Celebrating World Meteorological Day

18 03 2014

Every year on the 23rd March meteorological services around the world celebrate World Meteorological Day to mark the creation of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1950.  This year’s World Meteorological Day theme is ‘Weather and climate: engaging youth’.

World Meteorological Day 2014WMO is engaging with young people through a variety of ways, including:

  • A new and revamped “Youth corner” website providing fun information like ‘how to make a tornado in a jar’ or ‘creating a portable cloud’.

The Met Office is continually looking at ways to get young people engaged in the fascinating world of weather and climate. Here are some of the things we’re doing:

Inspiring the next generation with EDF Energy

This Met Office and EDF Energy collaboration is part of a wider partnership programme to help explain our science and extend science reach into new audiences.

In 2011, the Met Office began collaborating with EDF Energy to help educate school children about weather and climate science. It’s our aim to ensure that all children using EDF Energy’s The Pod have a good understanding of the science underpinning the other sustainability topics they study.

The Pod has a wide reach among teachers and children across the UK. There are now more than 17,000 schools registered and over 10 million children engaged with the Pod since it began in 2008.

Teachers can download hands-on activities designed by the Met Office, which help young people engage and develop their understanding of weather and climate topics. These activities include the ‘Degrees of change’ which addresses historic temperature records and natural variability and ‘Carbon Cycle Capers’, an activity that teaches children about carbon sinks and sources.

STEM Ambassadors at the Met Office

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is at the heart of the Met Office. Without continued expertise in these fields, we would not be able to maintain its position as the United Kingdom’s national weather service and a leading centre for climate research. We need to attract the brightest people and enable our employees to develop their professional skills during their careers.

One way to fulfil these aims, is to engage in STEM outreach and we have seen our STEM Ambassador team grow from 10 four years ago to more than 120 active ambassadors across the UK today. The STEM outreach programme is embedded into Met Office culture, bringing benefits to both the Met Office and its wider communities.

The work of our STEM Ambassadors varies hugely – from visits to local schools to talk about science or careers to running climate science workshops to weather balloon launches and code clubs. Ambassadors also take part in national events such as The Big Bang and work with other organisations engaged in STEM outreach.

Met Office Science Camp

In the summer of 2013, the Met Office ran a series of pilot events, providing an educational science night for young people aged 11–12 at the Met Office headquarters in Exeter.

These Met Office Science Camps have proved to be a great success. Over four events, 176 children from local schools and scout/guide groups got hands-on with STEM at the Met Office. They camped overnight in onsite conference rooms, helped along by a team of over 100 staff volunteers who represented almost every area of the Met Office’s work.

The feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive; saying they would recommend Met Office Science Camps to a friend. The feedback from staff was equally positive, saying that they would recommend volunteering to colleagues and would take part and help organise future events again.

Building on the success of Met Office Science Camp 2013 we will run four events over the summer of 2014, endeavouring to make each one bigger, louder and more fun.

Interested in a career in science?

To mark World Meteorological Day, The Royal Meteorological Society is working with the Met Office, the University of Reading, the Institute of Physics and local schools, to run a Twitter session on careers in science.

They will be answering questions on the physics of the environment and meteorology. There are some great interviewees taking part including Prof Iain Stewart, scientist and broadcaster; Prof Marshall Shepherd Director, Atmospheric Sciences Program, University of Georgia and ex President of the American Meteorological Society and academics from various universities. From industry we have experts; including Dominic Sindall, Head Catastrophe Risk Analyst at Faber Global Ltd and others. The Abbey School, Reading will also be taking part.

You can join the Twitter conversation between 2pm and 4pm on Thursday 20 March. To join in, follow @rmets and use #sciencecareers. More information on how to take part can be found here.





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.





December weather summary

22 01 2014

December saw some settled weather but also some stormy periods. A major winter storm on 5th brought strong winds to Scotland with a storm-surge mainly affecting the east coast. A succession of deep Atlantic low pressure systems brought heavy rain and very strong winds for most areas, with frequent gusts of 60 to 70 mph. This was the windiest December in records from 1969 and one of the windiest calendar months since January 1993. On Christmas Eve a mean-sea-level-pressure of 936 hPa was recorded at Stornoway (Western Isles), the lowest such value at a UK land station for many years.

The UK mean temperature was 5.7 °C, which is 1.8 °C above the 1981-2010 average, provisionally the warmest December since 1988.The UK overall received 154% of average rainfall and Scotland had its wettest December in a series from 1910. There was provisionally 108% of the long-term average hours of bright sunshine, with western areas rather dull but central and eastern England much sunnier than average. Visit our climate section for a full written summary of the month.

Your pictures

Thank you for sharing your pictures of December weather on Twitter. Here are some of our favourites…





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.





