A look back at this week’s news

26 08 2015

The Met Office has been in the news again this week, with our contracts for broadcast weather services generating a huge amount of column inches and public reaction.

It’s certainly been heartening to see and hear the level of public support for us. Over the last few days, ‘Met Office’ trended on Twitter and approaching 34,000 people have read our blog. We’ve had over 27,000 mentions of the Met Office on Twitter and lots of comments on our Facebook page. Here’s a very small selection of the feedback we’ve received:

  • @metoffice weather app will remain my first choice when it comes to weather reports.
  • @metoffice Met Office most highly respected in world. …
  • Dont worry @metoffice, you’ll always be my forecaster of choice :) #weather
  • .@metoffice Been using your app for quite a while. You provide an amazing service.
  • … Behind that lay my respect for the expertise and professionalism of the Met Office and its presenters.
  • … I do trust The Met Office and will follow them online …
  • … I’ve used the Met Office local weather map for years and find its forecasts almost unerringly accurate. You must also take into account the exceptional volatility of UK weather, and I doubt anyone can better MO for their knowledge and experience in that regard.

Moving from the positives to the negatives – there is some misinformation around.

Firstly about our apps. There’s been some suggestion in the media that our app is not popular. However, our apps have had 12 million downloads and they are rated 4 out of 5 on android and 3 out of 5 on iPhone. Like all providers we are always looking to improve and we hope build on this in the future. Last week we had 128% increase in app downloads and a 94% increase on website hits too.

Secondly in terms of value for money, it has been suggested that the Met Office charges the BBC £30 million a year. This, in fact, is the total of our commercial revenue from a wide range of customers – aviation, energy, marine, retail to name but a few. We receive only a small fraction of that amount for our presenter services to the BBC. Given that our presenters are paid at market rates this has to be great value for money.

For us, though, it’s never been about the money. It’s about serving the nation and ensuring the public benefits from the best weather forecasts and warnings to make informed decisions.

Met Office in the news – BBC weather contract

23 08 2015

You may have seen reports in the media today that the Met Office won’t be the BBCs main weather provider when the current contract ends.

Obviously everyone at the Met Office is disappointed that we won’t be supplying weather presenters and graphics to the BBC in the future.


As a trusted British institution we work at the heart of Government, with a wide range of customers, and with emergency responders to maintain resilience and public safety. We will be working with the BBC and others to ensure the nations official weather warnings are broadcast in a consistent way; and that our advice underpins forecasts when it matters most. We are also supporting our popular team of presenters to ensure clarity on their future.

Steve Noyes, our Operations and Customer Services Director, said: “Nobody knows Britain’s weather better and, during our long relationship with the BBC, we’ve revolutionised weather communication to make it an integral part of British daily life.

“This is disappointing news, but we will be working to make sure that vital Met Office advice continues to be a part of BBC output.

“Ranked No 1 in the world for forecast accuracy, people trust our forecasts and warnings. There are lots of ways to access these both now and in the future – via the Met Office app, website, and video forecasts, as well as through television and other digital news providers.”

Much of our 93 years of working with the BBC has been based solely on radio and television forecasts. The world is changing though, and nowadays people access weather information in many ways.

As ever, everyone will be able to access trusted Met Office forecasts and warnings on our own digital channels like our app and mobile website, delivered as text, symbols and videos. You can embed that information easily in your own website too. We continue to provide our expert forecasts on independent television networks and there are also now many other news organisations increasingly sharing Met Office content online.

Met Office in the Media – 7 August 2015

7 08 2015

Earth from space

An article published today makes a number of claims about Met Office weather and climate science.

It would be difficult to cover all the points raised in this blog, but here we look at the science and facts behind a few of the assertions.

The first decadal forecast issued in 2007

We did indeed publish the first groundbreaking decadal forecast in 2007. It had two headline statements:

  1. that half of all years after 2009 would be warmer globally than the record year at that time (1998) – This is doing well so far with two out of five years (2010 and 2014) warmer than 1998 and given current temperature levels, it’s likely this will be 3 out of 6 by the end of this year, consistent with our forecast for 2015
  2. that 2014 would be 0.3 °C ± 0.21 °C warmer than 2004 (giving a range of 0.09 °C to 0.51 °C) – WMO figures show the global temperature for 2014 was 0.13 °C higher than that in 2004; which is within the range of the forecast

Adjustments to global temperature data

The article says we adjust our temperature figures ‘without justifying why it is scientifically appropriate’. In fact, numerous peer-reviewed science papers from research centres across the world provide detailed explanations of how and why datasets are adjusted to ensure they are as accurate as possible. This is available for anyone to view and analyse.

