2015 likely to be the warmest on record

25 11 2015

This year’s global average surface temperature is likely to be the warmest on record according to data from the Met Office, and is expected to continue the trend showing 15 of the top 16 warmest years have happened since 2001.

These findings concur with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) findings also announced today.

2015 a more ‘clear-cut’ record

Provisional figures up to the end of October show this year’s near-surface global temperature as estimated from the HadCRUT dataset has been around 0.71 ±0.1 °C above the 1961-1990 average of 14.0 °C.

This is in-line with the Met Office’s forecast, issued in December 2014, which predicted 2015 global temperatures would be between 0.52 °C and 0.76 °C* above the 1961-1990 average, with a central estimate of 0.64 °C.

In HadCRUT, this year is clearly warmer than 2014, the previous nominal warmest year in the record, which was 0.57 ±0.1 °C above the 1961-1990 average.

Global Temperature graph

Colin Morice, a climate monitoring scientist at the Met Office, said: “Last year was nominally the warmest year in our records but wasn’t much higher than the other top warmest years. This year the temperature is markedly warmer than anything we’ve previously seen in the 166-year record, meaning its position at the top of the rankings looks set to be much more clear cut.”


The HadCRUT dataset, jointly compiled by the Met Office and Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, uses data from more than 6, 000 observation sites around the world and observations from ships and buoys at sea. It is recognised as one of the world’s leading indices of global temperature.

Temperatures 1 °C above ‘pre-industrial’ for first time

2015 is set to mark the first time in the record that annual global temperatures reach 1 °C above ‘pre-industrial’ temperatures (taken here as an average of the 1850-1900 period*).

This is important because governments around the world have agreed the aim of trying to limit warming to 2 °C or less above pre-industrial to try to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

Leading independently-run datasets agree

Findings from HadCRUT are very similar to independently-run global temperature datasets compiled by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies.

Information from all three datasets is included in an announcement from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on global temperature, which also concludes this year is likely to be the warmest on record.

Where did 2015’s warmth come from?

This year has seen a strong El Niño develop, with unusually warm sea surface temperatures across the Tropical Pacific, releasing heat into the atmosphere and pushing up global temperatures.

Global Temperature chart

Global Temperature chart

While this has contributed to 2015’s warmth, this is likely to be comparatively small compared to the long-term influence of warming caused by human greenhouse gas emissions.

This is backed up by research from the Met Office last year which showed global temperatures seen in recent years would be highly unlikely in a world without human influence on the climate.

What’s in store for the year ahead?

Last year saw record or near record warmth globally, this year is warmer still and the current expectation is that next year will also be warm.

This is due to two factors: firstly, the ongoing warming due to human influence, and secondly although the current El Niño is expected to peak around the end of this year, its main warming influence is usually felt in the months afterwards. For example, a strong El Niño peaked at the end of 1997 – but it was 1998 which went on to become a record (at the time) by some margin.

There are other natural factors – such as changes in longer term ocean cycles or volcanic eruptions – which could act to reduce global temperatures next year, so there will always be some uncertainty.

The Met Office will give more detail in the expected global temperature for 2016 when it publishes its forecast in the latter part of December.


* While late 19th century temperatures are commonly taken to be indicative of pre-industrial, there is no fixed period that is used as standard and a variety of other periods have been used for observational and palaeo datasets. There are limitations in available data in the early instrumental record, making the average temperature in the reference period less certain. There is not a reliable indicator of global temperatures back to 1750, which is the era widely assumed to represent pre-industrial conditions. Therefore 1850-1900 is chosen here as the most reliable reference period, which also corresponds to the period chosen by IPCC to represent a suitable earlier reference period.

Large changes in tropical rainfall expected due to greenhouse gas emissions

29 09 2015

A new Met Office study has found that, if global greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, we are likely to see large changes to the rainfall in tropical countries.

Scientists found that the size of these changes will be strongly determined by the total amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted.

Many people in tropical regions, which contain some of the least developed countries in the world, are already exceptionally vulnerable to variations in how much and how frequently it rains.  Any large, long-term changes to rainfall amounts due to climate change could worsen this vulnerability, and test the ability of societies and wildlife to adapt to potentially unprecedented conditions.

Climate simulations of tropical land rainfall change and global temperature change over the 21st century under four different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.

Climate simulations of tropical land rainfall change and global temperature change over the 21st century under four different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.


