First half of July is… average?

18 07 2014

With the recent run of generally fine, dry and warm weather you’d be forgiven for thinking this July so far would be anything but average – but the statistics tell a different story.

The UK mean temperature for 1-16 of the month is 15C, just 0.1C above average. UK rainfall is perhaps surprisingly close to the average too, with 36.3mm of rain making up 46% of the whole-month average – we’d expect to see about 52% of the average by now.

Sunshine is the only measure which is notably above average, with 111.4 hours for the UK which is about 65% of the whole-month average (again, we’d expect about 52% at this point in the month).

These figures might not fit in with how many have perceived this month so far, which has seen a good deal of dry and fine weather.

One possible reason for this is that UK day-time maximum temperatures have been slightly higher than average (19.7C), while the night-time minimums have been slightly lower than average (10.4C). So we’ve experienced warmer days, and cooler nights, which adds up to a very average mean temperature (which includes day and night-time temperatures).

Another reason for the statistics bucking the expectation is because, with the exception of last year, the preceding few summers have been generally a little disappointing.

While last year’s July was drier than average, five out of the six previous to that were wetter than average and three were cooler than average.

So perhaps we feel that the recent fine and dry weather is more unusual than it really is because of recent history.

Obviously it’s far too early to judge how this July will finish overall, with half of the month still to add in to the statistics.

You can explore all kinds of climate information, including monthly summaries back to 2001, and climate data back to 1910, on our climate pages.

  Mean temperature Sunshine Rainfall
1 - 16 July 2014 ** Actual Diff from 81-10 average Actual % of 81-10 average Actual % of 81-10 average
  degC degC hours % mm %
UK 15.0 0.1 111.4 65 36.3 46
England 16.3 0.2 120.2 62 29.0 46
Wales 14.7 -0.3 110.6 62 29.5 32
Scotland 13.1 0.0 101.1 72 50.0 50
N Ireland 14.5 0.1 88.1 63 36.7 45

** Please note these are half month statistics from 1-16 July. The final figures will change once statistics from the second half of the month are included.





With hot and humid weather could we see a ‘Spanish Plume’?

15 07 2014

Over the next few days increasingly warm and humid air moving up from the continent will see UK temperatures on the rise, with the warmest days of the year so far expected.

Temperatures in the south east of the country could climb to the low 30s Celsius by Friday, while other parts of England and Wales are likely to see temperatures in the mid to high 20s.

These very warm conditions will be accompanied by a close and humid feel in the air, which could make it feel quite uncomfortably warm in places – particularly during the nights.

While there is a good deal of dry and fine weather in the next few days, there is also the chance of seeing some heavy rain and thunderstorms as we go into the weekend.

Friday may see an area of thundery showers moving north east across parts of England and Wales.

Our meteorologists are also keeping a very close eye on the potential for more widespread thundery downpours on Saturday.

These could develop from what meteorologists call a ‘Spanish Plume’, which is a catchy name for a rather complex set of conditions.

It involves very warm and humid air moving up from the Spanish plateau to the UK. If this meets cooler air from the Atlantic, the warm air can be forced rapidly upwards to produce thunderstorms.

There are a number of ingredients that all have to come in to place for this to happen, however, so the risk of disruption from any heavy, thundery downpours is low for Saturday at the moment rather than a certainty. A yellow alert has been issued for this risk and will be updated in the coming days.

You can keep up to date with how this situation develops by checking our forecasts and warnings over the next few days.

Interestingly, the warm weather we’re expecting can be traced back to the jet stream, a narrow band of fast moving winds high up in the atmosphere which forms where cooler air from the polar region meets warmer air from the tropics.

The jet stream has dipped south over north eastern parts of the US, allowing cooler air to flood in over the area and bringing much lower temperatures than usual for this time of year.

New chart v1

Top image shows forecast jet stream at 1am Wednesday, with an obvious kink over the NE of the US. The bottom forecast image, for 1am on Saturday, shows a kink now over Spain, with warm air from that region flowing towards the UK.

This kink in the jet stream causes a knock-on effect which pushes the cooler air south across the Atlantic, which in turn pushes the warm humid air over the continent (around Spain) towards the UK later this week.

This provides yet further proof of the way in which all weather is connected, but there are no hard and fast rules as to how events in one part of the world will affect us here in the UK.





Guest blog: ‘Risk of summer drought at normal levels’

17 06 2014

There have been some reports in the press that the Met Office has warned dry weather this June could bring a return of drought conditions to the UK – this is not the case. Here Victoria Williams, Water Resources Advisor at the Environment Agency, explains what the real risks are at the moment:

Every week we measure water resources in England to assess how dry the soils are and how much rain they can soak up, the amount of water flowing in rivers, stored below ground in aquifers and above ground in reservoirs, and the outlook for the coming months.

As we move into summer the overall water resources situation across England is looking generally healthy. This is not surprising given England has experienced the wettest six month period (Dec-May) on record.

Regionally it has also been a record breaker with the wettest six months experienced in southeast and southwest England and the second wettest in central and northwest England.

All our rivers have responded to the rainfall and are currently within normal ranges.  Groundwater levels throughout England are within normal ranges and are now starting to recede as expected for the time of year.

We also look ahead by modelling how rivers and groundwaters may respond to different future rainfall patterns over the summer. The results shows a broadly positive picture even if rainfall is below average and point to the risk of drought this summer being no greater than average.