The conclusion that the world has warmed is supported by independent analysis of global temperature data.

European heatwaves

We published a paper stating heatwaves like that seen across Europe in 2003 would become more frequent under climate change. Subsequent observations back up these conclusions; 2006 saw comparable heat in the UK, 2010 saw intense heat across eastern Europe, and there’s been a prolonged heatwave across much of Europe this year (although not in the UK).

Weather extremes

Met Office research supports climate research centres around the world which concludes we expect more extremes of heat and rainfall as the world continues to warm. The article says this ‘simply hasn’t happened’ but in fact, research shows there has been an increase in both. While here in the UK, we have also seen an increase in the number of temperature and rainfall records.

The article also states ‘the Met Office did all it could to claim the rain that caused last year’s exceptional flooding… was the worst ever recorded.’ We’ve done studies (here and here) of the exceptional rainfall in winter 2013/14., which across southern England was one of the, if not the most, exceptional periods for winter rainfall in around 250 years. Here’s a fuller research piece about the winter 2013/14 storms.

Greenland ice

The article says that we claimed Greenland ice would melt in future due to global warming. We did, and we were clear that it would take thousands of years to happen, not ‘any time soon’. Observations show Greenland has been losing 300 gigatonnes (1 gigatonne is 1000,000,000 tonnes) of ice a year over the last 12 years and research shows surface temperatures have clearly risen.

Other claims

A series of other claims are made in the article, mostly focusing on our forecasts over seasonal to decadal timescales. The Met Office is at the forefront of this pioneering area of research and we are increasing skill in this area.

According to standards set by the World Meteorological Organization the Met Office is ranked as the most accurate global met service in the world. We will continue our research in collaboration with our global scientific partners to improve this vital area of science.

On the record – observing a ‘heatwave’

7 07 2015

Last week on 1 July the UK saw its warmest July daily max temperature on record (records date back as far as 1853), with 36.7 °C at Heathrow. This has led to considerable interest in the wider context of the record temperatures. Here, Mark McCarthy, Manager of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre discusses records and how we record them.

Where were record temperatures observed on 1 July 2015?

Although Heathrow measured the highest temperature recorded by the Met Office observing network on a July day, record temperatures were reported across a wide stretch of the country, including from some of the Met Office’s very long running climate stations.

Temperatures exceeded 35 °C at a handful of locations in London and the south east, but also reached the low 30s across the Midlands, East Anglia and parts of north-west and north-east England. It is in these areas that July temperature records were broken.

Map showing stations recording new July temperature records, 1 July 2015

Map showing stations recording new July temperature records, 1 July 2015

The table below lists those stations with more than 50 years of observations for which 1 July 2015 was a record. These data show that record temperatures for July were not confined to London or other major urban centres. The records were, in fact, part of a larger scale pattern of high temperatures extending through Spain, Portugal and France.

Durham 31/7/1943, 10/7/1921 30.6 31 133
Sheffield 31/7/1943, 10/7/1921 31.7 33.3 130
Bradford 31/7/1943, 13/7/1935 30.6 30.9 106
Cranwell 22/7/1996 32.6 34.3 93
Sutton Bonnington 19/7/2006 32.9 33.6 84
Stonyhurst 3/7/1976 31.1 32.6 75
Manston 15/7/1983 31.4 33.6 74
Goudhurst 3/7/1976 32.8 33.3 74
Waddington 12/7/1949 32.2 33.1 67
Heathrow 19/7/2006 35.5 36.7 66
Nottingham (Watnall) 3/7/1976 32.3 33.9 64
Marham 3/7/1976, 5/7/1959 32.8 33.5 58
Wittering 5/7/1959 32.8 35.3 53
St James’s Park 5/7/1959 34.4 34.7 52

How does this compare to past heatwaves?

Temperatures over 36 °C reported at any station in the UK observing network are very rare, with only a handful of notable heatwaves seeing such extremes. The heatwaves of August 1990, August 2003, and July 2006 each saw a number of stations exceed 36 °C, whereas on 1 July 2015 Heathrow was the only station.

The Met Office maintains a list of climate extremes for the UK. It is standard practice to report the highest and lowest temperature every month as part of our routine monitoring of UK weather and climate. It is therefore always noteworthy when one of these records is broken.

While there is no doubt that some previous heatwaves have seen more extreme or more widespread high temperatures overall – particularly in the climatologically warmer period from late July into early August – 1 July 2015 has the honour of holding the highest recorded temperature for a July day with 36.7 °C at Heathrow.