To investigate possible changes in future rainfall patterns, Met Office scientists used a large number of climate change simulations of the 21st century, produced by research institutes across the world.  All simulations run with high greenhouse gas emissions produced large changes in rainfall patterns across substantial areas of tropical land by the end of the century.  On average around one quarter of all tropical land was affected – an area twice the size of Brazil. Simulations run with lower greenhouse gas emissions showed much smaller areas of land with large rainfall changes.

Which regions are most vulnerable to rainfall change?

Analysis of future climate simulations shows that under high greenhouse gas emissions, large rainfall changes are expected to occur over an even larger area of dry land than was affected during the Sahel drought. Of course the impacts of such changes would be heavily dependent on the resilience of the particular countries affected.

The long-term drought in the Sahel region of West Africa brought famine to hundreds of thousands of people and huge disruption to millions more in the 1970s and 80s. Although not clearly linked to greenhouse gas emissions, the Sahel drought provides a yardstick for the potential impacts of future climate change.

When and why will these changes happen?

Rainfall changes in tropical countries are expected by the end of the 21st century due to climate change affecting a number of the processes which determine where and how much it rains in different parts of the tropics. One of these is the pattern of surface temperatures across the tropical oceans. As rainfall tends to occur over the warmest parts of the oceans, any changes to these patterns can cause large changes to the regions where it rains – this is what happens during an El Niño event.

Exactly where will changes occur?

Exactly which countries will be affected by these future rainfall changes is much less certain, as climate simulations disagree on where the changes will occur. Regions thought to be most at risk of large decreases include southern Africa and Central America, while India and East Africa are among those most likely to experience large increases. However it should be emphasised that the location of changes is much less consistent among climate simulations than the fact that large changes occur.

What do we know about the coming winter?

15 09 2015

There has been some speculation in the media today that we may be in for a long, bitterly cold winter because an El Niño is under way in the tropical Pacific.  However it is still far too early to speculate about what sort of winter the UK will have.

During an El Niño sea surface temperature in the east Pacific warms, altering weather patterns around the globe.  The influence of an El Niño over the UK and western Europe tends to be weaker and less predictable than elsewhere because of how far away we are from the event itself.  There is a link in late winter, when we can see a slightly higher risk of a colder than usual end to winter in El Niño years.

This map shows the effect El Nino has on temperatures around the globe.

This map shows the effect El Nino has on temperatures around the globe.


That’s not where it ends when looking at the UK winter, though. Other factors also have an influence, such as sea surface temperature in the North Atlantic, the Sun’s output, and changes in winds high in the atmosphere above the Equator known as the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation. These could wipe out the influence from El Niño, and all of them need to be taken into account to predict the winter.

Scientist and Manager of Met Office Predictability Research, Dr Doug Smith, said: “We continue to make improvements in the developing area of long-range forecasting but with all the competing influences in the climate it remains too early to predict the coming winter with much confidence.”

Our 30-day forecasts remain the best way for the public to get a long-range look at the weather we’ll see, while our detailed 5-day forecasts and warnings will keep everyone up-to-date for any periods of severe weather.


So what happened to our summer?

28 08 2015

Our Chief Scientist Professor Dame Julia Slingo OBE FRS reflects on this summer’s weather and what has influenced it:

No-one can deny that we have had a pretty disappointing summer with a lot of unsettled weather and only a few warm spells, especially through July and August. Our weather has been dominated by low pressure over and to the west of the country that has brought us periods of heavy rain from the south – what we call the Spanish Plume. So what has been happening?

If we look beyond our shores there have been some big changes in the global climate this year. El Niño is in full flight, disturbing weather patterns around the world. The low pressure that has dominated our weather is part of a pattern of waves in the jet stream around the world that has brought crippling heat waves to places like Poland and Japan. And, looking back over past El Niños, you could have expected that a more unsettled summer might be on the cards for the UK. Closer to home the North Atlantic is more than 2 degrees colder than normal. It seems quite likely that the unusually cold North Atlantic has strengthened and pushed our jet stream south, also contributing to the low pressure systems that have dominated our weather.

So could all this have been anticipated? Seasonal forecasts for this summer suggested that temperatures and rainfall would be near normal. However, as the season progressed all the leading models around the world failed to capture the signal for unsettled weather over the UK. We all know that forecasting months and seasons ahead is still in its infancy and much more research needs to be done. On the other hand our day-to-day forecasts have been really successful in allowing us to warn of bad weather, highlighting yet again the benefits of our research that has delivered year-on-year and decade-by-decade improvements in forecasting skill. Our 5-day forecast is now as accurate as our 1-day forecast was when I started my career. This enables us to make so many decisions that keep us safe, protect our property, keep our infrastructure running and even when to go out and enjoy the sunshine!

