Hurricane Joaquin lashes the Bahamas but will it hit the USA?

1 10 2015

In recent months attention has focused on the very active tropical cyclone season in the Pacific Ocean brought about primarily by the strong El Niño which has developed this year. Meanwhile, the Atlantic has been very quiet with most tropical storms remaining fairly weak and only two reaching hurricane strength until now.

However, Joaquin has become the third hurricane of the Atlantic season and the second to achieve ‘major’ status – category 3 or above on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Joaquin is currently lashing the Bahamas with winds in excess of 100 mph near the centre of the hurricane. A storm surge of over two metres is possible and rainfall totals could be as high as 500 mm. Once the hurricane starts moving away from the islands the big question is whether it will make landfall over the US east coast.

Hurricane Joaquin at 1237 UTC on 01 October 2015 Image courtesy of the US Naval Research Laboratory [local copy at http://www-nwp/~frjh/tropicalcyclone/images/nhem15/joaquin_20151001_1237z.png]

Hurricane Joaquin at 1237 UTC on 01 October 2015
Image courtesy of the US Naval Research Laboratory

The forecasting conundrum

Joaquin is currently slow moving near the Bahamas and all computer models agree that a gradual turn north will happen in about two days time. However, beyond this point there is great uncertainty as to what will happen. Joaquin is being pulled in two directions. A developing trough of low pressure over the USA would act to pull Joaquin westwards towards the US coast. However, an area of low pressure to the east – including the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida – would act to pull Joaquin east away from the USA. The situation is finely balanced and any of several outcomes could happen.

One scenario is that Joaquin could make a turn north-westwards and make landfall near the Outer Banks of North Carolina at the weekend. Computer models are now mostly moving away from this as a likely outcome. Alternatively, Joaquin could take a mostly northwards track and reach New York and New England by early next week then continue up the eastern seaboard of Canada. Finally, a third scenario allows for the possibility that Joaquin could turn north-eastwards and avoid a US landfall altogether. We recommend that a close watch is kept on guidance issued by the National Hurricane Center in coming days for updates on which scenario is the most likely to occur.

Irrespective of whether or where Hurricane Joaquin makes landfall on the US east coast, large amounts of rain are expected in this area in the coming few days due to a slow-moving frontal zone. The impact of this will be exacerbated if Hurricane Joaquin does take a turn towards the USA in the next few days with further heavy rain accompanied by strong winds and a storm surge.

 Latest forecast track of Hurricane Joaquin from the National Hurricane Center

Latest forecast track of Hurricane Joaquin from the National Hurricane Center

Recent history of US landfalling hurricanes

Hurricane strikes on the USA have been fairly infrequent in recent years – particularly those at the stronger end of the scale. In 2014 Arthur crossed the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a category 2 hurricane. Going back to 2012, Isaac came ashore over Louisiana as a minimal category 1 hurricane. In 2011 Irene made landfall on the east coast of the USA also as a category 1 hurricane. The USA avoided hurricane strikes altogether in 2010 and 2009, but in 2008 three made landfall, the most significant of which was Hurricane Ike which caused a huge storm surge as it came ashore over Texas as a category 2 hurricane. However, you have to go back to 2005 to find the last ‘major’ hurricane strike on the USA (category 3 or above), when Hurricane Wilma hit Florida.

Hurricane Sandy (sometimes referred to as ‘Superstorm Sandy’) also caused much devastation to parts of the USA east coast in 2012. It is ranked as the second most costly hurricane in US history, although technically ceased to be a hurricane just prior to the time it made landfall.

Official warnings for the latest tropical cyclones in the Atlantic are produced by the US National Hurricane Center. The Met Office routinely supplies predictions of cyclone tracks from its global forecast model to regional meteorological centres worldwide, which are used along with guidance from other models in the production of forecasts and guidance. We also provide updates on current tropical storms via @metofficestorms on Twitter.

Will Joaquin affect the UK?