How do you ensure the data are reliable?

To ensure consistency, Met Office weather records are only given for stations with standard instruments and exposure. This means that our records would not represent the extremes that may have occurred in places where we do not have standard instruments. This may have been the case on 1 July 2015, where the availability of additional data from amateur observers contributing to Met Office WOW show peak temperatures in the range 35 to 37 °C to the west London.

It is reasonable to ask whether Heathrow, as a major international airport, can provide a reliable climatological record. Are the observations biased by the presence of runways and air traffic?

The instrumentation and station enclosure are managed so that they meet the standards required by the Met Office and set out by the World Meteorological Organization. The site has been operating for 66 years and provides an excellent long observational series for west London.

The first thing we can do is compare the climatological temperatures with a nearby station at Kew Gardens. The average daytime maximum temperatures for the two sites are very close:

Site June July August
Heathrow 21.04 °C 23.54 °C 23.15 °C
Kew 21.02 °C 23.48 °C 23.15 °C

On 1 July the maximum temperature recorded at Heathrow (36.7 °C) was higher than Kew (35.7 °C). Modern instrumentation means we can look at the temperatures minute-by-minute at the two sites, as shown below. The two locations recorded very similar temperatures through most of the afternoon and the average temperature at the two sites between 12:00 and 18:00 GMT agree to within 0.02 °C. However, there was a peak in temperature at Heathrow between 14:00 and 14:30 GMT that was not seen at Kew Gardens. What could cause such a peak?

Temperature (°C) graph for Heathrow and Kew Gardens 1 July 2015

There were scattered clouds in the area that afternoon. Both Heathrow and Kew Gardens have instruments measuring solar radiation, shown in the graph below. Both sites recorded a general dip in solar radiation due to clouds from approximately 13:30 to 15:00 GMT which corresponds to a slight cooling at both sites. Heathrow saw a short gap in the clouds shortly after 14:00 GMT which resulted in a similarly short lived peak in temperature, while Kew Gardens remained cloudy. In turn Kew Gardens then saw a brief spell being sunnier than Heathrow just before 15:00 GMT and became warmer than Heathrow for about an hour.

Solar radiation (W/m2) graph for Heathrow and Kew Gardens 1 July 2015

The Met Office’s outlook to the end of 2014

5 10 2014

There are some headlines in the media today which suggest the UK faces another mild, wet and stormy winter this year based on the latest Met Office three month outlook for contingency planners.

Every month the Met Office updates its three month outlook for contingency planners, which is available for anyone to view on our website.

However, it’s not like a normal weather forecast. It’s an experimental and complex outlook based on probabilities which is designed specifically for those who plan ahead for various contingencies based on possible likelihoods.

As we’ve discussed previously, the outlook assesses the likelihood of five different scenarios for both temperature and rainfall for the whole of the UK for the whole three months, based on the most probable prevailing weather patterns.

It’s a bit like the science-equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race and like any horse race, it’s always possible the favourite won’t win.

This is why the outlook has to be used in the right context. So it’s useful for contingency planners, but not that useful for the public who want to know when we might see unsettled weather or which weekend looks good for an outdoor event.

What does the current outlook say?

Our latest three-month outlook suggests an increased risk of milder and wetter than average conditions for the period Oct-Nov-Dec based on our seasonal forecasts and those from other leading centres around the world.

However, there are still substantial probabilities that average or opposite (ie cool and/or dry) conditions may occur. This is because there are many competing factors that determine what our weather will be like in the coming months.

The outlook also highlights an increased risk of unsettled weather relative to what is usual for the time of year, but – again – there are still reasonable chances of other scenarios.

The increased risk of more unsettled than average conditions does not mean the late autumn and early winter will necessarily be like that of last year.

Some more context on the outlook


The outlook suggests that the risk of our weather coming in from the Atlantic, which brings unsettled conditions, increases from mid-October through November and December.

This is a fairly typical set up for the time of year, when we do expect unsettled weather, but the outlook does suggest the risk of more unsettled than normal conditions.

As the outlook covers the transition from autumn into the start of winter, there will be big changes in how UK weather is influenced by prevailing weather patterns during the period.

The current settled conditions bring us generally warm weather in early autumn, but the same weather pattern in winter would likely bring cold weather in from the rapidly cooling continent.

