Northern Lights continue for the UK

18 03 2015

There could be another chance to see the Northern Lights tonight (18 March) in the UK, but we are not expecting sightings to be as widespread as last night.

The lights are the result of the biggest solar storm in 11 years. There were reports of sightings as far east as Norfolk and as far south as Somerset.

Elsewhere areas of Canada reported power outages affecting their electricity grid and satellite operators took mitigating action to protect satellites from the effects of the solar storm.

The storm was caused by a large explosion on the Sun on Sunday throwing huge amounts of magnetically charged particles into space, called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).

As the particles travel towards Earth they interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and increase global geomagnetic activity, which releases energy into the atmosphere giving off light in the process.

Called the Northern Lights or the aurora borealis, the light is visible in parts of the globe in darkness. The Northern Lights get stronger and more colourful the further north you are.

The CME arrived at Earth in the early hours of Tuesday morning with the disturbance reaching a level of G4 on the 0 to 5 NOAA geomagnetic space weather scales last night.

There is a chance the aurora borealis will be visible again tonight but mainly in Scotland and Northern Ireland depending on cloud cover. Check cloud cover in your area via our dedicated pages.  See the British Geological Survey  web pages for tips on how best to see the aurora.

Below are some of the pictures you shared on Twitter

 





Northern Lights reach the UK

17 03 2015

Anyone in the Midlands, and further north, might have a chance of catching sight of the northern lights tonight.

Occasionally there are large explosions on the Sun and huge amounts of magnetically charged particles are thrown out into space, this is called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). If these particles travel towards Earth they interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and increase global geomagnetic activity. The increased activity releases energy into the atmosphere giving off light in the process, which we call the Northern Lights or the aurora borealis.

A CME left the sun on Sunday 15 March, arriving at Earth in the early hours of this morning (Tues). As the day has gone on the Earth’s magnetic field has become more disturbed with the disturbance reaching a level of G4 on the 0 to 5 NOAA geomagnetic space weather scales.

CME leaving the sun on 15th March 2015 courtesy of NASA

CME leaving the sun on 15th March 2015 picture courtesy of NASA

 

As a result of this activity the aurora is visible in those parts of the globe currently in darkness. As the UK becomes dark tonight there is an increased chance of the aurora being visible as far south as the Midlands. However due to the extensive cloud cover in Eastern areas, the best chance of clear skies is to the west of high ground. Check cloud cover in your area via our dedicated pages.

Areas such as the Northern tip of Northern Ireland, the Western Isles and parts of North Wales probably stand the best chance of seeing the aurora. See the British Geological Survey  web pages on tips to see the aurora.

 





Air Quality Forecast

17 03 2015

Localised areas of Greater London are currently recording Moderate to High levels of air pollution. More widely across Eastern parts of the UK, Moderate levels of pollution are also being recorded. Due to the current weather conditions these levels are likely to remain Moderate to High in certain areas for the next 24 hours.

Although these conditions are going to be short-lived, and while the great majority of people will not be affected by short-term peaks in air pollution, some individuals, such as those with existing heart or lung conditions, may experience increased symptoms. Those vulnerable members of the public can find further information on health advice here.

The Met Office is working very closely with Defra and Public Health England to ensure they have the most up-to-date and accurate air quality forecasts in order to provide relevant advice to the public.

Current Weather Conditions

Throughout today and into tomorrow high pressure will continue to draw in air and pollutants from the continent which adds to the pollution building up in urban areas.

High pressure is also currently sitting to the East of the UK bringing us calm and settled weather allowing pollutants to become trapped close to the ground.

How long will it last?

From tomorrow morning the high pressure will move westwards across the UK and start to bring cleaner air from the North and North East Europe, which will start to disperse pollution. By the end of Thursday pollution levels across the UK should return to Low values.





The Met Office in Japan for the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction

13 03 2015

The Met Office is sharing its knowledge and expertise in Japan this week at the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) aims to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards such as flooding, droughts, earthquakes and cyclones. Effective weather and climate services, like we have in the UK, play an essential role in ensuring that a nation is prepared for weather related natural hazards and help to reduce risk to life and property.

We are an integral part of UK Government and play a key role in the UK’s DRR planning, preparedness, response and recovery. Our accurate and timely weather forecasts, severe weather warnings and climate information mean authorities, businesses, civil contingency community and the public can take action ahead of severe weather. This helps to protect life and property and critical national infrastructure from the impacts of weather related natural hazards.

But the Met Office does not only work in the UK, we also work closely with a number of national meteorological and hydrological services (NMHSs) around the world, supporting them to develop their weather and climate services. If governments and communities are better informed they can take steps to prepare for the impacts.

