Reporting the weather across the UK

8 01 2016

December 2015 was the wettest calendar month for the UK in a series of monthly weather records stretching back to 1910. But why does the Met Office state 1910 when listing records, especially when some records existed well before that time?

Part of the answer is that the Met Office has a responsibility to collate weather records for the entire UK, the UK countries and historic counties.  The digital archive used to generate our UK analyses includes station observations back to 1853, but only since 1910 has there been a sufficiently dense network of stations to allow an analysis of the whole UK.

One station, the Oxford Radcliffe Observatory, which is managed by Oxford University School of Geography and the Environment – holds rainfall records back to 1767. This allows a greater understanding of the rainfall in Oxfordshire, but doesn’t allow greater comparison with England or the UK: vital when you are trying to provide a complete picture.

The England and Wales Precipitation (EWP) series stretches back to 1766. In recent times the EWP – a highly significant climate series – is based on records from around 100 stations, but the further you go back the fewer recording stations there were. This provides a good analysis of records for England and Wales, but doesn’t capture the remainder of the UK: Scotland and Northern Ireland. Additionally, it doesn’t take account of the thousands of recording stations which provide more detailed picture for the UK in more modern times.

Dr Mark McCarthy is the head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre. Commenting on the results he said: “Although our UK dataset currently only stretches back to 1910 we are adding to it by digitising more of our extensive paper archives in order to extend these records further back in time. When we have done that it is possible that months like October 1903 may rival or even surpass some of the UK records set in December 2015.

“However for December 2015 we have a good picture  of the rainfall patterns across the UK such as the record breaking rainfall in: Cumbria, North Wales; eastern Dumfries and Galloway; and parts of the Cairngorms.”

December 2015 rainfall anomaly map

December 2015 rainfall anomaly map

“In fact, as our very high-resolution rainfall map in December 2015 shows, parts of England were close to average and some places actually recorded lower than average precipitation. Just like a digital photograph, greater resolution allows you to observe finer detail.  Therefore picking any one place or region may not be representative of the UK as a whole.”

Met Office national records are created using a method to interpolate observations from our network of stations onto a 5km by 5km grid covering the UK. The gridding method is a more sophisticated approach for analysing rainfall than simply taking an average of station data. However, because it also requires a denser network of stations it is not as long running a series as the EWP and some long running observing sites. The different datasets are therefore complementary and we use both to monitor our changing climate.

So, the UK’s national climate series – the records you will see quoted when the Met Office routinely releases statistics – is a comprehensive rainfall analysis covering the whole of the UK back to 1910 using all available observations. Other series including the EWP are also a vital part of our national climate monitoring and provide us with an even longer historical context for some parts of the UK.

Professor Adam Scaife is a climate scientist with the Met Office’s Hadley Centre. He said: “It’s clear that December 2015 was a very significant month for rainfall and was the highest since our records began in 1910.  We have been asked about the link between climate change and the rainfall in December 2015.

“With or without climate change there have always been exceptional spells of weather and there always will be. But climate change can add to the natural variations in our climate and it is this that increases the chance of record breaking weather and unprecedented extremes.  It is therefore vital that we monitor our weather and climate in as much detail as possible to assess and predict future weather extremes.”





What’s been happening to our weather?

31 12 2015

December 2015 will go down in meteorological history as one of the wettest – and warmest – on record. It will also be remembered for the devastating floods in Cumbria, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Scotland. The extensive flooding of homes and businesses, loss of electrical power, major damage to roads and bridges, and disruption to the rail network have caused great misery and incurred huge losses.

In this blog our Chief Scientist, Professor Dame Julia Slingo, discusses what factors may have influenced the record breaking weather we have seen in recent weeks.

As with all high-impact weather, the meteorological set-up was critical in defining the severity of these events. Throughout the month, the winds have come from the south or southwest, bringing both extreme warmth but also very high levels of moisture.

There has been a lot of debate whether this has been associated with El Nino – an intermittent warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean which has been very strong this year – or whether this is a sign of a changing climate. The links to El Nino are certainly very clear in the set up of large waves (troughs and ridges) in the atmospheric circulation, which we expect to see in these events.

Latest monthly anomalies in sea surface temperatures showing the strong El Nino lying along the equator, the warmth of the north-east Pacific and western Atlantic and the colder than normal ocean temperatures of the northern North Atlantic

Latest monthly anomalies in sea surface temperatures showing the strong El Nino lying along the equator, the warmth of the north-east Pacific and western Atlantic and the colder than normal ocean temperatures of the northern North Atlantic

However, it does seem that this year the unusual warmth of the North East Pacific Ocean may have altered the position of these waves across North America and into the Atlantic sector, setting up the conditions for the devastating tornadoes in the US and for the southerly feed of moisture-laden air into the UK.

Circulation anomalies in the middle troposphere for 1-30 and 24-30 December

Circulation anomalies in the middle troposphere for 1-30 and 24-30 December, showing a persistent pattern of troughs (blue/purple) and ridges (green/orange) across the US, North Atlantic and into Europe. The trough over the western US set up the conditions for tornadoes along the confluence of cold air from the north with very warm air from the Gulf (see elevated sea temperatures above). The southerly airstream from Spain to the North Pole is established by the gradient between the trough over the North Atlantic and the ridge over Europe.

