The Met Office’s outlook for the UK summer 2014

9 06 2014

There are headlines in the media today which suggest the Met Office is forecasting that this summer will be one of the hottest on record. However, the Met Office hasn’t issued a forecast along these lines.

The news stories are based on information taken from our three month outlook for contingency planners, so let’s take a closer look at that.

What does our three month outlook say?

As we’ve discussed previously, this outlook assesses the level of risk connected to five different scenarios for both temperature and rainfall for the whole season. It’s a bit like the science-equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race.

However, as with any horse race, it’s always possible that the favourite won’t win – so these probability scenarios have to be used in the right context. This is why they’re useful for planners and businesses who plan ahead based on risk, but not that useful for the general public who would like to know which fortnight in August will have the best weather for a holiday.

The current outlook for the whole of the June-July-August period for the whole of the UK says the chance of the warmest scenario happening is 25% and the chance that the period will fall into the coldest scenario is 10%.

So, while the current three month outlook suggests there is a higher chance of above average temperatures than below average, it does not tell us about the type of weather we may see.

Above average temperatures could be reached by milder nights, as can occur in summer in cloudy and wet conditions (for interest, average maximum temperatures for the UK in summer are about 18.6C and average minimum temps are about 10.2C). There is also only a small forecast signal for summer rainfall and therefore, we cannot make any strong assumptions about the weather we’ll see.

We saw a good example of this recently – the UK has just had the third warmest spring on record but the season didn’t have long stretches of blue skies and high temperatures. Instead we saw mixed weather with a lot of mild nights which contributed to the overall above-average conditions.

So, what will the summer be like?

Obviously there’s always a lot of interest to know what summer will be like – how hot will it be, how much rain will we get and where and when will it fall?

Our 30-day outlook (under the text forecast tab) provides a look ahead to the general type of weather we’re likely to see in the UK.

Currently it says that after today, the weather is expected to settle down with many areas having some warm sunshine, although showers are still likely in the northwest.

From mid June to early July, the indications are that the weather will be close to what is climatologically normal for this time of year – giving us a tendency for occasional spells of unsettled weather interspersed with fine and warm spells, much as we have seen recently.

If there is any sign of significantly hot spells or heavy downpours in the forecast, we will keep the country up to date through our forecasts and warnings. Our ‘Get Ready for the Great British Summer’ webpages also provide useful tips and information to make the most of the summer months, whatever the weather.





First ‘Heat-Health’ alert of the summer

12 07 2013

Parts of England have been put on Heat-Health alert as the hot temperatures continue into the weekend.

sunshine

Temperatures are expected to climb close to heatwave thresholds across the East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber regions during Friday and Saturday, with highs of 29°C expected. The highest temperatures transfer southwards to affect East of England, Southeast England, London and parts of Southwest England during Saturday and Sunday. Saturday will see the hottest day of the year with temperatures reaching the low 30s in the south east.

The Heat-Health Watch system operates in England from 1 June to 15 September each year in association with the Department of Health.

The Heat-Health Watch system comprises four levels of response based upon threshold maximum daytime and minimum night-time temperatures. These thresholds vary by region, but an average threshold temperature is 30 °C by day and 15 °C overnight.

A Level 2 alert is triggered as soon as the risk is 60% or above for threshold temperatures being reached in one or more regions on at least two consecutive days and the intervening night. This is an important stage for social and healthcare services who will be working to ensure readiness and swift action to reduce harm from a potential heatwave.

Local authorities, professionals and community groups can prepare for hot weather by reviewing the Heatwave Plan on the PHE website.

Dr Angie Bone, Heatwave Plan lead for PHE, said: “While many people enjoy hot weather, high temperatures can be dangerous, especially for people who may be particularly vulnerable such as older people, young children and those with serious illnesses.

“The Heatwave Plan is an important component of overall emergency planning and sets out a series of clear actions that can be taken by healthcare organisations, local authorities, professionals working with vulnerable people, and individuals to help keep people safe during extreme heat.
“Everyone can enjoy the sun safely by keeping out of the heat at the hottest time of the day, avoiding sunburn and staying hydrated with plenty of cool drinks. The elderly and those with long-term illnesses are particularly vulnerable to the effects of very hot weather, so it’s important to look out for them and keep indoor areas as cool as possible.”

Visit gov.uk for more information on the PHE Heatwave Plan.

For tips on staying safe in the sun, visit our Great British Summer web pages.





Update: Met Office keeping a close eye on space weather

17 05 2013

Updated on 20th May 2013

The recent activity on the Sun has now decreased back to levels we would normally expect at this point in time, close to a maximum of the 11-year solar cycle.

This follows a period where a sunspot, identified as 1748, emitted a number of powerful solar flares which were directed away from Earth.

