Air quality issues in the UK – what’s really going on?

19 03 2015

There has been some media coverage about air pollution issues in the UK today, so what’s really going on?

It is true to say that since Tuesday this week the UK has seen elevated levels of air pollution. This is mainly due to high pressure dominating over the country, which means a lack of wind and atmospheric circulation which would normally disperse pollution.

This allows pollution from things like cars and industry to build up in the lower atmosphere, affecting our air quality. This means much of the pollution we are seeing is due to home-grown sources, but with some contribution of pollution from the continent.

As you can see from the current air quality forecast on Defra’s air quality pages, whilst most areas of the country are seeing moderate or low levels of pollutants today, some areas are seeing high levels.

The situation is improving, however, with air quality levels expected to return to a normal level over the next couple of days.

Levels we have seen over the past few days and today are by no means unusual – we expect to see conditions similar to this several times a year.

The air pollution is also nowhere near record levels – in fact, we saw higher levels than this during a period of poor air quality at about the same time last year.

It’s also worth noting that the current air quality issues don’t fit any scientific definition of smog – which is a term which describes a mixture of smoke and fog.

There’s no fog around at the moment and smoke would only be a tiny fraction of any contribution to the poorer air quality we’re currently seeing.

The main effects of the current conditions will be felt by individuals with existing heart or respiratory conditions, who may experience increased symptoms. More health advice is available online on Defra’s air quality pages.

Throughout the next couple of days, the Met Office will continue to work closely with Defra, Public Health England and Public Health Wales to ensure they have the most up-to-date and accurate air quality forecasts in order to provide relevant advice to the public.





Air Quality Forecast

17 03 2015

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

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

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

Current Weather Conditions

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

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

How long will it last?

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





Saturday’s squally weather and reports of tornadoes

27 01 2014

On Saturday we saw a number of heavy rain showers group together in what’s known as a ‘squall line’ – a narrow band of thunderstorms, intense rain, hail, and frequent lightning accompanied by brief but very strong gusts of wind and possibly tornadoes.

Radar image showing the narrow band of showers moving across the UK.

Radar image showing the narrow band of showers moving across the UK.

This squall line swept across Wales and then moved south east across southern parts of England – bringing about 6mm of rain to places in a very short period of time with gusts of wind of around 60mph or more in places.

It  also had the characteristics of a cold front, with the temperature ahead of it being around 11°C, falling to 7°C once the squall line had passed.

There have been reports of possible weak tornadoes from some locations, however it’s hard to verify them without pictures or footage because these features are generally too small to be picked up by satellites or weather observation equipment.

It’s also worth noting that squally winds can often be mistaken for tornadoes because these gusts can be sudden and strong – potentially causing very localised damage.

You can see more information on tornadoes and how they form on our website.





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.





Cold snap expected

3 12 2013

The UK is going to see a very short, sharp, cold snap.  From Wednesday night (4th Dec) into Thursday morning (5th Dec) Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland will see some strong winds, while Scotland will see some wintry showers and snow.  However temperatures will return to normal as we head through the weekend, and be more in line with what should be expected for December.

A rapidly deepening Atlantic depression is expected to move in an easterly direction to the north of Scotland bringing westerly gales, with gusts of 60 to 70 mph extending southwards across northern and some central parts of the UK on Wednesday night and Thursday.  Northern Scotland could see gusts of 80mph, and potentially 90mph for a time.

Because of this the Met Office has issued a Yellow Severe Weather Warning for strong winds. The public should be aware of possible disruption to travel, especially across Scotland, parts of Northern Ireland and Northern England.

The winds are expected to veer northerly and bring the colder arctic air southwards across northern areas before easing into Friday. The winds could exacerbate high tides and may increase the risk of coastal flooding in the Northern and Western Isles and along the East Coast of England.

A Yellow warning for snow is also in place. It runs from 6am Thursday to 12 noon on Friday, covering the northern half of Scotland, snow showers are expected to be most frequent across the Northern Isles, the North Highlands and northern Aberdeenshire.  Low laying areas could see 2 – 5cms of snow and higher altitudes 10 – 20cms. In addition the strong winds could lead to some drifting of snow and possibly blizzard conditions on higher ground.  Icy conditions may also develop on some roads across Scotland on Thursday night and Friday morning.

This winter storm is not expected to be as powerful as those in January 2012 and December 2011

This is expected to be a short-lived cold snap, with temperatures quickly recovering to near normal over the weekend.

Our video explains what to do during a Yellow warning for wind. You can also download a weather warnings widget for your website.





June set to be slightly drier and sunnier than average

28 06 2013

Provisional Met Office early June figures suggest that it has been drier than average and slightly sunnier than usual so far this month.

Rainfall for the UK from 1-26 June was 37.8 mm. At this stage we would expect to have seen about 87 % of the full month average, however we have only seen 52 %.

Up to the 26th we have seen 163 hours of sunshine in the UK, which is 96 % of the full month average – suggesting we are on track for a sunnier than average month.

However, the mean UK temperature up to the 26th has been recorded at 12.7 °C which is -0.3 °C below the 1981-2010 long-term average for the month.

The average maximum temperature so far this June is 17.1°C which is very close to the long-term average of 17.3 °C.