2013: Average figures mask some notable highlights

31 12 2013

Provisional statistics for 2013 suggest it has been a very average year – but those annual figures mask a year which features some significant weather highlights.

Using figures up to 29 December and then assuming average conditions for the last two days of the year, statistics for 2013 show temperature, rainfall and sunshine amounts have all been very close to the 1981-2010 average.

The mean temperature for the UK is currently 8.76C, which is just 0.08C below the annual long-term average, rainfall stands at 1079.8 mm, which is about 94% of the average, and sunshine is at 1425.7 hours, which is 104% of the average. All in all, it seems like a very ‘normal’ year.

However, a closer look at individual months and seasons shows a different picture.

The coldest spring for more than 50 years

This year’s spring was the coldest since 1962. Temperatures were well below average in all areas, but particularly England and Wales, and it was the coldest spring in the Central England temperature series since 1891.

The cold season was mainly due to the very cold March (the coldest month of the extended winter) – but April and May also saw well below average temperatures. Winds were often from the east or north, with notably low temperatures and some unseasonably late snowfalls in places extending into April and May.

A fine summer and autumn’s St Jude’s Day storm

However, after a mixed June, July kickstarted a period of relatively fine weather which led to the warmest, driest and sunniest summer since 2006. The season itself isn’t that remarkable in its own right, but becomes so when put into context of the last few years which have generally seen disappointing weather.

Autumn was fairly average in terms of its numbers, with temperature, rainfall and sunshine close to average, but October featured the St Jude’s Day storm. This storm is judged to be ranked within the top 10 most severe storms in the autumn across southern England in the last 40 years, but is not in the same category as the ‘Great Storm’ of October 1987.

A mild but stormy December

After a fairly dry November to finish the autumn, we moved in to what has become a very unsettled and stormy December. The first major storm came through on the 5th and 6th, then another followed on the 18th and 19th, with another storm tracking past the UK on the 23rd and 24th.

While there have been strong winds during December, rainfall has seen marked regional differences. For example, parts of southern England have seen around double the amount of rain they would normally expect while some spots along the east coast of the UK have only seen around half of their December average.

Other than the generally unsettled conditions, this December has also been mild – it is currently ranked as the seventh mildest December in our records dating back to 1910, although this ranking could change when the final figures come in.

You can find a wealth of information about the UK’s weather and climate throughout 2013 on our climate pages.

Some 2013 extremes:

Max temp – 34.1C at Heathrow, London 1 August

Min temp – -13.6C at Buntingford, Hertfordshire 22 January

Max wind gust – 142mph, Aonach Mor, Invernesshire 5 December

 

Keeping the UK informed

It has also been a notable year for the Met Office. Throughout 2013 the Met Office’s forecasts and warnings have provided timely advice during the periods of severe weather we have seen, helping the UK stay prepared and minimise impacts.

Our Get Ready for Winter and Get Ready for Summer campaigns saw many different companies and organisations working with us to help people prepare for the ever-changing UK weather.

We’ve continued to work in partnership with others around the world to develop the understanding of weather and climate science, helping to drive forward accuracy.

A year of achievement for the Met Office

Met Office staff have again received a high level of recognition for their work. In October Dr Nick Dunstone was named Outstanding Young Scientist for Climate Sciences by European Geophysical Union, while Dr Peter Stott was recognised as one of the ‘Global Thinkers’ of 2013 by Foreign Policy magazine.

Very recently, the Met Office’s Chief Executive, John Hirst, and Chief Scientist, Professor Julia Slingo, were recognised in the New Year’s Honours list.

Other Met Office highlights include:

  • The launch of Europe’s Space Weather Prediction Centre helping protect the technologies our day-to-day lives rely on from severe solar flares, space storms and solar wind which can disrupt them.
  • The launch of Climate Service UK marking a step-change in the provision of services to assess how a changing climate might affect business and society.
  • Retaining our position as the leading operational forecaster in the World.
  • The number of weather reports received by our Weather Observation Website passing 100 million.
  • A celebration of the centenary of the pioneer of modern day weather forecasting, Lewis Fry Richardson, taking up his post as Superintendent of Eskdalemuir Observatory.




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




Geminid meteor shower Twitter interview

16 12 2013

Starting on 7 December and ending on the 16 December, the Geminid meteor shower is for many the highlight of the meteor shower calendar in 2013.

The peak of the Geminid meteor shower took place on 13-14 December, when you could see more than 50 meteors per hour. The Geminids is different to other meteor showers as its meteors originate from an asteroid, as opposed to a comet, meaning they are very rocky and gritty, making them slightly easier to see than other meteor showers.

Ahead of the peak of the meteor shower, we held a Twitter interview with Adrian from Meteorwatch where you sent in your questions and the top five got an answer. In case you missed the interview and Adrian’s excellent answers, you can see them in full below:

Below is our infographic about the Geminid meteor shower. To find out when other meteor events are taking place, visit the Meteorwatch website.