There was a concern that another eruption from 1748 would be more directly aimed at Earth as it moved round with the Sun’s rotation. However, 1748 has reduced in size and has seen no significant activity for more than 48 hours.

While the risk of impacts on Earth has decreased, it is still possible that high levels of activity will re-emerge from 1748 while it is facing Earth. The Met Office will continue to monitor the situation.

Mark Gibbs, Head of Space Weather at the Met Office, said: “This sunspot was particularly active last week, sending out one solar flare which was the largest measured for over a year. Fortunately its eruptions were not directed at Earth and we saw very minimal impacts.

“We have observed a decrease in the spot’s activity in the past couple of days and, while a risk remains, we are now at a normal level of activity for this point in the solar cycle.”

 

Previous updates:

Updated on 17th May 2013

As per our blog article published yesterday, the Met Office continues to closely monitor the Sun following a recent surge in its activity related to a sunspot (identified by the number 1748).

This morning saw a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), which is an eruption of electromagnetically charged gas (plasma), from the sunspot. The CME is due to catch Earth with a glancing blow which is not expected to cause any significant impacts.

There remains a low risk through to the end of next week that we could see a CME from 1748 which is aimed more directly at Earth, but after that the risk is expected to diminish.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation closely and provide updates if there are any changes.





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.





Infographic: 2012 weather review of the year

21 12 2012

Hover over the image to link through to more detail on the UK weather in 2012.

Met Office Wettest June on record Be #weatheraware Met Office Twitter Wettest April Wettest June Weather in 2012 The UK's wet summer The coldest temperatures of winter Sunny March, wet April, how the jet stream is partly to blame Hottest day of the year so far Strong wind in January




Warm and settled weather as Torch makes its way to Worcester

23 05 2012

Torch bearer Andrew Evans-Fisher in front of Worcester Cathedral.

The weather will be dry and warm with sunny spells as the Torch Relay makes its way to Worcester on Thursday.

Temperatures could reach as high as 25 ºC as the sun breaks its way through the cloud. This week’s settled weather is good news for the Olympic torch’s journey from Maisemore to Worcester on Thursday. If you are planning to head out to follow the Olympic Torch then you can check one of our local forecasts available for locations along its route. In fact the Met Office provides local forecasts for over 5,000 locations across the UK.

Georgia Smith, head of VisitWorcester and event lead for the city, said: “The Olympic Torch Relay is Worcester’s moment to shine – it would be great if the sun obliges too. But whatever the weather, I know that it will be an amazing day – a once-in-a-lifetime event that everyone can take part in and feel the magic and excitement of the London 2012 Olympics.”

Forecasts for the Olympic Torch Relay are available on our website as well as on mobile phones and on our iPhone and Android Apps meaning you are never far from a local, detailed weather forecast.

Forecasts for sporting venues at the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be available as the Games draw closer. The Met Office are providing weather forecasts to LOCOG as well as local and national government for the Torch Relay, Olympic and Paralympic Games to support event organisers, competing athletes and visitors and spectators alike.





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.

 





Guest blog: UV index forecast, helping you to keep safe in the sun.

11 05 2012

As the sun is set to make a reappearance this weekend,  Charlotte Fionda of the Karen Clifford Skin Cancer Charity writes this guest blog:

Last week was Sun Awareness Week, even though the sun did not appear to be aware of it in many places. This weekend, however, the sun is set to return and most of us will want to get out and make the most of the good weather. It is important to remember that although it may not feel that warm despite the sunshine, the sun is very strong at this time of year.

The Met Office provides UV index forecasts on its website so that everyone can keep up to date with how strong the sun is going to be. These forecasts take account of whether it will be cloudy, or not, when calculating a maximum UV index value for different times during the day.

The Karen Clifford Skin Cancer Charity ‘Skcin’ took over sponsorship on these UV index forecasts in April. Skcin is the UK’s only national skin cancer specific charity. Our key aims are raising awareness of the UK’s most common cancer, promoting prevention, early detection and sun safety via Safe Sun initiatives, as well as campaigning for a cultural and educational change.

There is a clear link to weather when it comes to skin cancer and thus a clear link to the work of the Met Office and the UV index forecast. This is why we are proud to be associated with the UV forecast and to promote understanding of the dangers of over exposure to UV and the importance of being aware of UV levels, so people can adequately protect themselves and hopefully prevent skin cancer in the long run.

If you are out in the sun this weekend, even if it’s not that warm, please remember to take care and avoid the harmful effects of the sun.

For further details on what to do to stay sun safe please visit the Met Office web page.

Skcin have also recently set up an award scheme for primary schools to encourage all schools to adopt sun safe policy and teaching.





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.





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.








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