Two cyclones to hit Australia

19 02 2015

Whilst here in the UK, we are coming towards the end of our winter season, Australia is coming towards the end of summer, but is in the middle of its cyclone season, and unusually there are currently two tropical cyclones affecting the country.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Lam is currently to the north of Australia’s Northern Territory, in the Arafura Sea. The storm is expected to make landfall on Thursday as a category 4 storm, between Milingimbi and Gapuwiyak. Huge rainfall figures are forecast, with 300 to 600mm daily, potentially adding up to more than 800mm in places throughout the storm event, with flooding likely inland, as well as coastal flooding and damaging winds. Residents close to the coast have been advised to be ready to move to shelter with emergency kit. However, as the area is not densely populated, significant impacts are not expected. The nearest large population centre is Darwin, and although it is likely that there will be some wet and windy weather here, it is not expected to be anything that Darwinians aren’t used to.

Credit: Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Credit: Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Storm track and warning areas for Tropical Cyclone Lam

Storm track and warning areas for Tropical Cyclone Lam

Meanwhile, Severe Tropical Cyclone Marcia is heading towards the Queensland coast, and is expected to make landfall between Mackay and Gladstone on Thursday night as an extremely powerful category 5 storm. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology are forecasting Marcia to track inland for a while and quickly weaken, before turning parallel with the coast, which keeps the main risk area to the north of Brisbane. However, there is some uncertainty with the exact track of the storm, and if it were to remain closer to the coast, Brisbane could be in line for a significant amount of rainfall, potentially as much as 400mm. Destructive winds are likely around the coast and abnormally high tides will be experienced with water levels expected to rise above the highest tide of the year. Dangerous storm tides are forecast as the cyclone crosses the coast, as well as treacherous surf on exposed beaches.

Credit: Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Credit: Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Storm track and warning areas for Tropical Cyclone Marcia

Storm track and warning areas for Tropical Cyclone Marcia

Met Office StormTracker provides a mapped picture of tropical cyclones around the globe with access to track history and six-day forecast tracks for current tropical cyclones from the Met Office global forecast model and latest observed cloud cover and sea surface temperature. We also provide updates on current tropical storms via @metofficestorms on Twitter.





One year on – A look back to last winter

17 02 2015

This weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the Valentine’s Day storm, which also marked the end of a particularly stormy three-month period. A new review article – ‘From months to minutes – exploring the value of high-resolution rainfall observation and prediction during the UK winter storms of 2013/2014’ – written by 16 Met Office co-authors reviews the accuracy of our forecasting and warning of severe weather during winter 2013-14, and assesses its performance.

The paper concludes that the “prolonged period of high impact weather experienced in the United Kingdom during the winter of 2013/14 was very well forecast by the operational tools available across space and time scales.”

Here Huw Lewis, the paper’s lead author, and Derrick Ryall, Head of the Public Weather Service, look at the extreme weather last year and the role of the Met Office in communicating severe weather through the National Severe Weather Warning Service.

Analysis chart 1200 GMT 26 January 2014

Analysis chart 1200 GMT 26 January 2014

Winter 2013/2014 in the United Kingdom was remarkable. The country was battered by at least 12 major winter storms over a three month period and was officially assessed as the stormiest period that the United Kingdom has experienced for at least 20 years.

The series of storms resulted in the wettest winter in almost 250 years (according to the England and Wales precipitation series from 1766), significantly wetter than the previous wettest winter in 1914/1915.

Snapshot of UK rain radar surface rainfall rate for 2200 GMT on 23 December 2013

Snapshot of UK rain radar surface rainfall rate for 2200 GMT on 23 December 2013

The extreme weather caused widespread flooding throughout Southern England and coastal damage – most notably in the South West and Norfolk coasts. The impact of the severe winter storms on individuals, businesses and the government were substantial, including several fatalities, widespread power cuts and damaged infrastructure.

Recent advances in forecasting, technology and the scientific developments in meteorology have been considerable. These developments and improvements in accuracy mean that a four-day weather forecast is as accurate as a one-day forecast was just thirty years ago. During the course of last winter, the Met Office was able to use these forecasts to warn of any severe weather well in advance. In the case of the St Jude’s Day storm at the end of October 2013 warnings went out to the Government and the public five days before the storm even existed.

rainfall

As the accuracy of weather forecasts has evolved, so has the communication of the potential impacts of severe weather. The National Severe Weather Warning Service enables more ‘weather decisions’ which in turn help to minimise the consequences of severe weather. The Met Office was at the heart of the government response to the storms, providing advice on weather impacts through the National Severe Weather Warning Service and Civil Contingency Advisors. The Met Office also worked very closely with both the national and regional media, who in turn played a key role in ensuring that the public were fully informed about the potential impacts of any up-coming weather.

