Cyclone Quartet Straddle the Pacific Ocean

8 08 2014

In the last few days a quartet of tropical cyclones have been active across the Pacific Ocean. For a period of time all four were simultaneously of hurricane intensity (winds greater than 74 mph). This is the first time this has happened in the Pacific Ocean for 12 years. Here we take a look at each of the storms and their likely impact.

Typhoons Halong and Genevieve and Hurricanes Iselle and Julio seen on 7 August 2014 Original images courtesy of University of Wisconsin

Typhoons Halong and Genevieve and Hurricanes Iselle and Julio seen on 7 August 2014
Original images courtesy of University of Wisconsin

Typhoon Halong formed near the US island of Guam and has been active in the west Pacific for over 10 days. It is now heading north towards south-western Japan and is set to bring strong winds and heavy rain this weekend to the area only recently affected by Typhoon Neoguri.

Typhoon Genevieve originated in the east Pacific and for a long time was a weak storm, even weakening to a remnant low pressure area at one stage. However, in the central Pacific Genevieve rapidly strengthened as it traversed an area of warm waters and gained hurricane status. As it crossed the International Dateline Hurricane Genevieve became Typhoon Genevieve. There is no difference between hurricanes and typhoons except that the former is used to describe tropical cyclones east of the Dateline and the latter to the west of the Dateline. Genevieve looks set to end its life as a tropical cyclone in mid-ocean well away from land.

Hurricane Genevieve as it crossed the International dateline and became a typhoon on 7 August 2014.  Image courtesy of US Naval Research Laboratory.

Hurricane Genevieve as it crossed the International dateline and became a typhoon on 7 August 2014.
Image courtesy of US Naval Research Laboratory.

Hurricane Iselle formed in the east Pacific just over a week ago. Iselle was downgraded to a tropical storm just as it made landfall over Hawaii today, but is still bringing strong winds, surf and heavy rain. Tropical storm or hurricane strikes directly over Hawaii are very rare. The last hurricane to make landfall over Hawaii was Iniki in 1992.

Rainfall radar showing Tropical Storm Iselle approaching Hawaii 8 August 2014. Image courtesy of NOAA

Rainfall radar showing Tropical Storm Iselle approaching Hawaii 8 August 2014.
Image courtesy of NOAA

Hurricane Julio is following hard on the heels of Hurricane Iselle in the east Pacific and has become a ‘major hurricane’ with winds in excess of 115 mph.

 

Julio is also heading in the direction of Hawaii, but looks likely to track a little further north than Hurricane Iselle. However, the US state could still feel the affects of Julio as it passes by on Sunday.

Official warnings of west Pacific tropical storms are produced by the Japanese Meteorological Agency . Central Pacific warnings are issued by the Central Pacific Hurricane Center and east Pacific warnings by the US National Hurricane Center. The Met Office routinely supplies predictions of cyclone tracks from its global forecast model to regional meteorological centres worldwide, which are used along with guidance from other models in the production of forecasts and guidance.

Met Office StormTracker provides a mapped picture of tropical cyclones around the globe with access to track history and six-day forecast tracks for current tropical cyclones from the Met Office global forecast model and latest observed cloud cover and sea surface temperature. We also provide updates on current tropical storms via @metofficestorms on Twitter.





Ex Bertha more likely to miss UK

6 08 2014

7 August update: The latest update about the whether ex-Bertha will affect the UK can be found in our news release

 

Tropical Storm Bertha is currently off the north east coast of the US and is likely to become an ‘extra tropical storm’ on Thursday.

It’s then expected to track across the Atlantic – and while there are still a number of possible outcomes, it looks increasingly likely that the UK will miss any serious impacts from ‘ex Bertha’.

The Met Office has been assessing the likelihood of the UK seeing any effects from Bertha by using our own forecast model alongside models from other world-leading forecast centres.

Map shows likely storm track for ex Bertha by midday Sunday.

Map shows likely storm track for ex Bertha by midday Sunday.

At the moment the majority of forecasts from those models suggest ex Bertha will track to the south of the UK as a relatively weak low pressure system.

In fact it’s debatable whether this is even ex Bertha, as the storm declines to such an extent as it comes across the Atlantic that it fragments.

Some of the warm air which it drags across then leads to a new weak low which generates an area of heavy rain. This could move across northern France and possibly clip eastern parts of the UK on Sunday.