Storm Desmond in early December was associated with a strong west-south-westerly flow around the ridge over the eastern seaboard of the US, reaching far back across the Atlantic, as far as the Caribbean. With ocean temperatures well above normal in the southern part of the North Atlantic (see above) – possibly due to the much weaker than normal hurricane season this year associated with the current El Nino – the air was primed with more moisture than normal. This river of atmospheric moisture fed the storms that formed on a stronger than normal jet stream, and as the air impinged on the mountains of Cumbria, large quantities of rainfall were released.

Later in the month the southerly flow intensified, with a high pressure system to the east of the UK over continental Europe providing a block to the normal passage of the westerly jet. With colder than usual ocean temperatures over the northern part of the North Atlantic (see above), a strong temperature gradient formed which acted to strengthen the jet and set up the conditions for the formation of rapidly deepening cyclones, such as Storm Frank. These cyclones drew in warm, moist air from far south leading again to heavy rainfall and further flooding on already saturated ground. And the southerly winds on the eastern flank of Storm Frank, and strengthened by the high pressure to the east, enabled extremely warm air to penetrate, temporarily, the deep Arctic leading to very high temperatures.

Surface pressure chart 0001 30 December 2015

Surface pressure chart 0001 30 December 2015

The potential for December to be stormy and wet was picked up in the three-month outlook and is consistent with what we expect in early winter when there is a strong El Nino in place. However, early analysis suggests that the specific nature of this December’s extreme weather might be linked to the detailed structure of this El Nino, to the warmth of the north-east Pacific Ocean and to their combined effects on the atmospheric circulation.

As for whether climate change has played a role, we know that the overall warming of the oceans increases the moisture content of the atmosphere by around 6% for every 1°C warming. This extra moisture provides additional energy to the developing weather system, enabling even more moisture to be drawn in to the system, so that the overall enhancement of rainfall when the moisture-laden air impinges on the mountains of Wales, northern England and Scotland may be even more significant. So from basic physical understanding of weather systems it is entirely plausible that climate change has exacerbated what has been a period of very wet and stormy weather arising from natural variability.





Record breaking December rainfall

28 12 2015

This is has already been a record breaking month for rainfall in some parts of the UK, with exceptional amounts of rain falling onto already saturated ground.

The very wet Boxing Day in parts of north Wales and northwest England was well forecast five days in advance with Amber, be prepared, warnings in force from as early as last Wednesday.

In the event the highest rainfall amounts were around 100mm with peaks of 130mm in Lancashire and in excess of 200mm in Snowdonia and caused high impacts across parts of north Wales and northern England.

Map showing two day rainfall totals for Christmas Day and Boxing Day

Map showing two day rainfall totals for Christmas Day and Boxing Day

Here is a selection of the highest two day rainfall totals from Met Office observing sites for Christmas Day and Boxing Day:

48hr UK RAINFALL TOTALS 9am 25 DEC – 9am 27 DEC 2015
SITE AREA RAINFALL TOTAL (MM)
CAPEL CURIG GWYNEDD 210.6
STONYHURST LANCASHIRE 100
PATELEY BRIDGE, RAVENS NEST NORTH YORKSHIRE 97
BINGLEY WEST YORKSHIRE 93.6
BAINBRIDGE NORTH YORKSHIRE 89.8
BALA GWYNEDD 89.4
SHAP CUMBRIA 86.4
SPADEADAM CUMBRIA 79.4
PRESTON, MOOR PARK LANCASHIRE 73.2
MYERSCOUGH LANCASHIRE 72.4
BRADFORD WEST YORKSHIRE 69.4
ROCHDALE GREATER MANCHESTER 68.2
MORECAMBE LANCASHIRE 65.8
MONA ISLE OF ANGLESEY 63.6
KIELDER CASTLE NORTHUMBERLAND 61.2
DISHFORTH AIRFIELD NORTH YORKSHIRE 60.8

This wet spell has added to the heavy rainfall through the rest of the month to make December 2015 already the wettest on record in parts of the UK.

Here is a small selection of new December records from Met Office observing stations around the UK 9am 1 – 9am 28 December 2015:

Site Total (mm) 81-10 avg (mm) Previous record
Shap (Cumbria) 773.2 215.6 504.4mm in 2006
Keswick (Cumbria) 517.6 173 376.4mm in 2013
Warcop Range (Cumbria) 281.6 94.1 218.4mm in 2006
Stonyhurst (Lancashire) 331.4 141.6 319.3mm in 1951
Morecambe (Lancashire) 281.4 109.2 272mm in 1909
Bainbridge (North Yorkshire) 496.2 156.5 327.2mm in 2006
Bingley

(West Yorkshire)

241.4 114.3 247.2mm in 2006
Eskdalemuir (Dumfries and Galloway) 500 184.9 390.4mm in 2014
Glasgow Bishopton 311.4 145.6 294.8mm in 2006
Capel Curig (Conwy) 1012.2 308.9 612.8mm in 2006

This very unsettled and occasionally stormy spell was well signalled in our recent three month outlooks and is not unusual for this time of year, indeed this is when climatologically we would expect to have most of our storms.

Throughout this unsettled spell Met Office meteorologists and advisors are working round the clock with our partners to keep everyone up to date with the latest forecast information so they can plan and prepare for the expected weather.





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.





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.”





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.








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