We supported the Philippines National Met Service – the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (PAGASA) – in improving their weather information services following Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,300 people, in November 2014. In contrast more than a million people were evacuated ahead of Typhoon Hagupit, just one year later. Whilst sadly 30 people still died, many lives were undoubtedly saved as a result of improved forecasts, communication and DRR initiatives. This has transformed how the Philippines react to disasters.

Finally, as the UK’s national weather service we understand the importance of a nation having a single responsible voice for DRR, as it helps to ensure that early warning systems are trusted, listened to and acted upon by the public. With this in mind, we are well placed to support other NMHSs role in disaster risk reduction in their own countries.





Cyclone Quartet in the Tropics

13 03 2015

There are currently four cyclones active across tropical regions of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Here we take a look at each storm and its impacts.

Four cyclones seen on 12 March 2015. Image courtesy of The National Institute of Informatics

Four cyclones seen on 12 March 2015.
Image courtesy of The National Institute of Informatics

Cyclone Pam is the most intense of the four cyclones and, at the time of writing on March 13, is making landfall over the Republic of Vanuatu in the South Pacific Ocean as one of the most intense southern hemisphere cyclones on record. Sustained winds are estimated to be near 170 mph with a central pressure of 900 mb. Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, is located on the island of Efate and here preparations for the cyclone have been rushed to completion and residents of the city with a population of 45,000 have taken cover as the cyclone approaches. The eye of the cyclone is expected to pass just to the east, if not directly over the city.

Cyclone Pam seen on 13 March 2015 Image courtesy of The US Naval Research Laboratory

Cyclone Pam seen on 13 March 2015
Image courtesy of The US Naval Research Laboratory

Australia was struck by two cyclones simultaneously in February (Marcia and Lam) and this week is dealing with another dual threat. Cyclone Olwyn came ashore yesterday (12 March) in Western Australia near the town of Exmouth with wind gusts of 112 mph recorded at Learmonth Airport and a 1.75 m storm surge. Olwyn is tracking parallel to the coast and so is continuing to bring strong winds and heavy rain to a large stretch of the coast of Western Australia.

Meanwhile in northern Queensland Tropical Storm Nathan has made a very close approach to the coast bringing over 200mm rain in places in 24 hours. However, the centre of the storm has stayed off shore and is predicted to move back out to sea so minimising the threat of this storm to populated areas.

Tropical cyclones in the northern hemisphere are not frequent at this time of year, but in the North Pacific Tropical Storm Bavi has formed and is slowly gathering strength. The storm is well away from any large land masses, but by the end of the weekend could pass close to the US island territory of Guam.

Official warnings for these cyclones are produced by the Fiji Meteorological Service, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the Japan Meteorological Agency. The Met Office routinely supplies predictions of cyclone tracks from its global forecast model to regional meteorological centres worldwide, which are used along with guidance from other models in the production of forecasts and guidance. We also provide updates on current tropical storms via @metofficestorms on Twitter.

 





Holiday Dust

24 02 2015

At this time of year, many of us are in search of some winter sun, and a popular destination for Brits abroad is Egypt.

Typical conditions in Cairo at this time of year are fairly warm, dry and sunny. On average in February you could expect to see daytime highs of 21C, 8 hours of sunshine per day, and 1 wet day in the whole month. However, there may be some disappointed holidaymakers at the moment, as rather than sunshine; there is dust in the forecast. A dense dust plume has been developing across Libya and Egypt and will continue to grow over the coming days.

A deep area of low pressure in the central Mediterranean has given some very unsettled weather over recent days, and will continue to bring heavy rain and snow to northern parts of Algeria, Tunisia and perhaps western parts of Libya over the next few days. Very strong winds around the low will generate dust storms and sand storms and these will move across the rest of Libya and into Egypt during the first part of this week.

The dust storms will be severe and widespread enough to cause some disruption to air travel in the region, with perhaps some public health issues also.

The deep pink area in this satellite picture is the dust, and the line of dust stretches right up towards Greece.

The deep pink area in this satellite picture is the dust, and the line of dust stretches right up towards Greece.

These intense dust storms are often called Haboobs, which were first named in Saharan Sudan. They are frequently associated with thunderstorms or even small tornadoes, and usually last about three hours. The storms tend to develop late in the day during summer, and are sometime followed by rain. They can transport and deposit huge quantities of sand or dust, moving as an extremely dense wall that can be up to 100 km wide and several kilometers high.

Dust storm

For more information about the weather abroad, visit our holiday weather section.





