The Met Office’s outlook to the end of 2014

5 10 2014

There are some headlines in the media today which suggest the UK faces another mild, wet and stormy winter this year based on the latest Met Office three month outlook for contingency planners.

Every month the Met Office updates its three month outlook for contingency planners, which is available for anyone to view on our website.

However, it’s not like a normal weather forecast. It’s an experimental and complex outlook based on probabilities which is designed specifically for those who plan ahead for various contingencies based on possible likelihoods.

As we’ve discussed previously, the outlook assesses the likelihood of five different scenarios for both temperature and rainfall for the whole of the UK for the whole three months, based on the most probable prevailing weather patterns.

It’s a bit like the science-equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race and like any horse race, it’s always possible the favourite won’t win.

This is why the outlook has to be used in the right context. So it’s useful for contingency planners, but not that useful for the public who want to know when we might see unsettled weather or which weekend looks good for an outdoor event.

What does the current outlook say?

Our latest three-month outlook suggests an increased risk of milder and wetter than average conditions for the period Oct-Nov-Dec based on our seasonal forecasts and those from other leading centres around the world.

However, there are still substantial probabilities that average or opposite (ie cool and/or dry) conditions may occur. This is because there are many competing factors that determine what our weather will be like in the coming months.

The outlook also highlights an increased risk of unsettled weather relative to what is usual for the time of year, but – again – there are still reasonable chances of other scenarios.

The increased risk of more unsettled than average conditions does not mean the late autumn and early winter will necessarily be like that of last year.

Some more context on the outlook


The outlook suggests that the risk of our weather coming in from the Atlantic, which brings unsettled conditions, increases from mid-October through November and December.

This is a fairly typical set up for the time of year, when we do expect unsettled weather, but the outlook does suggest the risk of more unsettled than normal conditions.

As the outlook covers the transition from autumn into the start of winter, there will be big changes in how UK weather is influenced by prevailing weather patterns during the period.

The current settled conditions bring us generally warm weather in early autumn, but the same weather pattern in winter would likely bring cold weather in from the rapidly cooling continent.

Winter so far – 18th February rainfall update

18 02 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current record wettest winters:

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

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

What to do in heavy rain

14 05 2013

The next few days will see some heavy rain across the country resulting in possible disruption. Yellow alerts have been issued by the Met Office this week for many areas of the UK.

Met Office warnings and what they mean

If a yellow warnings is issued: Be aware.

During a yellow warning for rainfall there may be some minor traffic delays due to slower traffic and outdoor events may be disrupted or cancelled. There may be localised flooding of fields, car parks and recreational land.

When an amber warning is issued: Be prepared.

An amber warning indicates the need to be prepared for some disruption of daily routines and travel only if well prepared as the journey may take longer. Some flooding of homes, businesses and transport connections is possible. Utility services (gas, electricity and water) may also be affected and protecting property will be needed (for example moving possessions upstairs and using sandbags).

A red warning means action must be taken.

It is essential to follow advice from authorities under all circumstances and expect significant disruption. Only take journeys if absolutely essential and carry emergency food and clothing. Red warnings mean there could be widespread flooding of property and severe disruption to travel. There may be some loss of utilities (gas, electricity and water). There may be possible risk to life and the advice of the emergency services needs to be followed.

Check the latest forecast for your area on our severe weather page.

You can also sign up to our severe weather RSS feed or severe weather twitter account for your local area.

For more information on our severe weather warnings service, watch our video guide:

The Environment Agency’s Floodline 0845 988 1188 is available 24 hours a day for flood advice or you can see the latest flood warnings on our website.

For more detailed travel information check the Highways Agency’s website.

Infographic what to do in heavy rain

Guest blog: Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1953 floods

31 01 2013

Craig Woolhouse is Head of Flood Incident Management at the Environment Agency. He looks at how flood risk management has progressed since 1953 and how you can keep flood aware.

