What’s ‘in store’ this Christmas?

21 12 2015

With Christmas just a few days away, it looks like the current mild weather is affecting our shopping habits during one of the most important shopping periods of the year.

Christmas is a key trading period for suppliers and retailers, and the challenge is to take advantage of the seasonal uplift by making sure the goods we want are available on the shelves.

Recent press coverage has reported that Christmas shoppers are benefitting from the deepest high street discounts since 2008 after mild weather and a disappointing Black Friday left shops with stock to clear. Good news for the savvy shopper looking for a bargain, not so great for retailers who need to respond to these challenging conditions.

While we might normally expect sales of hats and scarves, sledges and de-icers to be at a peak in December, the reality this year is that they are unlikely to be top of anyone’s shopping list. In fact, the statistics halfway through this month showed that for Wales, southwest England and southeast England it has been the mildest start to December using data back to 1960. Provisional figures mid month show that the UK average maximum daily temperature is 3.2C above what would normally be expected at this point in December. Daily maximum temperatures in the mid-teens Celsius have been recorded, when values would normally be hovering around 6-7C.

Fashion stores have been particularly affected with lower demand for coats and knitwear, while a mild autumn and start to the winter has also impacted food retailers and sales of seasonal soups, winter vegetables and hot drinks.

Predicting demand accurately is a significant challenge for the retail industry. We recently carried out some research among executives and managers in retailers and suppliers and the findings highlighted how much of a challenge demand planning is and what a difference getting it right can make.

Retail

Results from ‘Understanding the role of weather in the supply chain’

Suppliers confirmed that improving demand planning accuracy is their number one priority and retailers highlighted better on-shelf availability as a goal. Across both groups, the top factor external to their business that drives consumer demand is seasonal holidays and events.

So Christmas puts extra pressure on retailers and suppliers at a time when weather (the fourth external factor they highlighted as affecting consumer demand) can make things even tougher. With the weather forecast for the next few days bringing more mild, wet and windy conditions, it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll be buying our winter woollies just yet. You can find out more about how we help retailers and suppliers with tailored weather forecast services here.

Check out our forecast pages to see what weather you can expect in the lead up to Christmas, to see if you’ll need to wear that Christmas jumper and whether you’ll see any snow on the big day.





Mild start to December

16 12 2015

Looking at figures dating back to 1960 this has been the mildest start to December for Wales (8.7C), south west England (9.8C) and south east England (10C), and the 4th warmest for the UK as a whole (7.1C), with 1979, 2000 and 2006 being marginally milder.

Early provisional figures* (1-14 December) show the first half of December has been very mild across England and Wales with the maximum daily temperatures 3.2C above average for the UK as a whole.

However there has been a sharp north-south contrast at times with much colder air over Scotland and some frosts.  Elsewhere the humid south-westerly airflow means the weather has remained similar to last month: cloudy with very few clear nights, mild nights and very little sunshine for most areas.

Mean Temperature 1 -14 December 2015

Mean Temperature 1 -14 December 2015

 

The main talking point so far this month has been Storm Desmond, bringing record-breaking rainfall totals over the Lake District and a lot of rain over many northern areas.

Around 200% of the whole month’s normal rainfall has already fallen in a few places in the Pennines and the Lake District, it has also been wet in Snowdonia and parts of southern & central Scotland.  There has been near-normal rainfall across many other areas, and actually below average, for this point in the month, in parts of southern England.

EARLY mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
1-14 Dec 2015 Act deg C Anom deg C   Act Hours Anom %   Act mm Anom %  
Regions            
UK 7.1 3.2 13.4 33 100.2 83
England 8.6 4.3 15.7 33 56.7 65
Wales 8.7 4.2 11.0 26 140.9 85
Scotland 4.2 1.4 10.4 34 161.6 99
N Ireland 6.1 1.6 13.1 35 99.0 87

 

Despite the mild start to winter following on from a mild autumn, it looks like 2015 will be an average year as far as weather is concerned.

This year’s damp and cool spring and summer mean that despite the current mild spell, the rainfall, temperature and sunshine statistics for the year as a whole are all hovering around average, with just 17 days left until the end of the year.