‘Super tides’, the weather and coastal flood risk

20 02 2015

UPDATED 27/02/2015 – this blog has been updated under the section ‘So what are ‘super tides” with the help of the National Oceanography Centre.

In this joint blog from the Environment Agency and the Met Office, we look at the issue of so-called ‘super tides’.

There has been a lot of media coverage about the potential impact of so-called ‘super tides’ which are due from today (Friday, 20 February) through to Monday.

So what are ‘super tides’?

Tides are governed by the gravitational pull of the moon and, to a lesser extent, the sun. Because the sun and moon go through different alignment, this affects the size of the tides.

When the gravitational pull of the sun and moon combine, we see larger than average tides – known as spring tides. When the gravitational pulls offset each other, we get smaller tides known as neap tides. We see two periods of spring and neap tides roughly every month.

Yet some spring tides are higher than others. This is because tidal forces are stengthened if the moon is closest to Earth in its elliptical orbit (astronomers call this perigee). Tide forces are also enhanced when the sun and the moon are directly over the equater. For ths Sun this happens on or around 21 March or September (the equinoxes). Spring tides are always higher at this time of year. The moon’s orbit also takes it above and below the equator over a period of 27.2 days. Just as with the Sun, the tide generating forces are at their greatest when the moon is directly overhead at the equator.

Very large spring tides occur when these astronomical factors coincide. Approximately every 4.5 years the moon is closest to the Earth, and is also overhead at the equator, at either the March or September equinox.

In some places, these extreme tidal conditions can cause water levels to be 0.5m higher than a normal spring tide, but the weather can have a greater impact than even these largest of tides

What is the role of the weather in sea levels?

It’s important to realise that just because we are expecting big astronomical tides over the next few days, these won’t cause the highest sea levels we’ve seen – even in the last few years. That’s because the weather can have a much bigger impact on sea level than the 18-year tidal cycle.

Strong winds can pile up water on coastlines, and low pressure systems can also cause a localised rise in sea level. Typically the difference in water level caused by the weather can be between 20 and 30cm, but it can be much bigger.

On the 5th December 2013, for example, the weather created a storm surge that increased the water level by up to 2 metres. Although an estimated 2,800 properties flooded, more than 800,000 properties were protected from flooding thanks to more than 2,800 kilometres of flood schemes. The Environment Agency also provided 160,000 warnings to homes and businesses to give people vital time to prepare.

This highlights the importance of the Met Office and the Environment Agency working together to look at the combined impact of astronomical tides, wind, low pressure and waves on flood schemes to assess the potential impacts for communities around our coast.

Will we see coastal flooding this weekend?

Given the height of the tides there may be some localised flooding. Weather isn’t playing a large part in water levels over the next few days, although strong winds on Monday are likely to generate some large waves and push up sea levels slightly. This is nothing unusual for winter. You can see more about what weather to expect with the Met Office’s forecasts and severe weather warnings.

The Environment Agency and the Met Office are working together to closely monitor the situation, and the Environment Agency will issue flood alerts and warnings as required.

In the Humber Estuary, for example, we are expecting total water levels of between 4.20-4.39 metres – well below record levels of 5.22m.

John Curtin, Environment Agency’s Director of Incident Management and Resilience, said:  “We are monitoring the situation closely with the Met Office and will issue flood alerts and warnings as required.

“It’s possible we could see some large waves and spray and urge people to take care near coastal paths and promenades and not to drive through flood water.

“However, we can only get a warning to you if you’ve signed up to our free service. People can also see their flood risk and keep up to date with the latest situation on the GOV.UK website at https://www.gov.uk/check-if-youre-at-risk-of-flooding or follow @EnvAgency and #floodaware on Twitter for the latest flood updates.”

For those in Scotland, you can see flood updates for your area on the SEPA website here.

For those in Wales, you can see flood updates in English and Welsh on the Natural Resources Wales website here.

You can also see John explaining the Environment Agency’s flood warnings here:





Two cyclones to hit Australia

19 02 2015

Whilst here in the UK, we are coming towards the end of our winter season, Australia is coming towards the end of summer, but is in the middle of its cyclone season, and unusually there are currently two tropical cyclones affecting the country.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Lam is currently to the north of Australia’s Northern Territory, in the Arafura Sea. The storm is expected to make landfall on Thursday as a category 4 storm, between Milingimbi and Gapuwiyak. Huge rainfall figures are forecast, with 300 to 600mm daily, potentially adding up to more than 800mm in places throughout the storm event, with flooding likely inland, as well as coastal flooding and damaging winds. Residents close to the coast have been advised to be ready to move to shelter with emergency kit. However, as the area is not densely populated, significant impacts are not expected. The nearest large population centre is Darwin, and although it is likely that there will be some wet and windy weather here, it is not expected to be anything that Darwinians aren’t used to.

