition of our seasons.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite, project manager for Nature’s Calendar for the Woodland Trust, said: “Taken individually the observations of what’s going on in nature provide only anecdotal evidence, but taken as a whole and analysed with temperature data, they offer a powerful insight into local and national impacts of environmental and climatic change.

“For example, our data shows that, on average, native trees are producing ripe fruit 18 days earlier than a decade ago, with a potential consequence being that animals’ food reserves could become depleted earlier in the winter. In contrast, leaf fall, indicating the end of the growing season, is often much later nowadays than in the past.”

Ultimately, however you choose to define them, it is weather and climate which govern the perception of the passing of seasons for plants and animals, including us humans.

So, like our weather, the exact timing of when we ‘feel’ one season is over and a new one has begun will always be liable to change. Whereas, in contrast, the meteorological seasons always remain fixed by calendar month.

Between the Met Office’s climate records and our forecasts up to a month ahead, you can stay up-to-date with what’s going on with the UK’s weather and climate.





How often does it snow in May?

15 05 2012

Reports of snow showers in parts of the UK over the past 24 hours and the prospect of more on high ground tonight may seem a little out of context at this time of year, but is it unusual?

Snowfall at this time of year isn’t an annual event, so it’s not completely normal, but it’s fair to say it’s not completely unusual either. We last saw snow in May all the way back in… 2011, just last year, and we also saw more snow in 2010.

If we look back through the records dating back to 1910, the snowiest May on record was most likely in 1979 when 342 weather observation sites reported snow on 2 May.

This snowy spell lasted through the whole of the first week of that month. The light snow showers we’ve seen this May seem slight in comparison.

Besides these wintry showers, much has been made in the media of the ‘cold spell’ which is ‘gripping’ the UK this month and the rather unsettled weather we’ve had.

While many people associate May with the start of summer weather, it can actually be a month of very mixed and variable conditions – with wide contrasts possible.

This is borne out by the piece of old weather lore:

 

Ne’er cast a clout,

Until May is out.

 

While this rhyme is a bit ambiguous and open to interpretation, one view is that this means don’t throw out your winter clothing (from clout – which means thread or cloth) until May is over – presumably because you can expect virtually any type of weather at this time of year.

So, unsettled and cool weather – even with snow or frosts – isn’t out of context in May despite perceptions that it’s typically a warm and sunny time of year.

This week really sums that up. We are expecting some night-time minimums which are below average – isolated areas in Scotland and northern England could get down to freezing or just below.

During the day, however, temperatures in places could get to 15C or above in parts of southern England – and it may even feel quite warm when the Sun is out, particularly in spots sheltered from the wind.

There will also be some rainfall this week, but many places will see sunny and dry spells too.

So, don’t throw away your summer wear yet – nor your winter woolies.

 





What’s causing the warm weather in the UK?

27 03 2012

Temperatures continue to break records across parts of the UK. Cromdale in Moray reached 23.2 deg C on Monday breaking the record set the day before for the warmest March day in Scotland.

Following on from our post yesterday ‘Why is it so warm?‘ we have put together a video explaining the meteorological reasons behind this fine spring weather. We also provide an outlook for the rest of the week.

 








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,642 other followers

%d bloggers like this: