World Meteorological Day

23 03 2012

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the worldwide meteorological community celebrate World Meteorological Day on 23 March. This year the theme is “Powering our future with weather, climate and water”.

World Meteorological Day 2012 - Powering our future with weather, climate and water

As a world leader in weather, climate and science, the Met Office delivers various products and services to the UK and across the globe, supporting the general public, government and local authorities, the armed forces, civil aviation, media, transport, utilities and most of the industry sector.

From the collection of data around the world, to its processing and analysis, the Met Office provides bespoke weather and climate predictions for specialist customers, and adds value to forecasts for commercial, defence and aviation customers.

Similarly, climate monitoring enables the Met Office to examine and interpret climate variations and change. This is done throughout the atmosphere, oceans and the cryosphere (ice), which enable us to develop predictions of our future climate change. This means that we can plan ahead and explore the impacts of climate change on Earth and human systems such as; water resources, agriculture, ecosystems, health and energy.

From heatwaves to periods of extreme rainfall, the weather can have a significant impact on the water industry. The Met Office is able to forecast the demand for water in a particular area based on this relationship. By working with the Environment Agency and the Flood Forecasting Centre, we have been able to produce a more in-depth knowledge of how different parts of the United Kingdom respond to rainfall, whether it is a fast responding urban catchment or a low-lying rural location with a greater capability to store water.

Weather, climate and water have moulded, shaped and changed our world in the past and it is more important than ever to look forward and understand how they might change things in the future.





Coldest temperatures of winter so far

11 02 2012

Last night and today have seen some of the lowest temperatures of the winter so far.

Official observations show Holbeach in Lincolnshire dropped to -15.6 °C overnight, beating the previous coldest temperature of this winter of -12.4 °C at South Newington in Oxfordshire overnight on 3-4 February.

Today has seen also the lowest day-time maximum temperature for the UK so far this winter, with Coningsby in Lincolnshire only getting up to -5.3 °C. The previous record for this winter was -2.8 °C, set at Cassley in Scotland on 15 January.

It’s worth noting that some even lower temperatures have been quoted in the media. However, these are not official Met Office observations.

Our official observation sites conform to rigorous standards set by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This includes observation equipment undergoing regular checks and calibration, as well as meeting requirements about the location of the observation site to ensure readings aren’t affected by other factors.

This doesn’t mean readings from non-official sites are wrong, just that they cannot be officially recognised because they are not part of our WMO-approved network.

The reason last night and today have seen these low temperatures comes down to a combination of factors. Cold air from the east is still flooding over parts of the UK. Snow is also still lying in some places, and this can keep temperatures down by acting like an ice pack – as well as reflecting back energy from the Sun. Clear skies and light winds have also played a part, as these factors mean heat can radiate away into the sky.

Looking ahead, tonight is expected to be cold, although it is unlikely to be quite as cold as last night. As we move through next week, temperatures are expected to move closer to or even slightly above average. You can stay up to date with the latest outlook with our forecasts and warnings.

 

Coldest overnight temperatures for 10-11 February

-15.6 °C Holbeach, Lincolnshire

-15.5 °C Cavendish, Suffolk

-15.3 °C Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

-15.2 °C Wainfleet, Lincolnshire

-14.6 °C Santon Downham, Suffolk





Met Office in the Media: 12 January 2012

12 01 2012

There have been stories in the media today incorrectly suggesting that Met Office staff have been awarded “bonuses” for performance over the last year despite what has been reported as “dramatic mistakes” being made. This is simply not the case.  Here, we provide a little more detail behind this story.

Firstly, in line with Civil Service reward principles, performance related pay is an integral part of the Met Office’s total reward structure. This is withheld pay which can only be earned in a given year by meeting key corporate, team and personal performance measures.

In 2010/11 the Met Office exceeded all of its business performance measures and targets, including measures on forecast accuracy and business profitability. This means that a greater proportion of the performance related pay budget was earned by staff in comparison to the previous year.

In terms of the corporate performance related pay, this translates to an additional  £110 per person (a change of £765 in 2009/10 to £875 in 2010/11). The rest of the addition comes in the payment of team and personal performance related payments paid on individual or team performance.