Indications are that the unsettled weather will continue through Christmas and into the new year. Showers or longer spells of rain are expected across all parts, with the heaviest and most persistent rain in the north and west, and the best of the drier conditions across south-east England.

We can expect gales at times, again especially in the north and west. Temperatures will be closer to average than of late, but still generally above, with any snowfall restricted to the high ground of Scotland and northern England.

Please note that these provisional figures, especially for rainfall and sunshine, are subject to revision. Anomalies are expressed relative to the 1981-2010 averaging period.

*Data from the Met Office’s UK digitised records dating back to 1910.





Saharan dust

16 12 2015

During Wednesday night the mild southerly airflow affecting the UK spread a thin ribbon of dust, originally lifted from the Sahara, northwards across parts of England and Wales. The dust has been detected just above the surface over many parts of the south of the UK by monitoring stations.

How long will it last?

The moderate pollution levels are only expected to be short-lived. A cold front moving eastwards across the UK on Thursday will result in the wind swinging round to a ‘cleaner’ south-westerly and therefore low air pollution levels across the whole country on Friday. Southerly winds on Saturday will increase the likelihood of further patches of Saharan dust being spread across the UK with a risk once again of some moderate air pollution levels across parts of England and Wales. Sunday will then see a return to low air pollution levels across the country. The rain may lead to some deposits of dust being left on surfaces as it washes the dust from the atmosphere.

What is Saharan dust?
Saharan dust is lifted by strong winds and can reach very high altitudes; from there it can be transported worldwide by winds, covering distances of thousands of kilometres. The dust gets caught in rain droplets in clouds, falling to the ground in rain. When the water evaporates, a thin layer of dust is left on surfaces, like cars. It can also lead to vivid sunsets.

Will this lead to blood rain?
No. We rarely, if ever, see blood rain in the UK. This is because to get blood rain, when rain actually appears red, you need red dust or particles in high concentrations in the air. Even worldwide, documented cases worldwide are quite rare.

Dust and air quality
Saharan dust is a contributing factor to air quality along with pollution levels and weather conditions.

The combination of southerly winds and lifted dust is forecast to result in locally moderate pollution levels over parts of England and Wales during Thursday, but with levels falling rapidly as winds turn more westerly.

Further information including health advice on the different air pollution bands can be found on the Defra UK-air website.





The science questions following a global deal on climate

15 12 2015

There has been a huge amount of worldwide media coverage following the weekend’s announcement of a globally agreed deal to try to limit global warming to 2 °C or less. Here Professor Stephen Belcher, the Director of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Science and Services, discusses some of the scientific questions raised by the agreement.

At the heart of the Paris agreement is the aim to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels”*. Why 2 °C? Because global governments have previously agreed this is an achievable target which could reduce some of the most dangerous impacts of climate change – such as melting of ice in places like the Greenland which would cause large scale sea level rise.

The agreement went even further, however, by saying efforts should be pursued to “limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C”. This is a more ambitious target, especially given news from the Met Office in November that the world has reached the 1 °C above pre-industrial marker for the first time this year.

It raises some interesting questions for scientists as to how we can achieve this: how much do we need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions? How quickly do we need to make those cuts? What else might we need to do to be able to keep warming to 1.5 °C – for example, would we need to develop technologies that actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere? If temperatures overshot 1.5 °C and then reduced to 1.5 °C, would sea level also overshoot and then reduce?

To answer these questions more precisely will require scientists to get an even more detailed understanding of how sensitive our climate is to CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

Key to this will be improving understanding of what we call ‘Earth system feedbacks’. These are natural feedback processes which could either increase or decrease the amount of warming we might expect in response to a given amount of greenhouse gases. For example, we know that there are stores of greenhouse gases ‘locked away’ under frozen ground (permafrost) in some parts of the world, such as northern  Russia. If that permafrost melts due to climate change, the gases would be released – which could further increase warming.

Scientists around the world are already working on providing answers to these questions by developing a new breed of ‘Earth System Models’ (essentially complex simulations of our planet run on powerful supercomputers), which take more of these feedback processes into account, and so will help inform planning of emissions to achieve the warming targets agreed in Paris.