A much smaller number of model outcomes suggest ex Bertha will move across the UK as a more distinct feature which could bring some strong winds and heavy rain. Because these outcomes are in a minority, however, they are less likely.

While there remains a good deal of uncertainty about the weather on Sunday, it currently looks as if it will be fairly unsettled with some rain and breezy conditions – but nothing too unusual for the time of year.

It’s worth noting that it’s likely that the south east of England will see some heavy rain on Friday, which is not part of Bertha. You can see more about this on the Met Office’s severe weather warnings page.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the latest outlook for the weather over the next few days and the progress of ex Bertha to keep everyone up to date with the latest information.





Is Tropical Storm Bertha heading for the UK?

4 08 2014

Update: The latest update about the whether ex-Bertha will affect the UK can be found in our news release

A Tropical Storm called Bertha, which is currently in situated off the east coast of the US, could head towards Europe over the next week – so what’s the outlook?

Forecast tracks for Bertha, which was a hurricane but has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, suggest it will head north – staying offshore from the eastern coast of the US before turning to track east across the Atlantic.

Forecast track for Bertha from StormTracker shows it heading north off the east coast of the US before turning east.

Forecast track for Bertha from StormTracker shows it heading north off the east coast of the US before turning east.

While all forecast models suggest the storm will head in the general direction of UK and continental Europe, there remains a lot of uncertainty about exactly what it will do.

One certainty is that as the storm heads north away from the very warm seas which drive its power, it will lose strength and become what’s known as an extra-tropical storm – so we won’t be seeing a ‘hurricane in Europe’, but there is a chance we could see a fairly active summer storm.

The development of hurricanes and extra tropical storms can present complexities for meteorologists, and Bertha is a good example of that.

Here at the Met Office we use several world-leading forecast models as well as our own, and this gives an indication of how certain a forecast is. If all the models agree, there’s higher certainty, if they diverge, we know the atmosphere is finely balanced and there are several possible outcomes.

Satellite image of Bertha in the Caribbean taken at 11.45am on Monday, 4 August 2014 (Picture from NOAA)

Satellite image of Bertha in the Caribbean taken at 11.45am on Monday, 4 August 2014 (Picture from NOAA)

In the case of Bertha each of the models we use gives a very different picture of what the storm will do. This ranges from Bertha heading towards France as a weak feature which will completely miss the UK, to it arriving as a fairly active summer storm.

In terms of timing, there’s also a spread of possibilities – but it looks likely that the earliest Bertha would affect the UK would be on Sunday or into the start of next week.

As time progresses, different models normally come more in to line with each other and uncertainty decreases. The Met Office will be keeping an eye on how this situation develops over the next few days to give everyone in the UK the best advice on what Bertha is likely to do.

Given the time of year and the potential heavy rain, strong winds and large waves Bertha could bring if it does head to the UK, we’d advise everyone to stay up to date with the latest forecasts and warnings from the Met Office over the next few days.

You can also see the forecast track for Bertha and other tropical storms on our StormTracker pages.

NOTE – story updated to reflect Bertha’s status after being downgraded to a tropical storm.





Statistics for winter so far

11 02 2014

As the unsettled UK weather continues this week, the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre have looked at statistics for this winter so far (from 1 December to 10 February).

These add to previous facts and figures we put out earlier this week, and show a picture of continuing exceptional rainfall across many areas.

Looking at regions around the UK, these provisional figures suggest the region of SE and Central S England has already exceeded its record winter rainfall in the series back to 1910. It is currently at 439.2mm*, less than 2mm above the previous record set in 1915 with 437.1mm of rain.

For the UK as a whole, and also for Wales, both are fairly close to their respective record wettest winter levels in the national series dating back to 1910. Average rainfall for the rest of the month would likely see those records broken.

All countries across the UK have already exceeded their typical average rainfall for the whole winter (according to the 1981-2010 long-term averages). Normally at this stage of the season, you’d expect to have seen only around 80% of that whole season average.

All areas are also on target for a significantly wetter than average winter, with typically around 130-160% of normal rainfall if we get average rainfall for the rest of February.

All countries and areas are also on target for a warmer than average winter.

