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.”





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.





December on track to be the mildest on record

24 12 2015

Mowing the lawn has been the reality for some so far this December, with unseasonably high temperatures. It looks as though the UK is on track to break the record for the warmest December since records began in 1910 and some areas have also seen their wettest.

The latest temperatures for December (1st to 22nd) reveal that the month so far has been far warmer than normal. Early provisional figures* reveal that the mean temperature for December in the UK has so far has been 8.1C, which is 4.2C above the long-term average for the month and well above the previous record of 6.9C set in 1934.

The December figure for England has so far been 9.5C, that’s 5.1C above the same long-term average and 2C above the record of 7.5C set in 1934, and the other UK nations have been similarly warm:

  • the mean temperature of 9.3C in Wales, higher than the previous post-1910 record of 7.5C set in 1934, and 4.8C above average
  • the mean temperature of 5.6°C in Scotland is 2.8C above average, but is so far slightly lower than the previous December record of 5.8C set in 1988
  • the mean temperature of 7.5°C in Northern Ireland is 3C higher than average, and marginally higher than the 1988 December record

Tim Legg of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre said: “With no sign of any significantly cold weather to come in the remaining 9 days of the month, we’re on track to break the warmest December record which was set back in 1934.”

Rainfall 1 - 22 Dec 2015

Rainfall 1 – 22 Dec 2015

MeanTemperature Dec 1 - 22, 2015

MeanTemperature Dec 1 – 22, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainfall and sunshine figures so far confirm December has been dull and wet across most of the UK, with sunshine well down on the long-term average while precipitation (which of course has fallen mainly as rain) has been well above.  Some places have seen record breaking rainfall:

  • Cumberland 310.9mm rainfall 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 248.2mm 2006),
  • Westmorland 474.4mm 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 365.1mm 2006)
  • Dumfriesshire 314mm rainfall 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 307.5mm 2013)
  • Carnarvonshire 441.3mm rainfall 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 376.6mm 1965)
  • Roxburghshire 237.8mm rainfall 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 219.7mm 2013)

 

EARLY mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
1-22 Dec 2015 Act Anom Act Anom   Act Anom
  Deg C Deg C hours % mm %
UK 8.1 4.2 17.7 43 148.0 123
England 9.5 5.1 19.8 42 86.5 99
Wales 9.3 4.8 16.3 39 237.1 143
Scotland 5.6 2.8 14.1 46 229.1 140
N Ireland 7.5 3.0 20.7 56 130.4 114

 

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

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

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





Did climate change have an impact on Storm Desmond?

7 12 2015

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

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

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

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

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





Wind and rain records for Storm Desmond

6 12 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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





This weekend’s UK rainfall

15 11 2015

Following the heavy rainfall over the weekend, here are the latest rainfall totals:

Site Name Area 48hr Rainfall total 9am Sat to 9am Mon (mm)
Capel Curig Gwynedd 106.0
Lake Vyrnwy Powys 82.0
Keswick Cumbria 81.6
Blencathra Cumbria 72.6
Tyndrum Perthshire 72.4
Shap Cumbria 69.8
Pately Bridge North Yorkshire 69.2
Bala Gwynedd 66.0  

With more unsettled weather on the way this week bringing further rain and strong winds, keep up to date with the latest forecast for your area and see the latest National Severe Weather Warnings.


 

Heavy rain has fallen widely throughout the night across much of north-west England, with the heaviest being over some of the higher ground in Cumbria.  The Environment Agency had recorded rainfall totals of 178mm in 12 hours by 5 am this morning in Cumbria.

National Severe Weather Warnings, still in place for parts of northern England, southern Scotland and Northern Ireland, are valid until this evening when the rain will start to clear out to the southeast.

Rainfall radar image 10pm 14 November 2015

Rainfall radar image 10pm 14 November 2015

The Environment Agency, Natural Resource Wales (NRW) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are continually monitoring the flood risk as this rainfall makes its way through the river network.

The amber warning issued for parts of North Wales has now been lifted. However a yellow severe weather warning is still in place until 10 pm this evening. Met Office rain gauges recorded 76mm in the 24 hour period up to midday today (Sunday) at Capel Curig in Snowdonia.

Warnings are constantly under review and adjusted should the weather system change or develop and potential impacts vary.

Regions/Country  Rainfall gauge  24hr rainfall total 9am Sat to 9am Sun
Cumbria Keswick 60mm
Cumbria Spadeadam 45.8mm
North Yorkshire Grimwith 65.4mm
West Yorkshire Thornton Moor 70mm
Lancashire Colne 60.2mm
Wales Capel Curig 67.2mm
Northern  Ireland Castlederg 42,6mm
Scotland Threave 48mm

Many parts of northern and central UK will continue to see rain today, some of it heavy, especially within the warning areas.  You are advised to keep up to date with the latest forecast information for your area so you can plan and prepare for the expected weather.