All of this cannot happen without improvements to research and technology, and this week the first phase of our new supercomputer went live, five weeks ahead of schedule. This will enable us to provide even more accurate and relevant weather and climate forecasts to all of us, our government, emergency responders, and our many other customers at home and abroad.

The news that the BBC has decided that the Met Office won’t be their main weather provider when the current contract ends has raised the question of where will the new provider get their information from. It’s important to understand that no weather forecasting organization, whether it is a National Met Service like the Met Office or an independent company, can provide a service without a forecast, and that it is the leading meteorological agencies, like the Met Office, that build and deliver those forecasts. So whoever the BBC chooses to deliver their weather services in future, you can be sure that Met Office observations and forecasts will continue to be at the heart of them. We are committed to driving forward the skill and usefulness of our forecasts and ensuring that all of us benefit from the advances the Met Office makes in the coming years with our new supercomputer.

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.

Annual State of the Climate Report for 2014 published

16 07 2015

A report which looks at all the climate variables that can be measured for 2014 has been released today.

The annual ‘State of the Climate’ report has been published by the American Meteorological Society, presenting summaries for all so-called Essential Climate Variables (ECVs).

These include various types of greenhouse gases, temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land, water cycle variables, ocean variables such as sea level and salinity, sea ice extent, permafrost temperatures and others. The majority of these reflect a planet that is continuing to warm.

The exceptional warmth of 2014 occurred against a backdrop of neutral to marginal El Niño conditions. Europe was especially warm and all land regions apart from North America showed above average frequency of warm extremes.

Annual average anomalies (difference to normal) for 2014 for surface temperature from the Met Office’s global temperature dataset, HadCRUT4 relative to a 1981-2010 climatology period.

Annual average anomalies (difference to normal) for 2014 for surface temperature from the Met Office’s global temperature dataset, HadCRUT4 relative to a 1981-2010 climatology period.

Over oceans, global sea surface temperatures and ocean heat content were also observed to be exceptionally warm and sea level exceptionally high.

The significant warmth is reflected strongly in regions of snow and ice. Arctic sea ice was well below average but above the exceptional lows seen in 2007, 2011 and 2012. Glacier volume is declining year on year – preliminary results for 2014 make it the 31st consecutive year of decline.

Long-lived greenhouse gases continued to increase, primarily owing to rising carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, in addition to methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and other minor trace gases.

The Met Office’s Kate Willett, a lead chapter editor on the new report, said: “The comprehensive view of the different variables in the report enables a better understanding of the interconnectedness of our climate system.”

‘State of the Climate in 2014’ is the 25th consecutive instalment of the report, which is lead by scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, along with 413 scientists from 58 countries.

Met Office scientist Kate Willett leads the Global Climate chapter and several other Met Office scientists contribute, using Met Office Hadley Centre climate data. All reports are freely available online.

Met Office awarded for its collaborative work overseas

15 05 2015

The International Development team at the Met Office has won a prestigous award for its work helping increase the access, use and benefits of climate information services to 2.4 million people in Kenya.

The British Expertise International Award for ‘Outstanding International Collaboration’ was given to the Met Office for its work with the Adaptation Consortium delivering the ‘Mainstreaming Climate Adaptation into Planning’ project.

Other partners in the consortium are Christian Aid, the International Institute for Environment and Development, Kenya Meteorological Services and the National Drought Management Authority Kenya.

The project aims to address the underlying causes of vulnerability to climate change while strengthening adaptation to future extreme events. It has improved access to climate and other information, integrated climate change adaptation into development plans, developed better water infrastructure and training in water governance, and improved disease surveillance.

Has there been a recent increase in UK weather records?

17 12 2014

There have been a striking number of temperature and rainfall records broken in recent years, according to an analysis by the Met Office which is published in the journal Weather.

The paper examines whether recent decades have seen an unusually high number of records broken in the UK. It looks at the number of records over time in the UK national statistics compiled by the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre (NCIC).

Records were collated from long-running national and regional series of monthly, seasonal and annual temperature, rainfall, and sunshine.

The analysis counts records by decade and weights them according to their relative importance. More weight is given to national records compared to regions, and more weight to annual records compared to individual months.

The UK’s climate shows a large variability and this is bound to also be reflected in weather records. Even so, the analysis does reveal some interesting patterns.

Temperature records:

  • Since 2000, there have been 10 times as many hot records as cold records.
  • Taking into account the weighting, the period since 2000 accounts for two-thirds of all hot records in a national series from 1910, but only 3% of cold-records.
  • The longer Central England Temperature (CET) series, which dates back to 1659, reveals a similar trend – with seven out of a possible 17 records set since 2000 but no record cold periods.
  • The increase in hot records and decrease in cold records seen in recent decades is consistent with the long-term climate change signal. Seven of the warmest years in the UK series from 1910 have occurred since 2000.