Whether we limit warming to 2 °C or 1.5 °C, it’s clear we can expect some further change to our global climate over the coming decades. Research shows us that this will lead to some impacts and it’s vital that we understand in more detail what this means at a regional and local level.

For example, research tells us that some parts of the world can expect more extreme weather – including heat waves and increases in extreme rainfall. For those planning everything from future homes, to flood defences, to vital infrastructure, the detail on what to expect is essential.

Again, these are questions which science is already working to answer by harnessing new research and ever more powerful supercomputing technology. At the Met Office, we’ve published papers showing that we can expect more intense summer downpours for the UK in future – which raises the risk of flash flooding. We’ve also shown how the chances of summer heatwaves in Europe have dramatically increased.

There’s still much more work to do in this area and it will be vital that the information generated by this research is presented in a way that allows everyone to make informed decisions about how we can become more resilient to our climate – whatever changes we can expect.

*There’s a lot of scientific debate about exactly what ‘pre-industrial levels’ means and how you would measure that, but here we use the average of temperatures during the period 1850-1899 as our representation.





Typhoon Melor bringing stormy weather to the Philippines

14 12 2015

After an extremely active northern hemisphere tropical cyclone season in 2015, the last couple of weeks have been very quiet. This is not unusual as the season often tails off in November and December. However, there has been a sting in the tail in the form of Typhoon Melor. Late last week a disturbance in the western North Pacific started to develop and during the weekend quickly intensified into Typhoon Melor. On Monday morning at landfall, winds averaged over 1-minute peaked near 130 mph which makes Melor equivalent to a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Remarkably that makes Typhoon Melor the 27th tropical cyclone in the northern hemisphere to reach category 4 or 5 this year – a full nine more than the previous record set in 2004.

Melor has already tracked along the north coast of the Philippine island of Samar and has now made landfall over the south-east of the island of Luzon. Population centres such as Sorsogon City and Legazpi City are likely to experience very strong winds and heavy rainfall. Some areas of the central Philippines could see as much as 500-1000 mm of rain fall in the next couple of days which could bring floods and mudslides. Melor is expected to continue westwards towards Mindoro Island before moving into the South China Sea as a weakening storm.

Typhoon Melor at 0710 UTC on 14 December 2015 Image from the Himawari satellite

Typhoon Melor at 0710 UTC on 14 December 2015
Image from the Himawari satellite

Although the main season for typhoons in the Philippines is from June to November, the country has been hit by several storms in December in recent years. In 2012 Typhoon Bopha struck the island of Mindanao with winds near 165 mph causing much damage and numerous fatalities. A year earlier Tropical Storm Washi struck a similar location. Although winds were not exceptional, huge amounts of rain caused flooding and mudslides, again resulting in many casualties.

Official warnings for the latest tropical cyclones in the western North Pacific are produced by 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.





Climate change and weather caught in a media storm

11 12 2015

December so far has been characterised by intense media discussions about climate change and its relationship to weather.

Early in the month, the Met Office welcomed the BBC Trust report, which recognised there was a serious breach of their editorial guidelines and that the What’s the Point of the.. Met Office programme, aired in August, had failed to make clear that the Met Office’s underlying views on climate change science were supported by the majority of scientists.

Trustees considered audiences were not given sufficient information about prevailing scientific opinion to allow them to assess the position of the Met Office and the Met Office position on these criticisms was not adequately included in the programme.

In the wake of Storm Desmond, there have been further media comments about the relationship between climate change and weather.

On Monday, in a blog, we were very clear not to link the record-breaking rainfall with climate change.  This is what Professor Dame Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist has said: “It’s too early to say definitively whether climate change has made a contribution to the exceptional rainfall. We anticipated a wet, stormy start to winter in our three-month outlooks, associated with the strong El Niño and other factors.

“However, just as with the stormy winter of two years ago, all the evidence from fundamental physics, and our understanding of our weather systems, suggests there may be a link between climate change and record-breaking winter rainfall. Last month, we published a paper showing that for the same weather pattern, an extended period of extreme UK winter rainfall is now seven times more likely than in a world without human emissions of greenhouse gases.”