The Environment Agency, NRW and SEPA are still concerned that additional rainfall on to already saturated ground could well still lead to flooding and you are advised to keep up to date with the latest flood warnings and advise.

This weekends heavy rainfall heralds the start of an unsettled week as a series of low pressure systems are expected to move across the country.  The first will arrive late Monday before another brings stronger winds and rain on Tuesday and another system brings rain on Wednesday.  National Severe Weather Warnings have been issued for some of these systems given the now saturated ground over parts of the UK and will be updated in the coming days.  Meanwhile the weather is expected to turn colder for many by the end of the week.





Wet weekend for parts of the UK

12 11 2015

Heavy rain is expected across parts of north Wales, northwest England and southwest Scotland on Saturday into Sunday, clearing to the southeast on Monday.  We have issued a yellow weather warning for rain for these areas, while the Environment Agency, Natural Resource Wales (NRW) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are assessing the potential flood risk.

A slow moving frontal system is bringing moist tropical air across the UK from the west resulting in some heavy and persistent rain, especially over exposed hills.  Parts of the warning area could see 70-100 mm of rain, with some of the more exposed parts of north Wales and northwest England possibly seeing as much as 150-200 mm through the period.

Pressure Chart 15th November 2015

Pressure Chart 15th November 2015

The Environment Agency is concerned that this amount of additional rainfall falling on to already saturated ground could well lead to flooding, either from standing water, or from rivers bursting their banks. Flood warnings have been issued for parts of northern England.

NRW are planning to put flood risk management procedures in place if required and will issue Flood Alerts and Warnings if rivers reach trigger levels. The warnings are updated on the NRW website every 15 minutes.

The warnings will be kept under review and adjusted should the weather system change or develop and potential impacts vary.





Highest temperatures and rainfall over the weekend

23 08 2015

Over the past 24 hours the weather has delivered a mixture of hot sunshine, thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain as we highlighted earlier in the week.

As expected, sunny skies and warm air being pushed northwards from the continent allowed temperatures to climb across central and eastern parts of the UK, reaching maximums in the high 20s and low 30s on Saturday with a humid feel:

Table showing Maximum temperatures for Saturday 22 August 2015

Location Maximum Temperature in C
Gravesend 30.9
Kew Gardens 30.9
Heathrow 30.7
St James’s Park 30.7
Northolt 30.6

These high temperatures set off two areas of thunderstorms, one over central southern England and another over the Midlands, moving into northern England. These storms caused localised surface water flooding and flooding of some properties in North Yorkshire as up to 30mm of rain fell in an hour. There were also impacts to the York-Leeds rail line.

Across the northwest of the UK it was fresher and mainly dry with some sunshine, while the areas in between were rather cloudy with some rain.

Overnight, the heavy, thundery downpours continued to move northwards, while heavy rain also spread into western parts of the UK. By this morning at 10am the rainfall totals for the 24 hours were as follows:

Table showing rainfall totals for the 24 hours up until 10am on Sunday 23 August 2015

Location Rainfall in mm
Bramham 62.6
Ryhill 54.6
Tredegar 40.6
Linton-on-Ouse 39.8
Scolton Country Park 36.8

During today, the heavy rain has continued to spread north and eastwards with a mixture of sunny spells and heavy showers following across the south. Ahead of this, temperatures across eastern England have again peaked in the mid to high 20s.

Table showing rainfall totals bwtween 10am and 4pm on Sunday 23 August 2015

Location Rainfall in mm
Hereford 20.8
Llanbrynmair 20.4
Sarn 17.8
Lake Vyrnwy 17.2
Porthmadog 17.2

The changeable weather will continue as we head into next week. Met Office National Severe Weather Warnings have been issued and everyone is encouraged to keep up to date with forecasts and warnings over the next few days and to make plans accordingly.





Rain or shine this weekend?

20 08 2015

You may have heard that this weekend could be cloudy and wet…or sunny and dry, that’s because as with other weekends this summer there has been some uncertainty in the forecast.

After a mixed week of some sunshine, rain and showers it looks like we’ll see more of the same over the weekend as a frontal system interacts with warm, humid air spreading northwards from the continent.

We are now fairly confident that on Saturday the UK will be split weather wise. There’ll be bright and breezy weather in the north west with a few showers. Meanwhile the south east will be warm and humid, perhaps hot with temperatures in the high 20s which could set off a few isolated thunderstorms. In between we expect to see a band of cloud and rain which could be heavy and persistent at times.

Overnight and into Sunday the wet weather is expected to become more widespread across England and Wales and move into Scotland with some heavy rain at times.

Sun23Aug12z

At the moment, central and western parts of the UK seem most likely to see the heaviest, most persistent rainfall as the frontal system pivots. However, this pivot position could change over the coming days, and this is critical because it will determine whether we need to issue weather warnings.