Rainfall records:

  • Since 2000 there have been almost 10 times as many wet records as dry records.
  • Taking into account the weighting, the period since 2000 accounts for 45% of all wet records in a national series from 1910, but only 2% of dry records.
  • Remarkably, period since 2010 accounts for more wet records than any other decade – even though this only a 5 year period. The most prominent wet records in this period were winter 2013/2014 and April, June and year 2012.
  • The longer England & Wales Precipitation (EWP) series, which dates back to 1766, shows a similar trend – with six out of a possible 17 records set since 2000, but no record dry periods.
  • The large number of recent wet records may be indicative of trends in underlying rainfall patterns. We would expect an increase in heavy rainfall with climate change and this is an area of active research within the Met Office Hadley Centre.

Sunshine records:

  • In contrast with the other measures, there are no clear trends apparent in the sunshine records.

Exactly why we have seen these records is an ongoing area of research. You can see some discussion points related to this theme in a Met Office research paper on the drivers and impacts of our seasonal weather.

You can explore the Met Office’s climate data for the UK on our climate pages.

End personal attacks on scientists – regardless of their views

19 05 2014

The Met Office’s Chief Scientist, Professor Dame Julia Slingo, is appealing for an end to personal attacks on scientists – no matter what their viewpoint on the climate debate.

Her call follows recent articles in the media claiming that some scientists have felt pressured due to their views.

Professor Lennart Bengtsson, a research fellow at the University of Reading, featured in the articles after saying he was worried by a wider trend that science is being ‘gradually influenced by political views’. You can read a statement from him and other climate scientists in response to the articles on the Science Media Centre’s website.

In a letter, published in The Times today, Professor Dame Slingo says scientists should be free to review and debate their research without fear of personal attacks.

You can read the full letter below:


Your articles on the recent events surrounding Prof. Lennart Bengtsson are not a true reflection of the way the climate community conducts its research. My position, and my passion, is that all scientists – no matter what their viewpoint – must be free to review and debate their research unfettered and without personal attacks.

Science is about seeking the truth and acknowledging the uncertainties in what we currently know; it cannot be about subjective, unscientific beliefs and personal attacks of the kind that some of us have had to endure.

Just as we are very clear that climate models do not give us a definitive answer about the possible magnitude of future warming, neither do the estimates from observations as some in the climate sceptic community would claim.

I welcome scientific debate with those whose research challenges my understanding of climate change and scientists have a well established and robust peer review process for doing this. This process is there for good reason because it ensures the debate is rigorous but never personal.

Professor Dame Julia Slingo
Chief Scientist
Met Office

Winter so far – 18th February rainfall update

18 02 2014

As the UK heads into a period of more normal unsettled winter weather weather, the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre has looked at statistics for this winter so far (from 1 December 2013 to 13 February 2014).

These add to previous facts and figures we put out earlier this month, and show a picture of continuing exceptional rainfall across many areas.

Looking at regions around the UK, these provisional figures show the region of central southern and southeast England has already exceeded its record winter rainfall in the series back to 1910. Rainfall here currently at 459.3mm*, 22mm above the previous record of 437.1mm set in 1915 with two weeks still to go to the end of the season. This winter also currently ranks as the 4th wettest winter (if there is no further rain) for southwest England and south Wales combined and the 3rd wettest for England South.

Both the UK as a whole and Wales are fairly close to exceeding their respective record wettest winter levels in the national series dating back to 1910 (see table below). Average rainfall for the rest of the month could see those records broken.

All countries across the UK have already exceeded their typical average rainfall for the whole winter (according to the 1981-2010 long-term averages). Normally at this stage of the season, you’d expect to have seen only around 80% of that whole season average.

All areas are also on target for a significantly wetter than average winter, with typically around 130-160% of normal rainfall if we get average rainfall for the rest of February.

All countries and areas are also on target for a warmer than average winter.

Current record wettest winters:

Country Year Rainfall Winter 2014 to date*
UK 1995 485.1mm 452.6mm
ENGLAND 1915 392.7mm 345.6mm
WALES 1995 684.1mm 645.1mm
SCOTLAND 1995 649.5mm 590.4mm
NORTHERN IRELAND 1994 489.7mm 386.2mm

*These are provisional figures from 1 December 2013 to 13 February 2014 and could change after final quality control checks on data.


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