Current record wettest winters:

Country Year Rainfall Winter 2014 to date*
UK 1995 485.1mm 429.2mm
ENGLAND 1915 392.7mm 328.0mm
WALES 1995 684.1mm 618.7mm
SCOTLAND 1995 649.5mm 558.5mm
NORTHERN IRELAND 1994 489.7mm 360.0mm

 

*These are provisional figures from 1 December 2013 to 10 February 2014 and could change after final quality control checks on data.





UK’s exceptional weather in context

6 02 2014

As the UK’s run of exceptionally wet and stormy weather continues, the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre has looked at how the last two months compare in the historical records.

Here’s some facts and figures for the weather we’ve seen through December and January:

For the UK

  • For the UK, December was provisionally the equal-fifth wettest December in the national series dating back to 1910 and January was the third wettest January in the same record. When the two months are combined, it is provisionally the wettest December and January in the series.
  • There were more days of rain (any day with more than 1mm of rainfall) for the UK in January than for any other month in a series dating back to 1961, with 23 days.
  • It was the windiest December for the UK in records back to 1969, based on the occurrence of winds in excess 60 kts (69mph).

England and Wales

  • Looking at the England and Wales Precipitation series, which dates back to 1766, it has been the wettest December to January since 1876/1877 and the 2nd wettest overall in the series.

Scotland

  • December was the wettest calendar month on record for Scotland in the series to 1910.
  • For eastern Scotland, December and January combined was provisionally the wettest two month (any-month) period in the same series.

Southern England

  • There have been very few dry days in this area since 12 December and regional statistics suggest that this is one of, if not the most, exceptional periods of winter rainfall in at least 248 years.
  • Despite the rainfall being concentrated in the second half of the month it was the wettest December for south east England since 1959.
  • January was the wettest January for the south England region in the national series dating back to 1910, and the wettest calendar month for the south east region in the same series by a huge margin.
  • The two-month total of 372.2mm for the southeast and central southern England region is the wettest any 2-month period in the series from 1910 .
  • From 12th December to 31st January parts of south England recorded over five months worth of rainfall (based on average January rainfall for the region).

You can see more statistics on recent weather and through the historical records on our UK climate pages.

Full month provisional statistics from January 2014:

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall  
January
Actual Diff from Avg Actual % of Avg Actual % of Avg
  degC degC hours % mm %
UK 4.8 1.1 44.8 95 183.8 151
England 5.4 1.3 57.3 106 158.2 191
Wales 5.3 1.2 38.0 78 269.0 171
Scotland 3.5 0.9 27.2 76 205.3 116
N Ireland 4.5 0.3 37.3 84 170.7 147




Wind gusts and rainfall totals 4-5th February 2014

5 02 2014

Last night another major Atlantic depression affected the UK, bringing further heavy rain and severe gales.

Here are some of the highest gusts of wind and rainfall totals recorded at Met Office observing stations between 3pm yesterday and 8am today.

Location Area Height (m) Max gust (mph)
SCILLY: ST MARYS AIRPORT ISLES OF SCILLY 31 92
BERRY HEAD DEVON 58 91
CULDROSE CORNWALL 76 76
WIGHT: NEEDLES OLD BATTERY ISLE OF WIGHT 80 71
PLYMOUTH, MOUNTBATTEN DEVON 50 71
ABERPORTH DYFED 133 70
CARDINHAM, BODMIN CORNWALL 200 70
ISLE OF PORTLAND DORSET 52 70
ST BEES HEAD NO 2 CUMBRIA 124 68
CAMBORNE CORNWALL 87 67
CAPEL CURIG NO 3 GWYNEDD 216 66
GUERNSEY: AIRPORT GUERNSEY 101 64
ORLOCK HEAD DOWN 35 64
MILFORD HAVEN DYFED 44 63
POINT OF AYRE ISLE OF MAN 9 62
NORTH WYKE DEVON 177 61
JERSEY: AIRPORT JERSEY 84 61
PEMBREY SANDS DYFED 3 61
DUNKESWELL AERODROME DEVON 252 60
MUMBLES HEAD WEST GLAMORGAN 43 60
Location Area Rainfall (mm)
NORTH WYKE DEVON 33.4
CAMBORNE CORNWALL 25.2
DUNKESWELL AERODROME DEVON 24.6
CARDINHAM, BODMIN CORNWALL 24.4
BANAGHER, CAUGH HILL LONDONDERRY 24.0
KATESBRIDGE DOWN 23.8
HIGH WYCOMBE, HQAIR BUCKINGHAMSHIRE 21.4
LISCOMBE SOMERSET 21.4
EXETER AIRPORT DEVON 21.2
DALWHINNIE INVERNESS-SHIRE 18.6
ALICE HOLT LODGE HAMPSHIRE 18.4
OKEHAMPTON DEVON 17.9
CULDROSE CORNWALL 17.6
BENSON OXFORDSHIRE 17.6
ODIHAM HAMPSHIRE 17.2
BUDE CORNWALL 17.0
CARTERHOUSE ROXBURGHSHIRE 17.0
CHARLWOOD SURREY 17.0
UPPER LAMBOURN BERKSHIRE 16.8
TREDEGAR GWENT 16.6