In the last financial year, despite difficult economic conditions, we returned £8.2M (up from £4.5M in 2009/10) dividend back to MoD (and therefore back to the UK taxpayer). The Met Office has also grown its commercial revenue streams, increasing by £2.9M to £32.2M. Research has shown that for every £1 invested in the Met Office, we return £7.40 back to the UK economy – as well as saving numerous lives every year with our forecasts.

In addition, suggestions that we “got the weather dramatically wrong” or have made “dramatic mistakes” are totally incorrect.

The Met Office did not predict a mild winter last winter – we provided a long-range forecast to the Cabinet Office at the end of October highlighting the risk of a cold start to the winter. This forecast is used by government officials across the UK to support long-term planning.  Our 30 day ahead forecasts on our website accurately highlighted the cold weather in late November and through December 2010.

Similarly we did not issue a forecast for the summer of 2010 or 2011 – we do not issue long-range forecasts to the public, as following research they have told us that they find forecasts for shorter timescales of more use.  Therefore we offer forecasts for 6 to 15 days and 16 to 30 days ahead on our website.

In fact our forecasts are widely recognised as among the most accurate in the world – the World Meteorological Organization consistently ranks us in the top two operational forecasters in the world. Recent research showed that 84% of people trust advice from the Met Office, and 90% of people find our Severe Weather Warnings useful.

 





Global average temperatures continue to warm

29 11 2011

WMO Press Conference on global mean temperatures in 2011

As the second day of negotiations gets underway at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) published its review of the climate of 2011 at a press conference this morning.

With observations collated from around the world, including the Met Office Hadley Centre, the Deputy Secretary General of WMO, Jerry Lengoase stated that 2011 so far, was the 10th warmest year on record and the warmest year in which there has been a La Niña. This data was compiled by taking an average of the three global temperature data sets from NASA and NOAA, both in the US and the Met Office and University of East Anglia in the UK. 

Mr Lengoase highlighted that we have observed on of the strongest La Niña events in the last 60 years. La Niña is a natural cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean that tends to have the effect of cooling global temperatures. Despite this cooling, this year is very likely to be warmer than previous years with a La Niña, as shown in the graph below.

Graph showing global temperatures with years in which there was a La Nina highlighted in blue
Graph showing global temperatures with years in which there was a La Niña highlighted in blue

The World Meteorological Organisation also announced that it will be publishing ten-year climate summaries in the spring of 2011. So far the data collected shows that no single country has reported average temperatures in the decade 2001-2010 to be cooler than long-term averages compared to the standard WMO climate reference period of 1961-2000. In addition 76 countries have reported that the 2001-2010 was in fact the warmest decade in their own national records. 

The Met Office and University of East Anglia published the Met Office/UEA HADCRUT3 global temperature data used in the WMO report today, confirming that in this dataset 2011 was currently ranked 11th with a value of 14.36 deg C. NASA GISS is currently ranked 9th with a value of 14.45 and NOAA NCDC is ranked 11th with a value of 14.41 deg C.

                                                      





25 years on from Chernobyl

26 04 2011

Twenty-five years on from the Chernobyl accident on April 26th 1986, the impacts of the devastating explosion in the number 4 reactor at the Chernobyl plant continue to be felt in the region and beyond and have been brought into focus again as the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear reactor following the earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011.

Here we look at how the Chernobyl accident led to the development of the Met Office’s emergency-response dispersion model NAME, and how this has been developed into one of the most flexible and sophisticated atmospheric dispersion models in the world.

At 01:23:44 on 26th March 1986, four seconds into the attempted emergency shutdown, an explosive rise in steam pressure within the reactor lifted the massive shield above it, exposing the core of the reactor to the atmosphere. With the core now exposed, a second enormous explosion blew the reactor building apart.

The Soviet authorities organised a mammoth fire-fighting effort to contain the radioactive debris, using military helicopters to dump 5000 tonnes of sand onto the reactor’s remains. Releases into the atmosphere continued for ten days following the initial explosion with an estimated 4% of the radioactive core escaping. Most of this contaminated material affected Belarus and the Ukraine – it has been estimated that five million people were exposed to radiation in these areas.