So, we have been clear: it’s not easy to link a single weather event to climate change, but last weekend’s record rainfall aligns with the pattern highlighted by our scientists. The Met Office expects an increase in heavy rainfall associated with climate change and this is an active area of research. A recent paper by the Met Office’s Mike Kendon highlights several key findings connected with rainfall records:

  • Since 2000 there have been almost 10 times as many wet records as dry records.
  • Remarkably, the period since 2010 accounts for more wet records than any other decade – even though this is only a five-year period. It also includes the winter of 2013/14: the wettest on record.

Guided by peer-reviewed science, the Met Office recognises the climate is changing, and with that comes an expectation that more records will be broken.





Did climate change have an impact on Storm Desmond?

7 12 2015

The exceptional rainfall in Cumbria over the past few days saw the fall of numerous records and has led many to ask whether it is linked to climate change. The records are based on digitised data going back to the 19th Century.

A gauge at Honister Pass recorded 341.4mm of rainfall in the 24-hours up to 1800 GMT on 5 December 2015, making for a new UK record for any 24-hour period. This beat the previous record of 316.4mm set in November 2009 at Seathwaite, also in Cumbria. A new 48-hour record (from 0900 to 0900 hrs) was also set, when 405mm was recorded at Thirlmere in Cumbria in just 38 hrs.

The weekend’s record rainfall was associated with a persistent, south-westerly flow bringing a ‘river of moisture’ from as far away as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Ocean temperatures in the West Atlantic are currently well above normal and may well have contributed to the very high levels of moisture in the air masses which unleashed rainfall on the Cumbrian fells.

Professor Dame Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist, says “It’s too early to say definitively whether climate change has made a contribution to the exceptional rainfall. We anticipated a wet, stormy start to winter in our three-month outlooks, associated with the strong El Niño and other factors.

“However, just as with the stormy winter of two years ago, all the evidence from fundamental physics, and our understanding of our weather systems, suggests there may be a link between climate change and record-breaking winter rainfall. Last month, we published a paper showing that for the same weather pattern, an extended period of extreme UK winter rainfall is now seven times more likely than in a world without human emissions of greenhouse gases.”





Wind and rain records for Storm Desmond

6 12 2015

Storm Desmond, the fourth named storm of the season, bought widespread heavy rain and storm force winds to areas of northern England and Scotland.

The rainfall experienced in many parts of the north west of the UK is thought to have been exceptional and early provisional rainfall statistics indicate many places have seen totals widely over 180 to 200 mm in the Lake District. It is thought very locally event totals may be in excess of 300 mm locally.  The Met Office issued a Red ‘take action’ severe weather warning for rainfall yesterday, the first red warning since February 2014.

48 Hour UK Rainfall Total 0900 4th December – 0900 6th December
Site Name Area Rainfall Total mm
Shap Cumbria 262.6
Keswick Cumbria 178.4
Blencathra Cumbria 174.8
Capel Curig Gwynedd 170.6
Tyndrum Perthshire 141
Eskdalemuir Dumfriesshire 139.2
Bainbridge North Yorkshire 136
Cluanie Inn Ross & Cromarty 132.8

The rainfall caused some rivers to flood and homes had to be evacuated in areas of Cumbria and in Northumberland. The Environment Agency still has a number of flood warnings in place.

An Amber ‘be prepared’ warning for wind was in place for parts of  SE Scotland and NE England as wind speeds were expected that could potentially cause disruption, structural damage and disrupt transport.  Gusts of over 80 mph were experienced in more exposed locations, with the strongest recorded gust of 99 mph at Great Dun Fell, a high level site in Cumbria at 847m.

Max Gust Speeds 5 December 1800 – 6 December 0900
Site Name Area Max Gust mph
Capel Curig Gwynedd 81
Needles Old Battery Isle of Wight 78
High Bradfield South Yorkshire 77
Redesdale Camp Northumberland 73
Loftus Cleveland 70
Aberdaron Gwynedd 69
Charterhall Berwickshire 68
Valley Gwynedd 67

 

There are no weather warnings in place for the rest of today (Sunday), however the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) still have a number of flood warnings in place as water courses are still reacting to yesterday’s rainfall. A warning is in place for Monday and will be updated as required.