With the confidence around the exact track of Joaquin being so low, it is currently too early to tell if this system will affect the weather in the UK. There is, however, already high confidence that we will return to more autumnal and unsettled conditions across the UK early next week. Make sure you keep up-to-date with the Met Office five-day forecast.

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.


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.

Win the chance to be a weather presenter for the day!

10 08 2015

Are you interested in why rain has fallen, where the sun is shining or how strong wind gusts are – and what this means? If so, the Met Office’s WOW – Weather Observation Website – enables you to be part of the weather forecast from your own back garden.

The Weather Observation Website is the perfect way to stay occupied during the summer holidays, whether you’re interested in being a meteorologist, presenter or scientist, or you just want to know what the weather is doing in your area.

Picture_blogWe’re giving one lucky winner (aged 8-13) the opportunity to present the daily weather forecast from the Met Office’s TV studio. The weather forecast is watched online by hundreds of thousands of people every day through the Met Office’s home page, social media and websites such as Yahoo! and MSN.

As part of the experience, the winner will get the lowdown on how the weather works from one of our meteorologists – detailing how forecasts are created and how this is turned into the weather report seen on TV.

After some training the winner will receive a tour of the Met Office – including getting to see our supercomputer; one of the top ten most powerful computers in the world. Finally, their skills will be put to the test in the Met Office’s media centre as they present the weather forecast for the following day.

Entrants need to go the Met Office WOW website to find the answer to this question:

What example search is on the WOW homepage? Is it:

  1. Exeter, UK
  2. Manchester, UK
  3. Bristol, UK

Answers must be sent to, and we will contact the winner by the 1 September 2015 to confirm their prize.

The competition goes live today (10 August) and closes on 28 August 2015. To find out more about the competition, visit the First News website.

Entrants must be between 8 and 13 years of age and the winner must be accompanied by a parent, family member or legal guardian over the age of 18 years old.

Good luck!

Met Office Terms and conditions

  • You must be between the ages of 8-13 to enter the competition
  • Met Office will provide travel expenses up to a value of £100
  • Overnight accommodation will not be provided
  • The winner presenting the actual Met Office daily weather broadcast is subject to the winning child being able to present the weather in a clear and competent fashion, although it is also intended to entertain. The winner will be trained on the day to do present the weather, but if the final presentation is deemed to be of a standard which cannot be aired, the winner will instead receive a copy of their presentation to take home and keep
  • The Met Office will endeavour to accommodate the winner at a date suitable to the winner. However, they must be able to get to the Met Office’s headquarters in Exeter on a weekday, for the hours of 10am-4pm before the end of November. The date must be mutually agreeable to the Met Office
  • The winner must be accompanied by a parent, family member or legal guardian over the age of 18 years old
  • The winner is able to bring a friend should they wish – however only the winning child will have the chance to present the daily weather broadcast

Met Office Forecasting Experiment

27 07 2015

Forecasting the weather accurately relies on a combination of cutting edge forecasting models developed by our research scientists and the skill of interpreting these models by expert meteorologists.

We’ve recently completed a “Forecasting Experiment” which brought together our research and operational expertise for two weeks.

The aim of this was to intensively evaluate and develop our current and experimental models, forecasting techniques, new scientific products and the interaction between them. The overall aim was to evaluate our forecasting capability so we can identify ways to continue improving the way we do things.

Experts from a range of backgrounds analyse model output in the 'Forecast Experiment'

Experts from a range of backgrounds analyse model output in the ‘Forecast Experiment’

We have a number of computer models which can represent weather processes which occur on ever smaller scales.

These models cover different areas of the globe: from the entire world, down to a model which is confined to the UK area and even an experimental model which looks at the weather over an area the size of a large city.

All these models are incredibly complex and have strengths and weaknesses which can be difficult to determine.

By bringing together specialists with considerably different skills and experience in the Forecasting Experiment, it is easier to identify characteristics of the models. This can then inform better interpretation of all the information available to forecasters and can also help with planning improvements in future generations of the models.