Although much of the radioactivity was deposited in the region around Chernobyl, some contaminated debris would inevitably spread further afield. In the outside world, the first indication of the disaster came from Sweden when automatic radiation monitoring instruments at a nuclear power station near Stockholm sounded the alarm two days later on Monday April 28th. A plume of radioactive material was transported widely across Europe by the evolving weather patterns. The worst affected areas were those locations where rainfall intercepted the plume and washed radioactive particulates to the ground; notably, parts of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, western parts of the UK and Ireland, and some Alpine areas.

Click on this map to see an animation of dispersion from the Chernobyl accident

Click on this map to see an animation of dispersion from the Chernobyl accident

The role of the Met Office at the time is described in a contemporary report… “By Tuesday morning (April 29th) the Central Forecasting Office at Bracknell were calculating forward trajectories starting from Chernobyl using forecast winds calculated at the 850mb pressure level. These trajectories suggested that whilst there was no immediate risk to the UK, there was a possibility that the plume might cross Britain by the end of the week.

“Late on Wednesday, reports of elevated radiation levels measured at laboratories in northern Italy and in Monaco were received … it became reasonably probable that the winds would carry the plume into Britain on the Friday (May 2nd), and this information was issued on Thursday morning by the Meteorological Office.”

The plume migrated across the UK from the south on the Friday and Saturday (May 2nd/3rd). It was rather unfortunate timing that an active depression in the south-west approaches pushed frontal rain northwards in combination with thunderstorm activity  advected in from France. Heavy rain washed out the radioactive debris over many parts of the country, the worst-affected areas being upland regions in the north and west of Britain.

One outcome of the Chernobyl incident has been the development of the Met Office’s pollution dispersion model NAME.

NAME has continued to be developed and applied to an ever-growing range of atmospheric transport and dispersion problems, ranging from research activities to tracing the sources of greenhouse gases under the Kyoto protocol and from air quality forecasting to numerous emergency response activities such as nuclear/radiological releases (e.g. Fukushima, 2011), volcanic eruptions (e.g. Eyjafjallajokull, 2010), industrial fires (e.g. Buncefield oil depot fire, 2005) and the spread of animal diseases (e.g. Foot and Mouth Disease and Bluetongue). NAME is now one of the most flexible and sophisticated atmospheric dispersion models in the world.

An ability to deliver sound advice for releases of all these types of contaminant requires NAME to be able to represent a wide range of physical and chemical processes and reactions. These include, but are not limited to, particulate and gaseous releases, radioactive half-life decay, radioactive decay chains, gamma radiation cloud shine, chemical reactions, biological virus decay, gravitational sedimentation and dry and wet deposition. When linked to the Met Office’s world leading numerical weather prediction model, the Unified Model, it is possible for NAME to predict the spread of atmospheric contaminants over distances ranging from a few hundred metres to the entire globe. This enables the Met Office to help inform and advise emergency responders, health protection agencies, government and the international community for events anywhere on the planet.

Internationally the Met Office is a Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre (RSMC) and a contributor to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO). As an RSMC, the Met Office, using NAME, can be called upon by any country in the European or African regions during a major atmospheric pollution incident under the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) Emergency Response Activities Programme – one aspect of the Met Office’s wider international role as an RSMC. For incidents outside of this region, the Met Office continues to provide predictions but in support of the relevant lead RSMC.

For radiological incidents (e.g.Fukushima, 2011) the Met Office response, along with those of the other RSMCs, is coordinated through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The CTBTO maintains a global network of detectors that monitor for radioactive substances that would be released during a nuclear detonation. If a substance is detected, the Met Office, using NAME, is able to show where the contaminant may have come from. By combining model results from several sensors it is then possible to identify the location where the radiological contaminant was released into the atmosphere.

More information on NAME and its full range of uses can be found on the Met Office website.