Once we have more certainty where the most persistent, heavy rain will be we will review whether a Met Office National Severe Weather Warning is required. Therefore, as ever, it is best to check the latest forecast if you have plans for the weekend.

Tony Berry, Visitor Experience Director at the National Trust said: “Despite the unsettled weather this weekend, there’s still loads to do at National Trust places across the country. From windswept coastal paths and woodlands to hundreds of historic houses and gardens, there’s always something to explore come rain or shine. We’ve got a whole host of activities to wear the kids out too, with everything from pirate adventures and fossil hunts (just remember to pack the waterproofs and wellies) to storytelling and wild art. And throughout August we’ll be bringing the coast to a whole host of cities across the UK in the form of a giant shell – Shellsphere – where passers-by will have the opportunity to see, smell, hear and taste the sea.”

Next week, we’ll continue to see a combination of drier, sunny days with cloudier spells and some rain or showers at times but it will be warmer than recently.





‘Super tides’, the weather and coastal flood risk

20 02 2015

UPDATED 27/02/2015 – this blog has been updated under the section ‘So what are ‘super tides” with the help of the National Oceanography Centre.

In this joint blog from the Environment Agency and the Met Office, we look at the issue of so-called ‘super tides’.

There has been a lot of media coverage about the potential impact of so-called ‘super tides’ which are due from today (Friday, 20 February) through to Monday.

So what are ‘super tides’?

Tides are governed by the gravitational pull of the moon and, to a lesser extent, the sun. Because the sun and moon go through different alignment, this affects the size of the tides.

When the gravitational pull of the sun and moon combine, we see larger than average tides – known as spring tides. When the gravitational pulls offset each other, we get smaller tides known as neap tides. We see two periods of spring and neap tides roughly every month.

Yet some spring tides are higher than others. This is because tidal forces are stengthened if the moon is closest to Earth in its elliptical orbit (astronomers call this perigee). Tide forces are also enhanced when the sun and the moon are directly over the equater. For ths Sun this happens on or around 21 March or September (the equinoxes). Spring tides are always higher at this time of year. The moon’s orbit also takes it above and below the equator over a period of 27.2 days. Just as with the Sun, the tide generating forces are at their greatest when the moon is directly overhead at the equator.

Very large spring tides occur when these astronomical factors coincide. Approximately every 4.5 years the moon is closest to the Earth, and is also overhead at the equator, at either the March or September equinox.

In some places, these extreme tidal conditions can cause water levels to be 0.5m higher than a normal spring tide, but the weather can have a greater impact than even these largest of tides

What is the role of the weather in sea levels?

It’s important to realise that just because we are expecting big astronomical tides over the next few days, these won’t cause the highest sea levels we’ve seen – even in the last few years. That’s because the weather can have a much bigger impact on sea level than the 18-year tidal cycle.

Strong winds can pile up water on coastlines, and low pressure systems can also cause a localised rise in sea level. Typically the difference in water level caused by the weather can be between 20 and 30cm, but it can be much bigger.

On the 5th December 2013, for example, the weather created a storm surge that increased the water level by up to 2 metres. Although an estimated 2,800 properties flooded, more than 800,000 properties were protected from flooding thanks to more than 2,800 kilometres of flood schemes. The Environment Agency also provided 160,000 warnings to homes and businesses to give people vital time to prepare.

This highlights the importance of the Met Office and the Environment Agency working together to look at the combined impact of astronomical tides, wind, low pressure and waves on flood schemes to assess the potential impacts for communities around our coast.

Will we see coastal flooding this weekend?

Given the height of the tides there may be some localised flooding. Weather isn’t playing a large part in water levels over the next few days, although strong winds on Monday are likely to generate some large waves and push up sea levels slightly. This is nothing unusual for winter. You can see more about what weather to expect with the Met Office’s forecasts and severe weather warnings.

The Environment Agency and the Met Office are working together to closely monitor the situation, and the Environment Agency will issue flood alerts and warnings as required.

In the Humber Estuary, for example, we are expecting total water levels of between 4.20-4.39 metres – well below record levels of 5.22m.

John Curtin, Environment Agency’s Director of Incident Management and Resilience, said:  “We are monitoring the situation closely with the Met Office and will issue flood alerts and warnings as required.

“It’s possible we could see some large waves and spray and urge people to take care near coastal paths and promenades and not to drive through flood water.

“However, we can only get a warning to you if you’ve signed up to our free service. People can also see their flood risk and keep up to date with the latest situation on the GOV.UK website at https://www.gov.uk/check-if-youre-at-risk-of-flooding or follow @EnvAgency and #floodaware on Twitter for the latest flood updates.”

For those in Scotland, you can see flood updates for your area on the SEPA website here.

For those in Wales, you can see flood updates in English and Welsh on the Natural Resources Wales website here.

You can also see John explaining the Environment Agency’s flood warnings here:








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