Canvey Flood

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the 1953 floods where over 300 people died, 24,500 houses were damaged and over 30,000 people were evacuated. Outside the towns and villages, thousands of animals were drowned and great tracts of farmland were made infertile by salt water. This was one of the worst peace time calamities to hit Britain with Winston Churchill declaring it a “National Disaster”.

Those affected by the floods would have gone to bed without a flood warning and many of the flood defences today along the east coast, including London’s Thames Barrier, didn’t exist at all.

We’re lucky enough to have a lot more tools at our disposal to keep flood aware and safe these days. For example, you can join the 1.2 million people in England and Wales already signed up for free flood warnings. Where there was major loss of life in 1953, major flood defences have been built – for example Canvey Island, Jaywick, Felixstowe, Lincolnshire, Kings Lynn and Great Yarmouth. The Thames Barrier, celebrating its 30th birthday tomorrow as one of the world’s largest moveable defences, was also constructed as a result of the 1953 floods.

There have also been massive improvements in long range flood forecasting since 1953 like the joint Environment Agency and Met Office flood forecasting centre which provides 24/7 flood guidance to emergency services and local authorities.

We’re much better prepared than in 1953 but we cannot afford to be complacent. Despite the low probability, extreme floods like 1953 could strike at any time and we need to be prepared as a country and as communities for when these happen.

Visit the Environment Agency website to see what you can do to stay flood aware.

You can find out more about how weather and flood forecasting has improved on our website.

Flooding in Cornwall

17 11 2010

A band of heavy rain, accompanied by strong and gusty winds pushed across Cornwall overnight last night, resulting in a number of towns and villages experiencing flooding this morning. There was some intense, but short-lived downpours as the rain pushed east, with Cardinham recording 18.8mm between 5 and 6 am this morning with total rainfall of 50.2mm between 10pm last night at 8am this morning. The heavy rain was accompanied by some strong winds with gusts to 55mph.

The joint Environment Agency/Met Office Flood Forecasting Centre issued an extreme rainfall alert yesterday afternoon to give emergency responders and local authorities advance warning of the heavy rain overnight and severe weather warnings were issued yesterday evening. National and local weather forecasts on TV and radio highlighted “torrential rain and gales force winds” in southwest England and south Wales throughout the day yesterday.

Peter Tatlow, from Cornwall Highway Services, said to the BBC that although a severe weather warning was issued by the Met Office on Tuesday, it was “almost impossible” to keep gullies clear of leaves and debris at this time of year.

The weather has improved quickly this morning with cloud clearing to give some sunshine but with the odd shower later. More showers are expected to push across the southwest tonight and the Met Office and Environment Agency are monitoring this situation.

Further severe weather is expected to affect other parts of the UK in the next 24-36 hours with further heavy rain possible in western and north-western areas. We have issued a Weather Advisory for Northern Ireland for heavy rain with the potential of 50 to 80mm falling onto already saturated ground.

Related Articles

Met Office role in Scottish Flood Forecasting Service

4 10 2010

Emergency responders — and ultimately vulnerable communities and businesses — across Scotland can look forward to better flood forecasting thanks to the development of the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service.

The Scottish Government have announced funding of £750,000 to improve flood forecasting services in Scotland, through a partnership between the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Met Office.

Phil Evans, Director of Government Services at the Met Office said: “This partnership between SEPA and the Met Office, supported by the Scottish Government, will enhance flood resilience in Scotland. The Met Office and our weather forecasting team at Aberdeen are delighted to be supporting this new service.”

The Met Office plays a crucial role in providing advice across a range of natural hazards, including forecasts for volcanic ash, radioactive emergencies, tidal surges, pollution incidents and airborne spread of diseases, such as bluetongue. The Scottish Flood Forecasting Service is another example of our value in providing early warnings across a range of hazards.

Phil Evans continued: “The Scottish Government’s investment in the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service, will allow SEPA’s expertise in flood warnings and advice to be brought together with the Met Office’s experience in weather and other environmental hazards to ensure Scotland has the best advice possible


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