Wet and windy for the Ryder Cup

30 09 2010

Our forecasters are predicting a spell of unsettled weather over the coming days, as strong winds and rain sweep across the country.

The weather conditions are likely to prove to be a challenge for the golfers at Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales, where a mix of gusty winds, heavy rain and showers are expected to affect the course during the matches.

Met Office Chief Forecaster, Will Lang said: “October looks like getting off to a very unsettled start, as Atlantic weather systems move in from the west. Competitors and spectators at the Ryder Cup should have wet weather gear close to hand.”

The changeable and very windy weather is expected to continue into next week, with the chance of gales and more heavy rain.

Royal Society launches new climate guide

30 09 2010

The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, has today launched a new short guide to the science of climate change.  The guide has been written to summarise the evidence and to clarify the levels of confidence associated with the current scientific understanding of climate change.  It makes clear what is well-known and established about the climate system, what is widely agreed but with some debate about details, and what is still not well understood.

The Royal Society report presents a clear view of what we know. But it is just as important to communicate the unknowns as clearly as possible and in examining uncertainty we must not throw away the useful information provided. By converting uncertainty into probability we can begin to make sensible decisions about climate change

All too often uncertainty in science offers a convenient excuse for delaying important decisions. Science has established that climate is changing and that the world will need to make substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades if the worst impacts of dangerous climate change are to be avoided. The role of the Met Office and other scientists around the world will be to continue to press on in developing the emerging tools that will be used to underpin sensible adaptation and mitigation decisions which will determine all our futures.

The guide has been prepared by leading international scientists, mostly drawn from the Fellowship of the Society, including John Mitchell FRS, Director of Climate Science at the Met Office.  It follows the publication of a number of other guides including by the Government Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir John Beddington, earlier this month, that also included input from leading Met Office scientists.

Met Office in the News: 28 September 2010

28 09 2010

The Daily Express, among others, reports on ‘Snowy night is the coldest in 30 years‘. The cold conditions over last weekend were the result of high pressure, clear skies and a northerly air flow across the UK.  Through the weekend some notably low minimum temperatures for September were recorded. Overnight Saturday in to Sunday, Tyndrum (Highland) recorded -4.4 °C, the coldest September night in records from 1990, and Tulloch Bridge (Highland) recorded -4.2 °C, the coldest September night in records from 1982. Exeter Airport recorded  a low of -1.1 °C with Chivenor recording 2.2°C, the lowest September minimum since 1990  and Plymouth 3.5°C, the lowestsince 1974. Overnight Sunday into Monday, Kinbrace (Highland) recorded -4.4 °C, the lowest September night since 1989.

Today also sees the Met Office host a conference, exploring extreme winter weather in Devon.  At this conference a severe weather response plan for Haldon Hill has been launched by local councils, agencies and emergency services through the Devon Local Resilience Forum. The aim is to prevent repeats of the traffic chaos caused by heavy snowfall over the last two winters. John Harrison, Met Office Road and Rail Business Manager, added: “Another cold winter like the last two is possible, so this conference provides the perfect platform to help plan ahead for potentially severe winter weather. We are on hand around the clock to help our customers make the best possible decisions to plan and prepare effectively for severe weather and minimise the impact on our local infrastructure and resources.”

Review of Summer 2010

28 09 2010

The UK’s weather is always full of contrasts, and summer 2010 was no exception. The provisional assessment for Summer 2010 saw  mean temperature of 14.6 °C, which is just 0.6 °C above average. Rainfall was 10% above normal overall, but what was most noticeable was how different the weather was in June, July and August.

Mean temperatures were 1.5 °C above average during June, 0.7 °C above during July and 0.5 °C below in August. As for rainfall, June was drier than normal in most areas, July was much wetter than normal in the west and north, but drier in the south-east. In August, the wettest weather was focused on East Anglia, east Kent and parts of the east Midlands, although many areas saw above average rainfall.

A full assessment of Summer 2010 can be found on the Met Office website.

Explaining the science of climate change

24 09 2010

New web pages which explain the science behind the headlines on climate change have been launched by Government Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Sir John Beddington. 

The web pages, produced with the support of leading scientists from the Met Office Hadley Centre and others, present an overview of some of the most important areas of study in climate change science.  This overview will help anyone wishing to get beyond the day-to-day headlines and gain a deeper understanding of the fundamental scientific issues involved.

