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.


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.

White Christmas?

26 12 2014

Most people woke up yesterday to a green Christmas rather than a white one.

Snow was recorded at our observation site at Lerwick and some sleet was also recorded at Wick between 11am and 12pm, however for the rest of the UK it remained dry and clear throughout Christmas Day.

To find out what the forecast for your area is for the next five days visit our website: metoffice.gov.uk

Untangling the global drivers of UK winter weather

25 11 2014

As we head towards the start of winter, which starts for meteorologists on 1 December, there’s always a great deal of media and public speculation about what weather we might have in store.

To answer that question, we need to look beyond the UK. The worlds’ weather is interconnected, and there are certain large scale global drivers which we know have influences on UK weather at this time of year – so what are these doing at the moment?

El Niño, which sees unusually warm sea surface temperatures across the tropical Pacific and can increase the risk of cold winter conditions in the UK, has been much discussed after initial signs of development earlier this year.

Its progress has been slow, however, and while there remains a good chance of a weak event by the end of the year it is also possible that El Niño conditions will remain neutral. In any case, this factor is not expected to be strong enough to exert much influence on weather patterns in Europe during the next three months.

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) describes differences in the usual pressure patterns over the North Atlantic – with positive and negative phases.

A positive phase is thought more likely than a negative one on average over the next three months. This is characterised by enhancement of the westerly winds across the Atlantic which, during winter, brings above-average temperatures and rainfall to Western Europe.

As we head later into winter, confidence about the heightened likelihood of positive NAO reduces – suggesting chances of drier and colder conditions return closer to normal.

The Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) sees high level (stratospheric) winds over the equator change from westerly to easterly phases – and it’s currently in the latter of the two.

In winter months this can lead to a greater incidence of high pressure blocking patterns over the northern hemisphere, which would increase the probability of colder and drier weather across Europe. Essentially this is providing an opposite signal to the NAO.

There are other factors to consider too. For example, Arctic sea ice extent is slightly below average but as yet it is not clear whether this might have an impact on weather patterns in the UK.

No single one of these drivers will determine the UK’s winter on its own – instead they all interact together to govern the weather trends we can expect over the coming months.

Disentangling these different influences remains a challenging area of science which the Met Office is improving all the time, but detailed and highly certain UK outlooks are not possible over these timescales.

The Met Office’s long-range outlooks give probabilities based on scenarios of being considerably wetter or drier, colder or milder than usual.

Currently the outlook for December 2014 to February 2015 suggests that milder and wetter than average winter conditions are slightly more likely than other outcomes. However, compared to day-to-day weather forecasts, the probabilities are much more finely balanced – for example, the outlook gives a 1 in 4 chance of the mildest scenario and a 1 in 10 chance of the coldest scenario. These numbers suggest it would be a mistake to interpret the outlook for a very mild outcome as ‘highly likely’; likewise very cold conditions cannot be ruled out.

The outlook gives similar probabilities for precipitation (rain, hail, sleet and snow), with the chances of the wettest scenario being 1 in 4 and the chances of the driest around 1 in 10.

These three month outlooks cover a whole three month period, taking into account both day and night, as well as the whole of the UK. This means that even in the event of, say, an overall mild winter we could still see spells of cold or very cold weather.

With this in mind, what exactly we’ll see for the winter ahead remains uncertain. In terms of strong winds, heavy rainfall, cold snaps or even snow, while longer-range outlooks can give us general tendencies, the details can only be predicted by our day-to-day weather forecasts.

The Met Office’s accuracy over all timescales is world-leading, however, so you can trust that we’ll keep everyone up-to-date with all the latest information on the weather whatever the winter has in store.

Wind and rainfall data 27 December 2013

27 12 2013

As forecast, a deep area of low pressure developed over the Atlantic Ocean in the early hours of Friday morning bringing with it a further spell of wet and very windy weather across the UK as it tracked northeastwards, crossing northwest Scotland.

Below you can see the highest gusts of wind and rainfall totals recorded at Met Office observing sites from midnight to 2.30pm on 27 December.

Maximum gust speeds:

Site Area Elevation (m) Max gust speed (mph)
Aberdaron Gwynedd 95 102
Capel Curig Gwynedd 216 87
Mumbles Head West Glamorgan 43 85
St Bees Head Cumbria 124 85
Inverbervie Kincardineshire 134 81
Valley Gwynedd 10 81
Lake Vyrnwy Powys 360 78
Mona Anglesey 60 78
Needles Old Battery Isle of Wight 80 78
Dundrennan Kirkcudbrightshire 113 77
Pembry Sands Dyfed 3 76

Rainfall totals:

Site Area Rainfall (mm)
Tulloch Bridge Inverness-shire 38
Tyndrum Perthshire 37.8
Charterhouse Roxburghshire 37.8
Kiedler Castle Northumberland 33.2
Achnagart Ross and Cromarty 32.8
Redesdale Camp Northumberland 28.6
Cluanie Inn Ross and Cromarty 26.2
Eskdalemuir Dumfriesshire 24.2
Dalwhinnie Inverness-shire 24.2
Newton Rigg Cumbria 22
Banagher, Caugh Hill Londonderry 19.4

Winds will slowly ease from tonight and we are expecting a brighter and less windy interlude over the course of Saturday and for most of Sunday with overnight frosts and sunny spells and a wintry mix of showers.