Looking at the individual countries, Scotland and Northern Ireland have had slightly above average temperatures so far.  Scotland’s mean temperature has been 11.5 °C (0.2 °C above average) and Northern Ireland’s has been 13.0 °C (0.2 °C above average).

Wales had the most sunshine with190.6 hours, already above the full-month long-term average.

Northern Ireland has had the most rain so far with 79.8 mm compared with England’s below average 27.5 mm and Scotland’s 45.3 mm.

Temperatures of 26.4 °C at Herstmonceux, East Sussex (19 June) and Mickleham, Surrey (20 June) are the hottest days in the UK so far.

The hottest day in Wales so far this year was at Usk (25.1°C on 19 June).

Scotland’s hottest day was at Glenlee (24.5 °C on 8 June) and Northern Ireland’s hottest day of the year so far was on 9 June (24.5 °C) at Magilligan.

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall
1-26 June Actual Diff from Avg Actual % of Avg Actual % of Avg
degC degC hours % mm %
UK 12.7 -0.3 163.0 96 37.8 52
England 13.4 -0.7 168.2 92 27.5 44
Wales 12.7 -0.5 190.6 110 45.9 54
Scotland 11.5 0.2 148.9 99 45.3 51
N Ireland 13.0 0.2 150.4 100 79.8 105




April drier and colder than average

2 05 2013

After the wettest April on record in 2012, provisional full-month Met Office figures show this April has been slightly drier than average in the UK.

Rainfall throughout the UK was 64 mm this year, compared to the 1981-2010 average of 72.7 mm. That’s considerably less than the 128 mm we saw last year.

There were big regional differences in April rainfall this year. Scotland saw 121.2 mm of rain which is above the 91.1 mm average and Northern Ireland saw 75.2mm, almost spot on the 75.0 mm average.

However, both England and Wales saw well below average rainfall. Wales had 50.3mm, compared to an average of 89.3mm, and England saw 30.4mm, compared to an average of 58.7 mm.

The month was characterised by generally cold and dry weather, following on from the theme set in March. Despite this, April registered as only slightly colder than average with a mean UK temperature of 6.3 °C, which is 1.1 °C below the 7.4 °C long-term average.

This is the same mean temperature as recorded in April 2012. To find a colder April than the last two years, you have to go back to 1989 – which saw a mean temperature of 5.5 °C.

Scotland saw the coldest temperatures compared to country specific averages, with a mean temperature of 4.8 °C, which is 1.3 °C below average – and is the same temperature as recorded in 1998.

The warmest day of the month was 25 April at Faversham in Kent when the temperature recorded was 23.1°C.

In terms of sunshine, Scotland was sunnier than the rest of the UK with hours of sunshine totalling 170.9, followed by Northern Ireland with 168.0, England at 167.7 and Wales at 162.7 hours.

This compares with only 127.9 hours of sunshine in April last year throughout the UK. The sunniest April in the last 10 years was 2007 with 203.5 hours.

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall
Apr-13 Actual Diff to Avg Actual Diff to Avg Actual Diff to Avg
degC degC hours % mm %
UK 6.3 -1.1 168.4 114 64 88
England 7.2 -0.9 167.7 108 30.4 52
Wales 6.4 -1.2 162.7 105 50.3 56
Scotland 4.8 -1.3 170.9 127 121.2 133
N Ireland 6.5 -1.1 168 115 75.2 100




This week’s snowfall captured by rainfall radar

13 03 2013

The rainfall radar network is a great way of looking back at how weather systems affect the UK.

Here we see rainfall radar imagery from 00:00 GMT on Sunday 10 March to 09:00 GMT on Tuesday 12 March. It shows snow showers affecting much of the UK while an area of heavier snowfall affects northern France, the Channel Islands and the far south-east of England.

radar_animation

What’s particularly interesting is that it shows really well how the showers and the heavier snowfall across the south were moving in totally different directions. The snow showers can be seen moving in from the North Sea on north-easterly winds. Meanwhile, the heavier and more persistent snowfall was moving in from the south-west as an area of low pressure tracked across France. You can see how these two systems collided over Sussex and Kent, resulting in the heavy snowfall here.

At the very end of the sequence the wind changes direction again over the north of the UK, with the snow showers being blown across Scotland from the north.

You can see current observations from our rainfall radar on our website.





Is 2012 the wettest year on record?

31 12 2012

We announced last week that 2012 is already the wettest year for England in our records dating back to 1910, but we’re still waiting to hear whether it’s the wettest on record for the UK.

The latest figures we have for 2012 go from 1 January to 26 December, and show that during that time we’ve had 1291.2 mm of rain for the UK – meaning it is currently the 4th wettest year on record.

It’s 46.1 mm short of the record of 1337.3 mm, set in 2000, so if 46.2 mm of rain falls between 27-31 December we will have a new record.

It’s likely to be fairly close-run, but it’s impossible to say whether 2012 is a UK record for rainfall until all the data come in from our weather observation sites around the country.

This information should come in on the 1st and 2nd of January, then all the data will need to be processed and we expect to have a provisional answer on Thursday, 3rd January.

We’ll post the news here on our blog as soon as all the provisional statistics for 2012 come in.








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