Geminidmeteorinfographic_WEB





Our change in the weather and how the jet stream is driving it

13 12 2013

After a quiet spell of weather courtesy of a slow moving area of high pressure, we are now entering an unsettled period as a series of Atlantic depressions are expected to pass close to the northwest of Britain during the next week.

High pressure has now moved away and is settled over Europe and a powerful jet stream is developing over the Atlantic which will be the main driving force behind this spell of unsettled weather.

What is the jet stream?

The jet stream is a band of fast moving westerly winds high up in the atmosphere which circle around the pole in the northern hemisphere. It can feature winds of up to 200 knots (230 mph) or more, and these winds tend to guide wet and windy weather systems which come in off the Atlantic.

The jet moves around a fair bit and its position can have a big impact on weather here in the UK depending on where it is.

If the jet is over the UK or just to the south, we tend to get a lot of wet and windy conditions as it brings weather systems straight to us. If the jet is to the north of us, it guides that changeable weather away to the north to leave the UK with more settled conditions.

What’s the jet stream doing now?

Unsurprisingly given the outlook for the next week, with a succession of Atlantic depressions passing by to the northwest of Scotland, the jet is positioned to the northwest of the UK too.

As you can see from the picture below, the jet currently swoops east from Canada – swinging northeast over the Atlantic towards the UK.

Forecast position of jet stream at midday Saturday 14 December 2013

Forecast position of jet stream at midday Saturday 14 December 2013

Closer to the ground very cold air is also streaming south from Canada and meeting warm air moving north from the Caribbean. It is where these two air masses meet under the jet stream that powerful Atlantic depressions form and are blown across the ocean towards our shores.

It is these depressions that bring a significant risk of severe gales and heavy rain affecting at least the northwest of the UK at times.

What’s the weather outlook?

Currently, Met Office National Severe Weather Warnings have been issued for wind across some northwestern and northern areas for the weekend. Gusts of 60-70 mph are likely with a risk of gusts to 80 mph or more across exposed parts of northwest Scotland.

However, at this stage there remains uncertainty regarding the extent of the strongest winds and these warnings will be updated as the weather develops over the weekend.

Looking ahead, while we expect further depressions to develop it is not possible to say exactly how vigorous they may be or pinpoint where they will be in a week’s time. This means it is too early to say which areas will experience the strongest winds and heaviest rain, however there are indications that  areas further to the south of the UK may be affected at times.

You can stay up to date with what to expect with our detailed forecasts out to 5-days and our weather warnings, as well as a general view of what we expect out to 30 days and find out what to do in severe weather

You can find out more about the jet stream in our YouTube video.

 





UK’s unsettled weather and the jet stream

21 10 2013

The UK is set to see unsettled weather throughout this week as heavy rain and windy conditions are expected to affect many areas, whilst temperatures will remain mild for the time of year.

We talk about the jet stream quite a bit in the UK because it has such a big influence on our weather, and this week is no exception as it’s playing a leading role in determining the unsettled outlook.

What is the jet stream?

The jet stream is a band of fast moving westerly winds high up in the atmosphere which circle around the pole in the northern hemisphere. It can feature winds of up to 200 knots (230 mph) or more, and these winds tend to guide wet and windy weather systems which come in off the Atlantic.

The jet moves around a fair bit and its position can have a big impact on weather here in the UK depending on where it is.

If the Jet is over the UK or just to the south, we tend to get a lot of wet and windy conditions as it brings weather systems straight to us. If the jet is to the north of us, it guides that changeable weather away to the north to leave the UK with more settled conditions.

What’s the jet stream doing now?

Unsurprisingly given the outlook for this week, the jet is positioned more or less directly over the UK – but it’s the detail of its track which is important.

As you can see from the picture below, the jet currently swoops south from western Canada – moving over the Atlantic before taking a sharp turn north to head over the UK.

Forecast chart showing  expected position of the jet stream at 1pm on Tuesday 22 October

Forecast chart showing expected position of the jet stream at 1pm on Tuesday 22 October

This means relatively cool air is being dragged south then over the Atlantic, where warmer seas heat the air from below. This causes the air to warm and rise – creating instability and generating cloud and rain.

By the time weather systems reach they UK they have picked up a lot of rain and relatively warm air, bringing us the wet but mild conditions we are currently seeing.

What’s the weather outlook?

Currently unsettled weather looks set to impact the UK through the week, with heavy rain affecting many areas at times.

There may be more settled conditions on Thursday, and perhaps again on Saturday, but looking further ahead into the start of next week the outlook is for unsettled weather to continue.

You can stay up to date with what to expect with our detailed forecasts out to 5-days and our weather warnings, as well as a general view of what we expect out to 30 days.

You can find out more about the jet stream in our YouTube video.








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