Another active atlantic frontal system is expected to swing eastwards across the country on Sunday night and Monday morning. A combination of strobng winds and moist air has the   potential to give locally significant amounts of rain which could cause the risk of further flooding.  The wind and rain are expected to clear eastward on Monday morning.

During this period of unsettled weather, people are advised to stay up to date with the latest Met Office forecasts and National Severe Weather Warnings and find out what to do in severe weather so they can plan ahead for the weather in store and make the most of the festive season. We would also encourage you to stay up to date with the latest news on flooding by checking the Environment Agency’s website for the latest flood alerts and warnings.


Wind and rainfall data 23 to 24 December 2013 – Updated 1130

24 12 2013

As forecast it was a stormy night across the southern half of the UK. Below you can see the highest gusts of wind and rainfal totals recorded at Met Office observing sites from 6pm 23 December and 7am 24 December.

Maximum gust speeds:

Site Area Elevation (m) Max gust speed (mph)
Needles Old Battery ISLE OF WIGHT 80 92
Berry Head DEVON 58 84
Langdon Bay KENT 117 76
Gorleston NORFOLK 4 75
Manston KENT 49 75
Mumbles Head WEST GLAMORGAN 43 75
South Uist Range WESTERN ISLES 4 75
Plymouth Mountbatten DEVON 50 74
Solent HAMPSHIRE 9 74
Aberdaron GWYNEDD 95 73
North Wyke DEVON 177 73

Rainfall totals:

Site Area Rainfall (mm)
Kenley Airfield GREATER LONDON 53.6
Charlwood SURREY 41
Wych Cross EAST SUSSEX 38.6
Alice Holt Lodge HAMPSHIRE 33.8
Goudhurst KENT 32.2
Middle Wallop HAMPSHIRE 31.6
Frittenden KENT 30.8
Cluanie Inn ROSS & CROMARTY 30.8
Liscombe SOMERSET 30.4
Hurn DORSET 29.8
Larkhill WILTSHIRE 29.2

The Met Office at Boscombe Down, Salisbury Plain, recorded 66.7mm of rain in the 24 hours 9am 23 December to 9am 24 December. This is provisionally a new all time daily record in any month for the station – records going back to January 1931. The previous record was 62.3mm on 16 August 1977.

Today we can expect severe gales across western and northern Scotland, with damaging gusts in places, especially around the coasts.

For Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we are expecting a colder and less windy interlude with overnight frosts and sunny spells and a wintry mix of showers, so there is a chance that some places, especially the higher ground of the west and north, may see a White Christmas. For most of us though Christmas is likely to be green not white.

Another Atlantic depression is expected to bring a further spell of wet and stormy weather to the UK on Friday.

During this period of unsettled weather, people are advised to stay up to date with the latest Met Office forecasts and National Severe Weather Warnings and find out what to do in severe weather so they can plan ahead for the weather in store and make the most of the festive season.

Top ten: Coldest Christmas days

25 12 2012

Merry Christmas from the Met Office.

The coldest Christmas day on record was in 2010 (and it was also the snowiest) with a minimum temperature of – 18.2 °C recorded at Altnaharra. The chart below shows the top ten minimum temperatures recorded on Christmas day (excluding high level sites).

Location Minimum temperature   Date
1   Altnaharra – 18.2 °C 25/12/2010
2   West Linton  – 15.6 °C 25/12/1981
3   Altnaharra – 15.5 °C 25/12/2009
4   Altnaharra – 12.8 °C 25/12/1996
5   Lagganlia  – 9.5 °C 25/12/1973
6   Dalwhinnie – 9.4 °C 25/12/1995
7   Aboyne – 9.4 °C 25/12/2006
8   Kindrogan – 8.8 °C 25/12/1972
9   Glenlivet – 8.5 °C 25/12/2000
10   Lower Kingcombe – 8 °C 25/12/1994
10   Tulloch Bridge – 8 °C 25/12/2005
10   Aboyne – 8 °C 25/12/2007

Read more top tens.

Recent rainfall totals

24 12 2012

Rain has continued to cause disruption across parts of the UK, with overnight rain adding to significant totals over the past few days.