In addition to the Public Weather Service, commercial partners and customers were also provided with detailed updates throughout the period in order for them to plan effectively for logistical issues. Together, these advanced warnings helped authorities, businesses and individuals to be better prepared to take mitigating actions.

Driving further improvements in accuracy and therefore reducing the lead time and increasing the detail of severe weather warnings is one of the Met Office’s key priorities . The ultimate aim is to improve the potential for users to plan preventative measures for severe weather events much further ahead. Underpinning all of these developments is a continuing programme of scientific research and access to enhanced supercomputing over the next few years.





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.





Untangling the global drivers of UK winter weather

25 11 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Thunderstorms bring intense rainfall to parts of England

28 07 2014

This morning has seen some intense downpours across parts of south east England.

They developed across parts of East Anglia in the early hours of the morning, with further areas of heavy showers across Sussex, Surrey, Kent and the south of London following later.

The showers were very heavy in places with thunderstorms, hail, and torrential rain reported, giving high rainfall totals and localised flooding in some areas.

The high rainfall totals were caused by an area of low pressure and a plume of warm air that moved in from the near continent accompanied by light winds, meaning that the showers were slow moving.

Several spots have seen more than half of their average monthly rainfall for the whole of July in just one hour.

Below you can see some of the highest recorded hourly rainfall totals from Environment Agency rain gauges through the morning of Monday 28th July 2014:

Great Dunmow Essex 43 mm (4am to 5am)
Isfield Sussex 37 mm (8.30am to 9:30am)
Ardingly Sussex 35 mm (8.30am to 9:30am)
Santon Downham Suffolk 33mm (4am to 5am)
Weirwood Sussex 28 mm (9am to 10am)
Northolt London 20mm (7am to 8am)

 

The band of showery rain is now easing, but a yellow warning for rainfall remains in place for the south east of the UK as the risk of seeing some further isolated downpours remains.

In addition, the far south east of England could see further persistent and perhaps locally heavy rain later today and overnight, with parts of Kent and Sussex most at risk. Conditions across all areas should then improve through tomorrow.





Lightning strikes and heavy rain over the weekend

21 07 2014

Parts of the UK saw some very heavy downpours over the weekend, as thunderstorms caused disruption in some regions.

Westonbirt in Gloucestershire saw the most rain with 79mm over the weekend, more than its July full-month average of 59.3mm. Within that total, 34.2mm fell in just an hour Saturday afternoon – with some localised flash flooding as a result.

A rain gauge at Norwich airport saw the highest hourly-rainfall total, with 45.8mm falling between 3pm and 4pm on Sunday – this is close to its full month July average of 50.4mm.

Numerous other spots saw some high rainfall totals, particularly in eastern areas. Below you can see some of the highest recorded hourly and overall rainfall totals from the weekend.

It’s possible that some locations not included in the list saw heavy rain, but thundery downpours can be very localised – sometimes just a few hundred metres across.

This means that they can miss our rain gauge network, but you can explore rainfall totals from our Weather Observations Website (WOW) which has information supplied by observers all over the UK.

As we forecast on Friday, some locations avoided the storms altogether and saw prolonged fine weather over the weekend.

Nick Grahame, chief meteorologist at the Met Office, said: “The ‘Spanish Plume’ event we were forecasting led to some very intense thunderstorms over the weekend, with hourly and overall rainfall totals in line with our expectations.

“As we’d been highlighting in our forecasts, these storms can be very localised and that means some places avoided the storms altogether and saw a good deal of fine weather. It really highlights how events such as this can see some places with fairly severe impacts, while other places – sometimes quite nearby – can see no impacts at all.”