You can keep up to date with the latest forecast using our five day forecast pages, the latest weather warnings on our National Severe Weather Warnings pages and find out what to do in severe weather.





Met Éireann names Storm Clodagh

28 11 2015

The current unsettled spell of weather continues and the low pressure system that is forecast to affect Ireland and the UK on Sunday has been officially named Storm Clodagh by Met Éireann.

This makes it the third officially named storm of the joint Met Office Met Éireann pilot project to name storms that affect the UK and Ireland through the autumn and winter 2015/16.

Storms can be named by either the Met Office or Met Éireann.

Met Éireann named the storm on Saturday 28 November having issued an Orange warning for severe gales across Eire for Sunday.

The Met Office has issued a yellow be aware National Severe Weather Warning for wind for a medium likelihood of low impacts from severe gales across some parts of Northern Ireland, Wales, England and parts of southern Scotland.

Pressure chart for Sunday 29 November 2015 at midday

Pressure chart for Sunday 29 November 2015 at midday

The strongest winds are expected to reach Northern Ireland around dawn on Sunday, and most areas by the end of the morning, before gradually subsiding from the west during the afternoon and evening.

There remains some uncertainty with the track of this low and the precise wind speeds and areas to be affected. You can keep up to date with the latest on our forecast pages.





Warm November on course to equal record in England

27 11 2015

UPDATE – 3 December 2015 – Provisonal full month stats show that November 2015 was the dullest on record

Early provisional statistics* (1- 25 November) show November has been notable for its mild weather.

Overall, temperatures for the UK have been 2.2°C above the November average, with this month on course in England to equal the previous warmest November in 1994 (9.5°C).

The other UK nations have been similarly warm

  • the mean temperature of 9.2°C in Wales currently the second warmest November on record here – behind 1996 (9.4°C)
  • the mean temperature of 6.6°C is currently joint third warmest in Scotland – behind 7.7°C in 2011 and 7.5°C in 1994
  • the mean temperature of 8.0°C in Northern Ireland is currently the fourth warmest on record – behind 8.8°C in 1994, 8.7°C in 2011 and 8.1°C in 2007

Apart from a short but marked cold spell on 21- 23 November there has been an absence of frosts in almost all areas, largely because of a humid, cloudy south-westerly airflow. This has also meant that most areas have seen very little sunshine. Most areas have had typical rainfall amounts for the time of year, but north-west Wales, north-west England and Southern Scotland have had well above average totals. There have also been a number of very windy episodes, including the impact of storms Abigail and Barney.

Of particular note was the temperature of 22.4°C recorded at Trawsgoed in Wales on 1 November and a remarkable overnight temperature of 16.1°C at Murlough in Northern Ireland on 9-10 November.

1-25 Nov mean temperature anomaly 1981-2010

1-25 Nov mean temperature anomaly 1981-2010

1-25 Nov rainfall anomaly 1981-2010

1-25 Nov rainfall anomaly 1981-2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parts of southern and central Scotland, the Lake District, Pennines and Snowdonia have had over 150% of their whole-month rainfall average. North-east Scotland and parts of southern and eastern England have had slightly less than would be expected up to this point in the month. South-west Scotland has already had enough rain to make this the 5th wettest November for that region in a series since 1910.

Sunshine has been well below normal with just 33 hours of sunshine up to the 25th across the UK. This means November 2015 is heading toward being the dullest on records going back to 1929 – the dullest currently being 1962 with 39 hours.

1-25 Nov
2015*
Mean temp (°C ) Sunshine (hrs) Rainfall (mm)
Actual Diff from
81-10 avg
Actual % of
81-10 avg
Actual % of
81-10 avg
UK 8.4 2.2 33 58 136.4 113
England 9.5 2.6 34 53 93.3 106
Wales 9.2 2.4 33 58 197.4 122
Scotland 6.6 1.6 31 68 192.9 116
N Ireland 8 1.5 37 68 127.2 113

You can find out what the rest of the year has been like on our climate pages.

*Data from the Met Office’s UK digitised records dating back to 1910.

Please note that these provisional figures, especially for rainfall and sunshine, are subject to revision. Anomalies are expressed relative to the 1981-2010 averaging period.








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