The Forecasting Experiment this year was focused on summer weather over the UK. The experiment ran over the end of June and beginning of July.

The first week was characterised by a succession of weather fronts moving eastwards from the North Atlantic over the UK. The second week was dominated by very warm air from Spain moving north across the UK and bringing the hottest July day on record (36.7 °C at Heathrow) with severe thunderstorms to much of the UK, especially the North of England and Scotland.

This mixture of weather types allowed researchers to test models and techniques under a whole range of summer conditions, including high impact weather.

Adrian Semple,who led the experiment, said: “Not only did this experiment promote an exchange of skills, knowledge and experience between the participants, but it also provided a unique environment in which we could critically assess the way in which we produce our forecasts. The experiment will therefore have immediate effects as skills and knowledge are shared and spread throughout the Met Office, but the results can also be used to influence our longer term scientific research and improve future forecasting models.

Mixed bag for the start of June

17 06 2015

It has been a very varied weather picture so far this month.

It’s been dry and warm for the south east of the UK, with some places around London having received less than 5 mm of rainfall so far and areas such as Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire receiving less than 20% of the month’s average in places.

This year’s highest UK temperature so far, 26.8 °C, occurred at Kew Gardens (Greater London) on the 12 June.

Much of the rest of the UK has seen temperatures in general noticeably below average for June, continuing on from the rather cool May.  While rainfall totals are already close to the whole-month average in the central Scottish Highlands and in Nottinghamshire.

MeanTemp June

June began with two very unseasonal days, due to a deep low-pressure system to the west of the UK, bringing large amounts of rain and some strong winds to the UK, particularly southern areas. Apart from this, and some showery rain on the 5th/6th,

June so far has been relatively settled, especially over southern areas, although we saw a period of thundery outbreaks on 12th June affecting mainly southern areas due to a plume of very humid and warm unstable air moving in from France/Spain.

Mean temperatures for the UK so far this month have been 2 °C below normal in most areas, but colder in the far north-west of the UK and a little closer to normal in southern England. While the minimum temperatures have been well below average, by as much as 3 °C over some northern areas.

mean temperature sunshine duration rainfall
1-15 June 2015 Act (°C) Diff from avg (°C) Act (hrs) % of avg Act (mm) % of avg
UK 11.2 -1.8 117.6 69 31.3 43
England 12.5 -1.6 128.3 70 23.1 37
Wales 11.6 -1.6 121.6 70 41.8 49
Scotland 9.3 -2.0 99.3 66 43.9 49
N Ireland 10.3 -2.5 114.3 76 21.4 28

We would expect figures to be around 50% of the average figures by the mid month point.

For the latest weather forecast go to

Predictions of a below average Atlantic hurricane season

21 05 2015

The Met Office Atlantic tropical storm forecast for 2015 is for eight tropical storms between June and November, with a 70% chance (the ‘70% range’) that the number will be in the range six to ten. This is below-normal relative to the 1980–2010 average of 12 tropical storms.

The forecast number of hurricanes — tropical storms with winds of at least 74 mph — is five (70% range three to seven); the average number of hurricanes is six.

Tropical storm Ana on 8 May 2015 as it approached the South Carolina coast. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Tropical storm Ana on 8 May 2015 as it approached the South Carolina coast. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

The forecast Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index — a measure of the strength and duration of storms over the season — is 74 (70% range 40 to 108); the average ACE index is 104.

The North Atlantic hurricane season typically runs from June to November, but has already seen one tropical storm (Ana) make landfall in South Carolina.

The evolution of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) over the next few months will play a large part in the North Atlantic hurricane season.

Forecast centres around the world have now declared that an El Niño has begun in the tropical Pacific.

Joanne Camp, climate scientist at the Met Office, said: “El Niño conditions in the Pacific can hinder the development of tropical storms in the Atlantic, so how this develops will be important for the storm season ahead.”

While it is still too early to determine with confidence how strong this El Niño might be, forecast models from centres around the suggest this El Niño is likely to strengthen during the coming few months.