48-Hour Rainfall Totals from 2100HRS on 18 July to 2100HRS on 20 July 2014:

STATION LOCATION COUNTY RAINFALL (mm)
WESTONBIRT GLOUCESTERSHIRE 79
NORWICH AIRPORT NORFOLK 62.2
SHOEBURYNESS, LANDWICK ESSEX 48.6
PERSHORE COLLEGE HEREFORD & WORCESTER 45.6
PERSHORE HEREFORD & WORCESTER 39
ASTWOOD BANK HEREFORD & WORCESTER 35.6
KEELE STAFFORDSHIRE 32.4
ROCHDALE GREATER MANCHESTER 32
NEWPORT (SALOP) SHROPSHIRE 31
NOTTINGHAM, WATNALL NOTTINGHAMSHIRE 29.2

Highest hourly rainfall totals from the weekend:

DATE/TIME STATION LOCATION COUNTY RAINFALL (mm)
20/07/2014 15:00 NORWICH AIRPORT NORFOLK 45.8
19/07/2014 09:00 WESTONBIRT GLOUCESTERSHIRE 34.2
20/07/2014 17:00 MONKS WOOD CAMBRIDGESHIRE 22.8
19/07/2014 16:00 MARKET BOSWORTH LEICESTERSHIRE 15.8
19/07/2014 06:00 LIBANUS POWYS 15

This video shows the storms and lightning strikes as they developed over Spain and France and moved north across the UK.

In total the UK are saw 62,277 lightning strikes between 9am on Thursday 17 July and 9am on Monday 21 July 2014





Statistics for winter so far

11 02 2014

As the unsettled UK weather continues this week, the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre have looked at statistics for this winter so far (from 1 December to 10 February).

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

Looking at regions around the UK, these provisional figures suggest the region of SE and Central S England has already exceeded its record winter rainfall in the series back to 1910. It is currently at 439.2mm*, less than 2mm above the previous record set in 1915 with 437.1mm of rain.

For the UK as a whole, and also for Wales, both are fairly close to their respective record wettest winter levels in the national series dating back to 1910. Average rainfall for the rest of the month would likely 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 429.2mm
ENGLAND 1915 392.7mm 328.0mm
WALES 1995 684.1mm 618.7mm
SCOTLAND 1995 649.5mm 558.5mm
NORTHERN IRELAND 1994 489.7mm 360.0mm

 

*These are provisional figures from 1 December 2013 to 10 February 2014 and could change after final quality control checks on data.





UK’s exceptional weather in context

6 02 2014

As the UK’s run of exceptionally wet and stormy weather continues, the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre has looked at how the last two months compare in the historical records.

Here’s some facts and figures for the weather we’ve seen through December and January:

For the UK

  • For the UK, December was provisionally the equal-fifth wettest December in the national series dating back to 1910 and January was the third wettest January in the same record. When the two months are combined, it is provisionally the wettest December and January in the series.
  • There were more days of rain (any day with more than 1mm of rainfall) for the UK in January than for any other month in a series dating back to 1961, with 23 days.
  • It was the windiest December for the UK in records back to 1969, based on the occurrence of winds in excess 60 kts (69mph).

England and Wales

  • Looking at the England and Wales Precipitation series, which dates back to 1766, it has been the wettest December to January since 1876/1877 and the 2nd wettest overall in the series.

Scotland

  • December was the wettest calendar month on record for Scotland in the series to 1910.
  • For eastern Scotland, December and January combined was provisionally the wettest two month (any-month) period in the same series.

Southern England

  • There have been very few dry days in this area since 12 December and regional statistics suggest that this is one of, if not the most, exceptional periods of winter rainfall in at least 248 years.
  • Despite the rainfall being concentrated in the second half of the month it was the wettest December for south east England since 1959.
  • January was the wettest January for the south England region in the national series dating back to 1910, and the wettest calendar month for the south east region in the same series by a huge margin.
  • The two-month total of 372.2mm for the southeast and central southern England region is the wettest any 2-month period in the series from 1910 .
  • From 12th December to 31st January parts of south England recorded over five months worth of rainfall (based on average January rainfall for the region).

You can see more statistics on recent weather and through the historical records on our UK climate pages.

Full month provisional statistics from January 2014:

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall  
January
Actual Diff from Avg Actual % of Avg Actual % of Avg
  degC degC hours % mm %
UK 4.8 1.1 44.8 95 183.8 151
England 5.4 1.3 57.3 106 158.2 191
Wales 5.3 1.2 38.0 78 269.0 171
Scotland 3.5 0.9 27.2 76 205.3 116
N Ireland 4.5 0.3 37.3 84 170.7 147




Wind gusts and rainfall totals 4-5th February 2014

5 02 2014

Last night another major Atlantic depression affected the UK, bringing further heavy rain and severe gales.