Latest wind and rain data as ex-hurricane Bertha crosses the UK

10 08 2014

As forecast ex-hurricane Bertha is crossing the UK today (10 August 2014) bringing heavy and strong, gusty winds.

ex-hurricane Bertha crosses the UK on 10 August 2014

ex-hurricane Bertha crosses the UK on 10 August 2014


The heaviest rainfall overnight was recorded at Balatasound in Shetland where 48.8mm of rain was recorded as a previous low pressure system moved away from the UK, while Bute Park in Cardiff saw 40.6mm as the remnants of ex-hurricane Bertha move in from the southwest.

The highest hourly total was 18.4mm at Wisley in Surrey between 9 and 10am this morning and Coventry in the West Midlands seeing 18.2mm in the same time.

The table below shows a selection of the rainfall recorded at Met Office observing sites across the UK between 10pm on Saturday 9 August and 10am on Sunday 10 August 2014.

12hr UK RAINFALL 10pm 9 Aug to 10am 10 Aug 2014

The winds have picked up as well with a gust of 53mph being recorded at Berry Head, Devon betwen 5am and 6am this morning. The table below shows the wind speeds recorded between 1am and 10am today.

UK MAX GUST SPEED 10 AUG 1am to 10am
10/08/2014 0600 BERRY HEAD DEVON 53
10/08/2014 0300 BALTASOUND SHETLAND 52
10/08/2014 0900 CULDROSE CORNWALL 48
10/08/2014 0200 SELLA NESS SHETLAND 48
10/08/2014 0300 LERWICK SHETLAND 44
10/08/2014 0900 CAMBORNE CORNWALL 43
10/08/2014 0900 SOLENT HAMPSHIRE 41

The rain will continue to move north across the UK during the rest of today and the winds will stay strong and gusty and we encourage everyone to keep up to date with the latest forecasts and national severe weather warnings.

The Met Office’s outlook for the UK summer 2014

9 06 2014

There are headlines in the media today which suggest the Met Office is forecasting that this summer will be one of the hottest on record. However, the Met Office hasn’t issued a forecast along these lines.

The news stories are based on information taken from our three month outlook for contingency planners, so let’s take a closer look at that.

What does our three month outlook say?

As we’ve discussed previously, this outlook assesses the level of risk connected to five different scenarios for both temperature and rainfall for the whole season. It’s a bit like the science-equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race.

However, as with any horse race, it’s always possible that the favourite won’t win – so these probability scenarios have to be used in the right context. This is why they’re useful for planners and businesses who plan ahead based on risk, but not that useful for the general public who would like to know which fortnight in August will have the best weather for a holiday.

The current outlook for the whole of the June-July-August period for the whole of the UK says the chance of the warmest scenario happening is 25% and the chance that the period will fall into the coldest scenario is 10%.

So, while the current three month outlook suggests there is a higher chance of above average temperatures than below average, it does not tell us about the type of weather we may see.

Above average temperatures could be reached by milder nights, as can occur in summer in cloudy and wet conditions (for interest, average maximum temperatures for the UK in summer are about 18.6C and average minimum temps are about 10.2C). There is also only a small forecast signal for summer rainfall and therefore, we cannot make any strong assumptions about the weather we’ll see.

We saw a good example of this recently – the UK has just had the third warmest spring on record but the season didn’t have long stretches of blue skies and high temperatures. Instead we saw mixed weather with a lot of mild nights which contributed to the overall above-average conditions.

So, what will the summer be like?

Obviously there’s always a lot of interest to know what summer will be like – how hot will it be, how much rain will we get and where and when will it fall?

Our 30-day outlook (under the text forecast tab) provides a look ahead to the general type of weather we’re likely to see in the UK.

Currently it says that after today, the weather is expected to settle down with many areas having some warm sunshine, although showers are still likely in the northwest.

From mid June to early July, the indications are that the weather will be close to what is climatologically normal for this time of year – giving us a tendency for occasional spells of unsettled weather interspersed with fine and warm spells, much as we have seen recently.

If there is any sign of significantly hot spells or heavy downpours in the forecast, we will keep the country up to date through our forecasts and warnings. Our ‘Get Ready for the Great British Summer’ webpages also provide useful tips and information to make the most of the summer months, whatever the weather.

The Met Office’s outlook for UK winter 2013-14

21 02 2014

There are some headlines in the media today discussing the Met Office long range forecast for this winter.

Firstly it’s important to remember that it’s our short and medium term forecasts that are relied on by emergency responders to help them manage the impacts of severe weather.

The Met Office’s five-day forecasts and severe weather warnings have provided excellent guidance throughout the period of exceptionally stormy and wet weather we have experienced this winter. This advice has helped everyone from the emergency services, to government organisations and the public plan ahead for the conditions we’ve seen.