However it is still as important as ever to use water wisely. If the weather does turn hot and dry there can be localised impacts on rivers, the environment and for farming. If this happens we work with abstractors to reduce the effects where possible and water companies will keep their customers informed if needed.

For more information see the Environment Agency water situation reports.





May Bank Holiday – Fine and dry for most

29 04 2014

Despite some reports, Met Office forecasters are expecting pleasant weather for many over the Bank Holiday weekend, with a good deal of dry weather, rising daytime temperatures and some spells of strong sunshine at times.

Although air of polar origin moving southwards will cause much colder nights on Thursday and Friday this week, bringing air frost to some northern parts, daytime temperatures are set to recover quickly and most parts of the UK will begin to feel pleasantly warm in the sunshine this weekend.

After a chilly start on both Saturday and Sunday, many places will see dry conditions with clear and sunny periods. The best of the sunshine will be in southern and eastern areas. Some northern and western parts may be cloudier with outbreaks of rain and drizzle. However, where conditions are brighter on Sunday and Monday temperatures should be above average making it feel pleasantly warm.

Although it is too early to be certain, indications are that many parts of the country will have a fine and warm Bank Holiday Monday.

Check our local 5-day forecast for the weather forecast in your area.





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.





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.





How powerful was Monday’s storm?

30 10 2013

The storm that swept across southern parts of the UK caused widespread disruption and included a gust of almost 100mph, but how does it compare to previous storms?

It’s not just the numbers

In terms of the severity of the winds, you don’t have to go far back to find a more powerful storm than this – in January 2012 we saw winds of over 100mph in Edinburgh for example.

There are two things that made this storm so significant. Firstly, the timing – arriving in October when the trees are in full leaf and therefore much more vulnerable to strong winds.

Secondly the track of this storm was key. Along the northern and western coasts of Scotland and northern Ireland winds of 70-80mph are not that exceptional because they are on the more usual track of Atlantic storms.

However, powerful Atlantic storms are seen much more rarely across southern parts of England and Wales – which means these areas are much more susceptible to strong winds.

All this combined meant that the storm had a significant impact – with fallen trees causing the majority of disruption.

Satellite image showing the storm tracking across the UK

Satellite image showing the storm tracking across the UK

When did we last see a storm like this?

With that in mind, to find a similar storm we’d have to look at those which affected southern parts of England at a time when leaves are still on the trees (likely to be autumn).

To find a storm of similar strength that fits these criteria you’d have to go back to 27 October 2002. That storm brought winds of similar, or higher speeds, affecting most of England and Wales, and leading to widespread impacts.

Where does Monday’s storm rank in the longer term records?

There are many different ways of comparing storms – from looking at the strongest gusts, to mean wind speeds, to the area affected or the severity of impacts.

The Met Office National Climate Information Centre (NCIC) looked at autumn storms in southern England over the past 40 years, analysing the number of weather stations across the region which recorded a gust of 60 knots (69mph) or more for each storm.

From this they put together the ranking below which suggests Monday’s storm was within the top 10 most powerful autumn storms in southern England in the past 40 years.

The storm of October 2002 comes top of this ranking – followed by the ‘Great Storm’ of 16 October 1987.

Mike Kendon, from the NCIC, said: “This is just one technique for analysing storms and doesn’t necessarily tell us how severe an impact any particular storm had. On 16 October 1987, the maximum gusts we saw were much more powerful than those seen in 2002, and it was those very powerful winds – of up to 115mph – which caused the majority of the damage.

“What our analysis does tell us is that Monday’s storm was certainly one of the most significant autumn storms for at least a decade in terms of its strength and its impacts – even if it’s not on a par with some of the most powerful or damaging storms we have seen in the UK’s historical records.”

DATE OF STORM

STATIONS WITH >69MPH GUST

27/10/2002

36

16/10/1987

28

28/10/1996

24

30/10/2000

21

11/11/1977

18

28/10/1989

18

28/10/2013

16

07/09/1974

14

24/10/1998

14

14/11/1977

13





Unsettled weather to come – but no repeat of ‘St Jude’ in sight

29 10 2013

There have been a few mentions in today’s media of another storm coming in for this weekend – with the Daily Express suggesting that a ‘new deadly storm’ is on the way.

It’s fair to say we are expecting a spell of unsettled autumnal weather over the next week, with some strong winds and heavy rain possible – but comparisons with the ‘St Jude’s Day storm’ (as some in the media have called it) are wide of the mark.

Currently forecasts suggest that we will see several low pressure systems affecting the country over the next week – which is a fairly typical picture for UK weather at this time of year.

These could bring gale force winds at times to some areas, but we don’t expect gusts to be anything like the exceptionally strong winds we saw on Monday. In fact, the winds are more likely to be similar to those we saw during the day last Sunday – the day before the big storm.

Of course, even gale force gusts do bring some risks and the Met Office will closely watch developments to assess any impacts.

The low pressure systems coming through over the next week are likely to lead to some rough seas and big waves around some coasts, as well as some heavy rain.

The Met Office, Environment Agency and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will be working together to monitor the risk of any impacts from these over the next few days.

Given the outlook for unsettled weather, we’d advise people to stay up to date with the latest forecasts and warnings from the Met Office and to sign up to receive free flood warnings from the Environment Agency and SEPA website.








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