Japan earthquake and the UK Met Office role

17 03 2011

Following the earthquake in Japan on Friday 11 March 2011, here is summary to clarify the roles and responsibilities of organisations around the world:

  • The Japan Meteorological Agency has responsibility for Japanese earthquakes, tsunami, nuclear and volcanic ash warnings.
  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) maintains a system of Regional Specialised Meteorological Centres (RSMCs) which, when requested, run their dispersion models in accordance with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and WMO Procedures. Under this system the IAEA http://www.iaea.org/ is the lead authority in declaring the current activity as a radioactive release incident. Tokyo RSMC (Japan Meteorological Agency http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html), Beijing RSMC (China) and  Obninsk RSMC (Russia) are the joint leads and authoritative sources for this event.
  • The Met Office both as an RSMC (Exeter RSMC) and as a World Area Forecast Centre has not issued any warnings regarding the incident in Japan although it does have ICAO responsibilities to keep the aviation industry informed that an incident is occurring.





Near record temperatures in 2010 to be followed by cooler 2011

2 12 2010

Global temperature has warmed to near record levels in 2010 say climate scientists from the Met Office and the University of East Anglia. Provisional figures for the three main global temperature datasets put 2010 on track to become first or second warmest in the instrumental record.

The preliminary figure for January to October 2010 is 0.52 °C above the long-term average on the Met Office – Climatic Research Unit (HadCRUT3) dataset, placing it equal with the record-breaking 1998. 

The Met Office annual global temperature forecast for 2010, Climate could warm to record levels in 2010, issued at the COP15 talks in Copenhagen, predicted that the year was “more likely than not” to be the warmest year. Dr Adam Scaife, head of long range forecasting at the Met Office said, “The three leading global temperature datasets show that, so far, 2010 is clearly warmer than 2009 despite El Niño declining and being replaced by a very strong La Niña, which has a cooling effect.”

Although La Niña has stabilised, it is still expected to affect global temperature through the coming year. This effect is small compared to the total accrued global warming to date, but it does mean that 2011 is unlikely to be a record year according to the Met Office prediction based on the three main datasets. Nevertheless an anomaly of 0.44 °C is still likely — with the range very likely to be between 0.28 °C and 0.60 °C. The middle of this range would place 2011 among the top 10 warmest years on the record.

Dr Vicky Pope, the Met Office’s head of climate science advice said, “Our annual prediction of global temperatures for the next year combined with our monitoring of the observed climate helps people to put the world’s current climate into context.”

More information is available at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2010/pr20101202b.html





Global land temperature – a new approach

7 09 2010

Today sees the start of an international workshop to initiate development of a new suite of global land surface temperature datasets hosted at the Met Office in Exeter.

In February 2010, after active discussions over a number of years within the climate science community, the Met Office proposed the development of such a record at a WMO Commission for Climatology meeting in Turkey. The meeting endorsed this proposal and this workshop is the initial meeting and invitations have been extended to the international community to work together in developing and delivering this ambitious goal.

The International Organising Committee is chaired by Peter Thorne and consists of scientists from a range of disciplines; among them statistics, scientific measurement, modelling, IT experts and economics.

Peter Thorne explains the aims and aspirations of the workshop taking place this week.

Earlier this year, Nature published an article written by Peter Stott of the Met Office and Peter Thorne of the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, explaining the rationale behind the proposal and how it might work – see http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/conference/surftemp/SurfTempWorkshop_background_report.pdf.

The workshop follows international recognition of the emerging requirement in recent years for a more comprehensive temperature record. The initiative taken by the UK Met Office in its specific call to World Meteorological Organization (WMO) means it is accordingly co-sponsored by WMO Commission for Climatology, the World Climate Research Program, and the Global Climate Observing System.

The aims of the workshop are to create an agreed international framework to move forwards. As yet that framework is not certain and it would be wrong to pre-determine outcomes but the key over-arching aims are likely to be:

  • Improved databank of raw data with better sampling in space and time, better station history information and version control.
  • A suite of verifiable datasets from that databank meeting certain minimum scientific requirements that are independently produced.
  • Fundamental assumptions need to be questioned.
  • Creation of a consistent set of test cases against which to assess the datasets and a consistent benchmarking exercise.
  • Creation of tools to use and analyse the data to support decision making. 
  • The workshop is an exercise in climate science openness and is truly international with every effort made to gain input in advance from non-participants.

In this initiative surface temperatures are the focus but it is important to recognise that further variables need to be considered at a later stage. Temperature alone is not climate and this represents the start of a much broader effort to better characterise the observational record to meet 21st Century societal requirements.








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