The news stories are based on information taken from our three month outlook for contingency planners, issued at the end of November 2013 so, what can our three month outlooks tell us?

These outlooks are not like our other forecasts because, as we have discussed previously, it’s not currently scientifically possible to provide a detailed forecast over these long timescales.

Instead, the outlook assesses the level of risk connected to five different scenarios for both temperature and rain/snowfall for the UK as a whole; they do not mention specific areas such as the West Country or the Somerset Levels. It’s a bit like the science-equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race.

However, as with any horse race, it’s always possible that the favourite won’t win – so these probability scenarios have to be used in the right context. This is why they’re useful for contingency planners who plan ahead based on risk, but not that useful for the general public.

Met Office in the Media: 16 February 2014, response by Professor Mat Collins and the Met Office

17 02 2014

An article by David Rose appeared yesterday in the Mail on Sunday entitled: ‘No, global warming did NOT cause the storms, says one of the Met Office’s most senior experts’

In it he says that Mat Collins, Professor in Climate Systems at Exeter University, ‘appears to contradict’ the report released by the Met Office last weekend and that he ‘declined to comment on his difference in opinion’ with one of the report’s authors, Dame Julia Slingo.

This is not the case and there is no disagreement.

The report by the Met Office states that “As yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change to the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding. This is in part due to the highly variable nature of UK weather and climate.”   This agrees with the latest IPCC Report that states: “Substantial uncertainty and thus low confidence remains in projecting changes in Northern Hemisphere storm tracks, especially for the North Atlantic basin.”

This is the basis for Prof Collins’ comment and means that we are not sure, yet, how the features that bring storms across the Atlantic to the UK – the jet-stream and storm track – might be impacted by climate change. As the Met Office report highlights for this year’s extreme conditions, there are many competing factors – from changes in the winds of the upper atmosphere to disturbed weather over Indonesia.

What the Met Office report – and indeed the IPCC – does say is that there is increasing evidence that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense. It is clear that global warming has led to an increase in moisture in the atmosphere – with about four per cent more moisture over the oceans than in the 1970s – which means that when conditions are favourable to the formation of storms there is a greater risk of intense rainfall. This is where climate change has a role to play in this year’s flooding.

With respect to changes in storminess, the good news is that recent advances in climate science are starting to pay dividends. Improved spatial resolution in models – that means that they can model weather and climate in more spatial detail – is allowing the models to represent some of the key factors that drive regional weather patterns. As the Met Office report states ‘With a credible modelling system in place it should now be possible to perform scientifically robust assessments of changes in storminess, the degree to which they are related to natural variability and the degree to which there is a contribution from human-induced climate change.’

Cold snap expected

3 12 2013

The UK is going to see a very short, sharp, cold snap.  From Wednesday night (4th Dec) into Thursday morning (5th Dec) Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland will see some strong winds, while Scotland will see some wintry showers and snow.  However temperatures will return to normal as we head through the weekend, and be more in line with what should be expected for December.

A rapidly deepening Atlantic depression is expected to move in an easterly direction to the north of Scotland bringing westerly gales, with gusts of 60 to 70 mph extending southwards across northern and some central parts of the UK on Wednesday night and Thursday.  Northern Scotland could see gusts of 80mph, and potentially 90mph for a time.

Because of this the Met Office has issued a Yellow Severe Weather Warning for strong winds. The public should be aware of possible disruption to travel, especially across Scotland, parts of Northern Ireland and Northern England.

The winds are expected to veer northerly and bring the colder arctic air southwards across northern areas before easing into Friday. The winds could exacerbate high tides and may increase the risk of coastal flooding in the Northern and Western Isles and along the East Coast of England.

A Yellow warning for snow is also in place. It runs from 6am Thursday to 12 noon on Friday, covering the northern half of Scotland, snow showers are expected to be most frequent across the Northern Isles, the North Highlands and northern Aberdeenshire.  Low laying areas could see 2 – 5cms of snow and higher altitudes 10 – 20cms. In addition the strong winds could lead to some drifting of snow and possibly blizzard conditions on higher ground.  Icy conditions may also develop on some roads across Scotland on Thursday night and Friday morning.

This winter storm is not expected to be as powerful as those in January 2012 and December 2011

This is expected to be a short-lived cold snap, with temperatures quickly recovering to near normal over the weekend.

Our video explains what to do during a Yellow warning for wind. You can also download a weather warnings widget for your website.


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