Further severe gales and heavy rain are expected over the next few days and everyone is advised to stay up to date with the latest Met Office forecasts and National Severe Weather Warnings and be prepared that the weather may change or worsen, leading to disruption of your plans.





Saturday’s squally weather and reports of tornadoes

27 01 2014

On Saturday we saw a number of heavy rain showers group together in what’s known as a ‘squall line’ – a narrow band of thunderstorms, intense rain, hail, and frequent lightning accompanied by brief but very strong gusts of wind and possibly tornadoes.

Radar image showing the narrow band of showers moving across the UK.

Radar image showing the narrow band of showers moving across the UK.

This squall line swept across Wales and then moved south east across southern parts of England – bringing about 6mm of rain to places in a very short period of time with gusts of wind of around 60mph or more in places.

It  also had the characteristics of a cold front, with the temperature ahead of it being around 11°C, falling to 7°C once the squall line had passed.

There have been reports of possible weak tornadoes from some locations, however it’s hard to verify them without pictures or footage because these features are generally too small to be picked up by satellites or weather observation equipment.

It’s also worth noting that squally winds can often be mistaken for tornadoes because these gusts can be sudden and strong – potentially causing very localised damage.

You can see more information on tornadoes and how they form on our website.





UK Weather: How stormy has it been and why?

3 01 2014

Since the start of December the UK has seen a prolonged period of particularly unsettled weather, with a series of storms tracking in off the Atlantic bringing strong winds and heavy rain.

The windiest month since 1993

In order to compare the recent spell with the numerous stormy periods of weather in the past the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre has done an analysis of the number of weather stations in the UK which have registered winds over certain thresholds since the start of December.

This measure suggests that December 2013 is the stormiest December in records dating back to 1969 and is one of the windiest calendar months for the UK since January 1993.

December was also a very wet month across the UK, particularly in Scotland where it was the wettest December and wettest month overall in the records dating back to 1910.

But why has this been the case?

Storms are expected in winter

First of all, we do generally expect to see stormy conditions in winter months. This is because we see a particularly big difference in temperature between the cold air in the Arctic and the warm air in the tropics at this time of year.

This contrast in temperatures means we see a strong jet stream, which is a narrow band of fast moving winds high up in the atmosphere.

The jet stream can guide storms as they come across the Atlantic, and it has been sitting in the right place to bring those storms to the UK over the past few weeks.

There’s also a close link between the jet stream and storms. The jet stream can add to the strength of storms, but then storms can also increase the strength of the jet stream. This positive feedback means storms can often cluster together over a period of time.

But why has it been particularly stormy?

Even accounting for the fact that it’s winter, the jet stream has been particularly strong over the past few weeks – but why is this the case?

It’s partly due to particularly warm and cold air being squeezed together in the mid-latitudes, where the UK sits. This could be due to nothing more than the natural variability which governs Atlantic weather.

However, looking at the broader picture, there is one factor which could increase the risk of a stormy start to winter and this is called the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO for short).

This is a cycle, discovered by the Met Office in 1959, which involves a narrow band of fast moving winds (much like our jet stream) which sits about 15 miles up over the equator. The cycle sees these winds flip from easterly to westerly roughly every 14 months.

In 1975 Met Office researchers discovered that when the QBO is in its westerly phase, it tends to increase the westerlies in our own jet stream – meaning there’s a higher risk of a stronger, more persistent jet stream with more vigorous Atlantic storms. It has been in its westerly phase since early 2013 and we expect it to decline over the next few months.