Credit: Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Credit: Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Storm track and warning areas for Tropical Cyclone Lam

Storm track and warning areas for Tropical Cyclone Lam

Meanwhile, Severe Tropical Cyclone Marcia is heading towards the Queensland coast, and is expected to make landfall between Mackay and Gladstone on Thursday night as an extremely powerful category 5 storm. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology are forecasting Marcia to track inland for a while and quickly weaken, before turning parallel with the coast, which keeps the main risk area to the north of Brisbane. However, there is some uncertainty with the exact track of the storm, and if it were to remain closer to the coast, Brisbane could be in line for a significant amount of rainfall, potentially as much as 400mm. Destructive winds are likely around the coast and abnormally high tides will be experienced with water levels expected to rise above the highest tide of the year. Dangerous storm tides are forecast as the cyclone crosses the coast, as well as treacherous surf on exposed beaches.

Credit: Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Credit: Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Storm track and warning areas for Tropical Cyclone Marcia

Storm track and warning areas for Tropical Cyclone Marcia

Met Office StormTracker provides a mapped picture of tropical cyclones around the globe with access to track history and six-day forecast tracks for current tropical cyclones from the Met Office global forecast model and latest observed cloud cover and sea surface temperature. We also provide updates on current tropical storms via @metofficestorms on Twitter.





A very sunny winter on the cards

18 02 2015

Early figures show that while this winter is on track for fairly average temperatures and rainfall, it could be among the sunniest in our UK record dating back to 1929.

If we have average sunshine for the rest of February, it’s likely to be in the top few sunniest winters and could potentially beat the 2001 record of 189 hours.

Between 1 Dec -16 Feb many areas have already received more than their long-term average winter sunshine for the full season (1 Dec – 28 Feb), especially parts of the Midlands, eastern Scotland and north-east England.

December and January were both sunny across much of the country – especially eastern areas, while northern England and eastern Scotland have had a sunny February so far.

As we near the end of winter it looks as though temperatures will be close to the long-term average with December warmer than average, January near average and February so far being just below.

For many it has been a dry winter so far across southern, eastern and north-east England but relatively wet across Scotland, with the north-west having a wet December and January.

Dry start to February

The first half of February has seen some dry settled weather thanks to high pressure dominating the weather for much of the period.

Using figures from 1-16 February, temperatures have generally been around 1 to 1.5 °C below normal across the UK as a whole and clear skies have allowed fog and frosty conditions to develop at times.

Many areas have been on the dry side, with less than 20 percent of expected rainfall so far across large swathes of the country – we’d normally expect around half of the monthly average to have fallen by now.

Sunshine amounts have been variable but parts of northern England and eastern Scotland have already received almost the whole-month average.

 





Stark weather contrasts across the USA

18 02 2015

While the UK continues to see fairly typical winter weather, over the other side of the Atlantic the US is experiencing some stark contrasts.

While some parts in the west are seeing warm and dry conditions, eastern areas are seeing very cold weather.

This week will see a continuation of warmer-than-average conditions in western parts of the USA, with little or no rainfall in the forecast.

Map showing air temperatures across the US, with white (-24C) and blue (below 0C) showing cold air and yellows and oranges showing warm air. From the Met Office's Global Model for 1200HRS GMT on 20 February 2015

Map showing air temperatures across the US, with white (-24C) and blue (below 0C) showing cold air and yellows and oranges showing warm air. From the Met Office’s Global Model for 1200HRS GMT on 20 February 2015

Despite some welcome rainfall at the start of February, California remains in drought, with a large swathe in exceptional drought – which is the highest category that the US Drought Monitor report.

In San Francisco, no rain fell at the downtown observation station or the airport during the whole of January 2015. This is the first January without rainfall since records began in 1850. Normally January is the wettest month of the year, with an average 119mm.

The dry conditions have also resulted in the Sierra Nevada snow pack being at less than 50% of where it should be as we head towards the end of winter.

Meanwhile, the very cold spell of weather is expected to continue across a large part of eastern and northeastern USA, with air originating from the Arctic keeping things icy.

There will be some snow at times, although not as significant as some recent events, though localised heavy ‘lake effect’ snow is likely this week off the Great Lakes.

However, the most noteworthy element will be the extreme cold. Another arctic front will arrive across the East Coast, bringing exceptionally cold conditions.

Places from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic may see some of the coldest weather since the mid-1990s, with numerous record low temperatures expected.

In fact this cold air is expected to reach as far south as Florida, with even the Caribbean expecting well below average temperatures throughout the rest of this week.








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