No prediction for a ‘decade of washouts’

8 07 2013

An article by Jon Ungoed-Thomas in yesterday’s Sunday Times talks about the recent spell of fine weather in contrast to an apparent “prediction” from the Met Office of a “decade of soggy summers”.

This is despite the Met Office making it very clear that it did not issue any such prediction.

The article follows up on media coverage of a science workshop held at the Met Office in June this year to look at the recent run of unusual seasons in the UK.

During the press conference held after that meeting, research from the University of Reading was raised – you can read more about that on our blog.

The following press coverage was mixed, with some media outlets accurately representing the research, while others portrayed it as a forecast for a decade of washout summers. We discussed this in a blog the next day.

Here’s a couple of key highlights quotes directly from that blog article:

• [This research] does not mean every summer will be a ‘washout’ for the next decade and shouldn’t be taken as a deterministic forecast for what we will see in the years to come.

• [The] research suggests there is a tendency towards a higher frequency of wetter than average summers – so we could still see summers which buck this trend.

• [This] research is still at an early phase and more work needs to be done to see exactly how this process works and how we can predict its influence on future seasons… it’s fair to say that you shouldn’t write off summers for the next decade or so.





Media coverage on ‘wet summers for a decade’

19 06 2013

There has been a lot of media coverage today following a science workshop held at the Met Office HQ in Exeter yesterday.

Most of the articles go some way to capturing the science as it was delivered in the press briefing following the event – such as this article on the BBC News website. However, some stories, and particularly some headlines, do not.

The key point revolves around discussion of Atlantic ocean cycles, specifically one known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), which can have an influence on UK summer weather.

Professor Stephen Belcher, Head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, and Dr James Screen, a NERC Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, were careful in their messaging about the AMO.

They talked about initial research which suggests this cycle, which can last for 10-20 years, can ‘load the dice’ to mean we may see a higher frequency of wetter than average summers before switching to its opposite phase, where we may see the opposite effect.

Currently, they said, it appears we are well into the ‘wet’ phase of this cycle, so it may continue to have an influence for a few more years to come.

That does not mean every summer will be a ‘washout’ for the next decade and shouldn’t be taken as a deterministic forecast for what we will see in the years to come.

First of all, we’ve seen five summers of higher than average rainfall in the last six years (with 2010 being the exception, which had average levels of rainfall). Even within each of those years we have seen periods of decent weather – so there’s no expectation of total washouts for the whole summer.

Secondly, the research suggests there is a tendency towards a higher frequency of wetter than average summers – so we could still see summers which buck this trend.

And finally, this research is still at an early phase and more work needs to be done to see exactly how this process works and how we can predict its influence on future seasons.

So, much like a blog we recently wrote about this year’s summer, it’s fair to say that you shouldn’t write off summers for the next decade or so.

We expect to be publishing a guest blog from scientists at the University of Reading on the science they presented to the workshop yesterday, so look out for that in the coming days.

You can now see video of the Professor Stephen Belcher speaking at the press conference which followed the science workshop on 18 June on our Youtube channel.





Discussing the UK’s recent ‘unusual seasons’

14 06 2013

There have been some media stories this morning about a meeting due to be held next week at the Met Office to discuss the recent run of unusual seasons here in the UK.

This will draw together some experts from across UK academia to discuss what happened in three specific seasons and examine some of the potential causes behind conditions.

Workshops of this kind are held on a regular basis on a great deal of issues across weather and climate science.

Collaboration and partnership working is also an integral part of the Met Office’s work at the forefront of research on weather and climate.

Stephen Belcher, Head of the Met Office Hadley Centre and chair of next week’s workshop, said: “We have seen a run of unusual seasons in the UK and Northern Europe, such as the cold winter of 2010, last year’s wet weather and the cold spring this year.

“This may be nothing more than a run of natural variability, but there may be other factors impacting our weather. For example, there is emerging research which suggests there is a link between declining Arctic sea ice and European climate – but exactly how this process might work, and how important it may be among a host of other factors, remains unclear.

“The Met Office is running a workshop to bring together climate experts from across the UK to look at these unusual seasons, the possible causes behind them, and how we can learn more about those drivers of our weather. This will continue the UK’s world class research effort to understand more about the drivers of monthly to seasonal climate across Europe.”








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