This is just one factor among many, however, which needs to be considered – so it doesn’t mean that the westerly phase of the QBO will always bring us stormy winters.

What about climate change?

Climate models provide a broad range of projections about changes in storm track and frequency of storms. While there’s currently no evidence to suggest that the UK is increasing in storminess, this is an active area of research under the national climate capability.





Updated Wind and Rainfall totals for 18th to 19th December

19 12 2013

As forecast there were severe gales and heavy rain overnight. See the tables below for the strongest low level gusts and the largest rain totals across the UK.

We are expecting more stormy weather over the coming days, with spells of heavy rain and gales affecting the UK – with the heaviest rain affecting the west and south west and strongest winds affecting the far north. Warnings for each individual spell of wet and windy weather will be issued when we are confident they will provide useful and accurate advice.

UK MAX HOURLY GUST SPEED 18TH DEC 1800HRS – 19TH DEC 0700HRS

SITE NAME AREA ELEVATION MAX GUST SPEED (MPH)
WIGHT: NEEDLES OLD BATTERY ISLE OF WIGHT 80 94
SOUTH UIST RANGE WESTERN ISLES 4 90
TIREE ARGYLL 9 87
PLYMOUTH, MOUNTBATTEN DEVON 50 85
CASTLEDERG TYRONE 49 84
PEMBREY SANDS DYFED 3 82
CAPEL CURIG NO 3 GWYNEDD 216 81
STORNOWAY AIRPORT WESTERN ISLES 15 77
ALTNAHARRA NO 2 SUTHERLAND 81 77
FAIR ISLE SHETLAND 57 76

24 HOUR UK RAINFALL TOTALS 18TH DEC 0700HRS – 19TH DEC 0700HRS

SITE NAME AREA PRECIP        AMOUNT ( MM)
TREDEGAR GWENT 38.4
CARDINHAM, BODMIN CORNWALL 35
WHITECHURCH DYFED 34.4
TYNDRUM PERTHSHIRE 32.2
LIBANUS POWYS 30.8
SHAP CUMBRIA 30.6
OKEHAMPTON, DEVON 30.6
KESWICK CUMBRIA 28.8
TULLOCH BRIDGE INVERNESS-SHIRE 27
BALA GWYNEDD 26.4




UPDATED: Wind and rainfall data 4 to 5 December 2013

5 12 2013

UPDATED TO INCLUDE LATEST WIND SPEEDS AS AT 3PM, 5 DECEMBER 2013

As forecast, there have been severe gales with widespread gusts of between 60 and 80mph across Scotland and northern parts of England. Some very high level mountain sites have reported speeds of over 140mph, but these are in very exposed areas and not representative of the winds most people have experienced.

UK MAX HOURLY GUST SPEED 4 DEC 1800HRS – 5 DEC 0600HRS
SITE NAME AREA ELEVATION MAX GUST SPEED (MPH)
ALTNAHARRA SUTHERLAND 81 93
LOCH GLASCARNOCH ROSS & CROMARTY 269 92
DRUMALBIN LANARKSHIRE 245 90
SOUTH UIST RANGE WESTERN ISLES 4 89
HIGH BRADFIELD SOUTH YORKSHIRE 395 87
EMLEY MOOR WEST YORKSHIRE 267 86
STORNOWAY AIRPORT WESTERN ISLES 15 85
ORLOCK HEAD DOWN 35 84
KINLOSS MORAY 5 83
SPADEADAM CUMBRIA 285 83
ESKDALEMUIR DUMFRIESSHIRE 236 83
SKYE: LUSA WESTERN ISLES 18 83
TIREE ARGYLL 9 82
DUNSTAFFNAGE ARGYLL 3 82
 MOUNTAIN SITES MAX GUST SPEED 4 DEC 1800HRS – 5 DEC 0600HRS
SITE NAME AREA ELEVATION MAX GUST SPEED (MPH)
AONACH MOR INVERNESS-SHIRE 1130 142
CAIRNWELL ABERDEENSHIRE 928 137
BEALACH NA BA ROSS & CROMARTY 773 116
GREAT DUN FELL CUMBRIA 847 113
GLEN OGLE PERTHSHIRE 564 106

It has been very wet in some areas overnight as well with 50.8mm of rain being recorded at Tyndrum, Perthshire and 42.4mm at Cluanie Inn, Ross & Cromarty.








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