The wettest place in the UK (and Scotland) since the heavy rainfall began on 19th December to 6am this morning has been Tyndrum in Perthshire, with 155.0 mm of rain.

Cardinham near Bodmin, Cornwall, is the wettest place in England with 128.8 mm of rain and the wettest place in Wales has been Mumbles Head, West Glamorgan, with 107.0 mm of rain.

Ballypatrick Forest in Antrim has been the wettest place in Northern Ireland, with 89.0 mm of rain.

Some areas have exceeded their full-month December average since the 19th – such as Plymouth, Devon, which has seen 128.8mm of rain compared to a December average of 118.8 mm.

Below is a table of the wettest places in the UK from 0000 HRS on 19th December to 0600 HRS today, 24th December. The final column shows the monthly average for December, clearly showing some places have exceeded their monthly totals:

PLYMOUTH DEVON 127.4 118.8
TREDEGAR GWENT 102.2 169.0

There is more unsettled weather to come this week, so for the latest information keep up to date with our forecasts and warnings.

Top ten: Snowiest Christmas days

18 12 2012

Snow at Christmas is recorded in two ways – the number of stations that reported snow falling, and the number of stations that recorded snow on the ground at 9 am. The two charts show the snowiest Christmases for both measures since 1959.
The snowiest Christmas in terms of snow on the ground was in 2010, when 83% of stations recorded snow.

Year Percentage of stations reporting snow lying
1 2010 83%
2 2009 57%
3 1981 52%
4 1995 40%
5 2004 34%
6 1999 30%
7 1964 22%
8 1993 21%
9 1970 20%
10 1968 14%

The year when the highest number of stations reported snow falling was 2004, when 61% of stations reported snowfall.

Year Percentage of stations reporting snowfall
1 2004 61%
2 1970 57%
3 1993 51%
4 1995 49%
5 1964 47%
6 1968 43%
7 1999 42%
8 2001 40%
9 2000 35%
10 1966 31%

Visit our website to see the full history of snow at Christmas or find out how much snow we get in the UK each year.

Will it snow this Christmas?

17 12 2012

With just over a week to go to Christmas Day we are being asked whether the cold weather will return to give us a white Christmas.

Unfortunately it’s still a little too early to say exactly what the weather will bring to the UK on the big day, but it does look as though the early predictions quoted in the press of snow falling in many places on Christmas Day and more recent white Christmas is “a dead cert” could end up being somewhat wide of the mark.

The current Met Office UK Outlook for Sunday 23 Dec 2012 to Tuesday 1 Jan 2013 suggests that the unsettled conditions we have at the moment are expected to continue until the New Year:

“The rather changeable weather is likely to persist into the beginning of January with low pressure expected to be dominant near the British Isles. The north of the UK is most likely to see colder than average conditions, with relatively typical amounts of rainfall. During the same period, temperatures over the south are likely to be closer to average whilst rainfall amounts may be a little above average. Uncertainty then increases significantly into the final week of the period, with no clear weather type favoured, perhaps indicating less unsettled conditions.”

Of course we will continue to update the forecast as Christmas approaches, with the first forecast for the day itself published on our website later this week.

So if you are in search of a white Christmas signs are that many of us may be a little disappointed again this year, but you can find out more about white Christmases in the UK in the following video:

Is it really that mild?

21 12 2011

Over the next few days we’re expecting maximum temperatures of up to 13 deg C in places, with fairly widespread mild temperatures expected in most places both by day and night.

This is in stark contrast to this time last year when temperatures were well below average, with most places struggling to get above freezing during the day.

While there is a big difference from one year to the next, there is nothing unusual about the milder temperatures we’re expecting over the next few days.

Although they are above the UK long-term average maximum temperatures for December of 6.9 deg C, it’s still quite normal to see temperatures several degrees above that.

If we go back just three years to December 2008, we can see temperatures on the 21st of the month getting up to 14.5 deg C in Usk, Monmouthshire. Elsewhere, Edinburgh and Newcastle hit  13 deg C and London got up to 12.8 deg C.

There are many other incidences even in relatively recent years when temperatures have been equal or above those we expect this year – so there is certainly nothing exceptional in the forecast.

To give an idea of how warm it would have to be to break records, the warmest temperature ever recorded in December is 18.3 deg C at Achnashellach, Highland, on 2 December 1948. We’re not expecting temperatures to get anywhere close to this in the next few days.

Even if we focus on Christmas Day, we’re expecting temperatures of 10-12 deg C across the UK which is, again, nothing exceptional. The record for Christmas Day is 15.6 deg C at Killerton in Devon in 1920 and at Leith, Edinburgh in 1896.


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