Professor Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist said: “I am delighted to have been consulted in the development of Sir John Beddington’s overview and guide to the underpinning science and observations of climate change.

“Our changing climate has huge implications for both policy and people, so it is essential we explain the complex science with as much clarity as possible. These web pages, authored by the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, are an important reference and will contribute to helping people understand the science of climate change”.

 Sir John Beddington said:  “Reporting on climate change science has often created more heat than light. The evidence is compelling that climate change is happening, that human activities are the major driver for this and that the future risks are substantial. 

“At the same time, there is much we need to understand better; for example, the pace and extent of the changes we can expect, and regional impacts. I am grateful for the invaluable advice and inputs from Met Office experts that have helped in developing this new Government Office for Science climate science resource.”

This guide from Sir John Beddington is also supported by the Met Office guide to climate change at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climatechange/guide/

BBC project to assess accuracy of long-range forecasts

24 09 2010

Roger Harrabin spoke on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning about a project to assess the accuracy of long-range forecasts.

The Met Office hopes to work with the steering group to input into how this research activity is undertaken and help to ensure that the methodology, data and comparison is done in a way that is scientifically credible.

This project will have a number of challenges to overcome. Verification of probabilistic long-range forecasts for large geographical areas is a difficult exercise, fraught with scientific challenges. For example, you can not just verify the forecast from one season as this may give a biased result. This type of forecast must be verified over a long time period, possibly 15 years or longer, to provide a measure of true skill. There will also be challenges in deciding what information is useful in verifying a forecast that covers much of North West Europe.

Met Office in the Media: 23 September 2010

23 09 2010

The Times has reported on a new piece of research by scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre, which suggests that summers are likely to be much hotter, despite the fight to limit emissions. In ‘Met Office warns of regular 40C heatwaves’ Ben Webster reports that although global average temperatures may rise by 2 Celsius, regional changes and changes in the extremes we see may be much greater, possibly with serious consequences for some communities

The paper, by Robin Clark, James Murphy and Simon Brown, revealed that even if average warming is limited to 2°C, estimated increases in temperature during the hottest days range from 2°C to 6°C for parts of Europe, North America, and Asia. The researchers also investigate the sources of uncertainty in estimates of regional changes.

The Times reported that these changes were possible by 2040. However this would be at the most extreme end, with global temperatures more likely to warm by 2 Celsius by 2050.

The paper is published in Geophysical Research Letters of the American Geophysical Union.

There has been widespread coverage recently that the parting of the Red Sea may have been caused by strong winds.  The New Scientist quotes the Met Office director of weather science that although the strong  NE’ly wind may well have caused a miraculous opening of the waters somewhere, he doubts that sustained winds of sufficient strength could have been achieved near the Lake of Tanis.

Finally Andre Revkin, in his Dot Earth blog, has reported on a a new scientific paper “An abrupt drop in Northern Hemisphere sea surface temperature around 1970,” is published in the Sept. 23 issue of Nature. The Met Office Hadley Centre has contributed to this paper, developing the datasets used in this analysis. This has involved taking account of all the different ways of measuring sea surface temperatures (including buckets over the sides of ships, engine room intakes, moored and drifting buoys).  Within the article Met Office head of climate monitoring and attribution highlights the quality of the historical observational data that is “now good enough to identify this level of detail in how the climate varies and changes”.

Met Office iPhone app tops one million downloads

21 09 2010

More than a million people have downloaded our iPhone app, making it one of the most downloaded non-social media or gaming mobile phone applications in the country.

It is believed that its popularity now ranks it within the top five most downloaded apps for the popular handset in the UK.

Charles Ewen, head of web business at the Met Office said: “The iPhone application was one of a number of projects undertaken to help make weather information available to the public for free and the costs for many activities, including data services and design, were shared among them.

“We have just received the latest figures regarding downloads of the Met Office weather app and they now top one million. Due to its success, we are currently planning more work to make weather information available across other mobile devices, as well as upgrading the iPhone version.”

The application allows users to access the latest weather forecast for the next 5 days for their chosen location, gives severe weather warning and access to the latest UK rainfall radar imagery.