Here are some of the highest gusts of wind and rainfall totals recorded at Met Office observing stations between 3pm yesterday and 8am today.

Location Area Height (m) Max gust (mph)
SCILLY: ST MARYS AIRPORT ISLES OF SCILLY 31 92
BERRY HEAD DEVON 58 91
CULDROSE CORNWALL 76 76
WIGHT: NEEDLES OLD BATTERY ISLE OF WIGHT 80 71
PLYMOUTH, MOUNTBATTEN DEVON 50 71
ABERPORTH DYFED 133 70
CARDINHAM, BODMIN CORNWALL 200 70
ISLE OF PORTLAND DORSET 52 70
ST BEES HEAD NO 2 CUMBRIA 124 68
CAMBORNE CORNWALL 87 67
CAPEL CURIG NO 3 GWYNEDD 216 66
GUERNSEY: AIRPORT GUERNSEY 101 64
ORLOCK HEAD DOWN 35 64
MILFORD HAVEN DYFED 44 63
POINT OF AYRE ISLE OF MAN 9 62
NORTH WYKE DEVON 177 61
JERSEY: AIRPORT JERSEY 84 61
PEMBREY SANDS DYFED 3 61
DUNKESWELL AERODROME DEVON 252 60
MUMBLES HEAD WEST GLAMORGAN 43 60
Location Area Rainfall (mm)
NORTH WYKE DEVON 33.4
CAMBORNE CORNWALL 25.2
DUNKESWELL AERODROME DEVON 24.6
CARDINHAM, BODMIN CORNWALL 24.4
BANAGHER, CAUGH HILL LONDONDERRY 24.0
KATESBRIDGE DOWN 23.8
HIGH WYCOMBE, HQAIR BUCKINGHAMSHIRE 21.4
LISCOMBE SOMERSET 21.4
EXETER AIRPORT DEVON 21.2
DALWHINNIE INVERNESS-SHIRE 18.6
ALICE HOLT LODGE HAMPSHIRE 18.4
OKEHAMPTON DEVON 17.9
CULDROSE CORNWALL 17.6
BENSON OXFORDSHIRE 17.6
ODIHAM HAMPSHIRE 17.2
BUDE CORNWALL 17.0
CARTERHOUSE ROXBURGHSHIRE 17.0
CHARLWOOD SURREY 17.0
UPPER LAMBOURN BERKSHIRE 16.8
TREDEGAR GWENT 16.6

Further severe gales and heavy rain are expected over the next few days and everyone is advised to stay up to date with the latest Met Office forecasts and National Severe Weather Warnings and be prepared that the weather may change or worsen, leading to disruption of your plans.





Strong winds, big waves and a storm surge

9 10 2013

A relatively deep area of low pressure is tracking past the north of Scotland today and is then expected to head south into the North Sea tomorrow.

This will bring some strong winds to northern Scotland tonight, then to the east coast of England tomorrow – particularly through the afternoon.

These northerly winds are expected to gust up to 50-60mph, which is unlikely to cause any wind damage but could generate some big waves in the North Sea.

Forecast surface pressure chart for Midnight tonight.

Forecast surface pressure chart for Midnight tonight.

The Met Office has issued a warning this possibility as the big waves could combine with a storm surge to overtop sea walls and potentially flood some coastal roads.

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said: “Strong winds and large waves could cause minor disruption along the North Sea coast on Thursday from Yorkshire to Essex. Spray and waves may overtop sea walls and people are urged to stay safe and avoid coastal paths and promenades. The high winds and localised flooding on roads could make driving conditions difficult in coastal areas.”

But what is a storm surge?

Essentially this is a very localised rising of sea level – independent of tides – related to the track of an area of low pressure (storm) and its accompanying winds.

The storm causes this surge of water in two ways. Firstly, strong winds push water in their direction of travel, causing water to ‘pile up’ on coasts facing into the wind.

The second element of a storm surge relates to differences in air pressure. Areas of low pressure are always relative, meaning the air surrounding them must be at a higher pressure.

These areas of high pressure push down on the surface of the ocean, forcing water towards areas of lower pressure to create bulges in the sea level. For each 1 hPa drop in pressure, sea levels rise by up to 1 cm.

Bulges move with a low pressure as it tracks across the sea. North Sea areas are particularly prone to storm surges because water flowing south cannot escape through the narrow Dover Strait and the English Channel.

When storm surges combine with higher tides and big waves they can cause localised issues along coasts.








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