Hurricane hat-trick in North Atlantic

19 09 2010
Satellite image showing Karl, Igor and Julia on 16 Sept 2010.  The first time in 12 years that three hurricanes have existed simultaneously in the Atlantic
Satellite image showing Karl, Igor and Julia on 16 Sept 2010. The first time in 12 years that three hurricanes have existed simultaneously in the Atlantic

Tropical cyclone activity is reaching a peak across the globe with the potential for a triple landfall of storms in the Atlantic and Pacific this Saturday and Sunday.

The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season remains very active with Hurricane Julia joining Karl and Igor. This is the first time in 12 years that three hurricanes have existed simultaneously in the Atlantic, and Julia was the strongest hurricane to have formed so far east since credible records began in the 1970s.

Earlier this week both Julia and Igor were simultaneously classified as Category 4 hurricanes — the first such occurrence in the Atlantic since 1926.

Tropical cyclone activity is reaching a peak across the globe with the potential for a triple landfall of storms in the Atlantic and Pacific over this weekend.

Karl made landfall on the south-west Gulf coast of Mexico, weakening as it made landfall and is now classified as a tropical storm. Heavy rain over the mountainous areas is expected to lead to floods, as well as extreme winds.

To the east Hurricane Igor has weakened slightly but remains a major storm. Igor, with sustained speeds of 105mph, is threatening to pass directly over Bermuda today, the US-based National Hurricane Center has warned.

Hurricane Julia, currently over the centre of the North Atlantic Ocean, has weakened also, with sustained winds of 75mph.

Meanwhile, Tyhoon Fanapi in the western Pacific is approaching Taiwan and is expected to make landfall Sunday. Although only equivalent to a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, winds are still gusting to around 115 mph. The biggest threat will be heavy rains and subsequent disruption in remote mountainous areas.

Met Office forecasters are continuing to work with the National Hurricane Center in the USA and provide predictions of the storms to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Avoiding dangerous climate change: An international perspective

17 09 2010

The world will need to make substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions below current levels over the next few decades if the worst impacts of dangerous climate change are to be avoided.

This was a key conclusion from UK and US climate scientists at an international workshop on the UK AVOID program in Washington, DC exploring the most policy-relevant aspects of understanding dangerous climate change.

Latest results from AVOID have shown that strong mitigation action to limit temperature rise to below 2 °C avoids many of the climate impacts, but not all of them. Examples show that 50% of the impact of water scarcity, and almost 40% of the impact of decreasing crop suitability can be avoided through early action on greenhouse gas emissions. Time is short and delaying action reduces the chance of limiting temperature rise to 2 °C and increases the chance of significant impacts.

The AVOID program is a unique inter-disciplinary research collaboration across the physical sciences, climate impacts and the technical and socio-economic implications of climate change.

AVOID is targeted to provide policy-focused research and evidence needed to allow policymakers to develop mitigation and adaptation policy that is strongly grounded in scientific evidence. This workshop — the first international meeting of AVOID — was designed to discuss, engage and partner with US scientists.

Jason Lowe, Head of Mitigation Advice at the Met Office and Chief Scientist for the AVOID program, said: “This workshop has provided the opportunity to compare approaches in the UK and US to identify the results that are the most robust.  The aim now is to work together to find concrete ways of taking forward the best UK and US science for the benefit of policymakers.

“Such work is essential to inform government policies, both in the UK and the US, by providing robust and up-to-date evidence.”

Peter Backlund, Director of Research Relations at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, and Director of NCAR’s Integrated Science Program, said: “Designing mitigation and adaptation strategies to avoid dangerous climate change is a major challenge for the US, the UK, and other nations.

“Scientific research is critical for informing this process, but the scientific community needs to do a better job in focusing research efforts on issues that are central to making decisions about how to respond to climate change.

“The UK AVOID program, with its integration of research from multiple institutions across the physical, social, and economic sciences, is one of the best examples of delivering advice that is directly relevant to policymakers.

“The program is producing useful information about the probabilities of achieving emissions reductions, the consequences of different levels of emissions, and options for reducing impacts.  I am hopeful that we can create a similar program here in the US.”

Participating UK and US scientists agreed to explore further options for collaboration in this area of science of relevance to policymakers.


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