The tropical storm forecast is produced using the Met Office’s seasonal forecast system, GloSea5.

It has higher resolution than its predecessor, with better representation of the complex physical processes that cause tropical storm and hurricane development.

For regular updates on tropical cyclones worldwide follow @metofficestorms on Twitter.

Anniversary of the death of FitzRoy – founding father of the Met Office

30 04 2015
Vice Admiral Robert Fitzroy

Vice Admiral Robert Fitzroy

Today (30th April) is the 150th anniversary of the death of Vice Admiral Robert FitzRoy, the founder of the Met Office. FitzRoy joined the Navy when he was just 12 years old and made his name as commander of several ships including HMS Beagle, made famous by the voyages of Charles Darwin. FitzRoy met Darwin in 1831 inviting him aboard the Beagle, as a fellow gentleman, to keep him company during the long journey, thus changing the course of history forever. Today the voyage of the Beagle is synonymous with Darwin, however, as the ship’s captain, FitzRoy played a crucial role in the journey. FitzRoy became an MP during the 1840s and introduced a Bill dramatically improving safety at sea by introducing qualifications for ships masters and mates. FitzRoy continued to advance his naval career and was appointed Director of the Meteorological Office in 1854. The dawn of weather forecasting

First Daily Weather forecast, The Times, 1 Aug 1861

First Daily Weather forecast, The Times, 1 Aug 1861

Following the disastrous Royal Charter Storm of October 1859, FitzRoy lobbied for permission to establish a Gale Warning Service for the protection of shipping. Observations from stations around the British Isles were sent to London and gale warnings were issued when necessary. Using a system of cones and drums, the direction from which the gale would strike was displayed for ships both in port and passing along the coast. Possibly the first national forecasting and warning system in the world the service continues to this day as the ‘Shipping Forecast’. FitzRoy felt that ‘prediction’ and ‘foretelling’ sounded too unscientific for a process based on the developing science of meteorology so he coined the term ‘weather forecast’. His first public weather forecast, published in his own hand writing, was published in the Times on 1 August 1861. Although he had been given Government backing to establish a Gale Warning service, FitzRoy had no permission to establish public forecasts, nevertheless they were very popular. Queen Victoria used to contact FitzRoy for forecasts a few days before making journeys to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Indeed, on the last day he attended the office it was to telegraph a forecast to the Queen. Scientific and meteorological work FitzRoy felt strongly that not enough was done to protect the lives of sailors and fishermen and he devised a new barometer for use in fishing harbours.  They were placed where all could see them and were designed to be easy to read and interpret, FitzRoy’s barometers were credited with saving hundreds of lives and FitzRoy paid for many of them himself, exhausting his own personal fortune.  A few barometers survive in situ at fishing ports around the British Isles, including Mousehole in Cornwall. FitzRoy’s The Weather Book: A manual of practical meteorology, written during a Summer Holiday in 1863, was a leading work on meteorological science and techniques and marked the beginning of an era of major advances in meteorology and guided the science into the 20th century. Death and legacy FitzRoy was a pioneer of meteorology and forecasting and was, in many ways, a man ahead of his time. A workaholic who once declared, ‘I’d rather wear out than rust out’, FitzRoy increasingly struggled with depression.  The pressure of work and criticism took a severe toll on his health and, on 30 April 1865, FitzRoy took his own life. He was buried in unconsecrated ground within the front churchyard of All Saint’s Church, Upper Norwood. His entire fortune of £6,000 (equivalent to around £400,000 today) had been exhausted on public service. FitzRoy was the world’s first full-time weather forecaster. As a pioneering meteorologist and founding father of the Met Office, FitzRoy made accurate weather forecasting a reality. To this day, the Met Office is proud of this outstanding scientific legacy and strives to continue operating at the forefront of scientific discovery.

More warm weather this week – but what’s in store for the summer?

13 04 2015

This week is set to see some unseasonably warm weather for parts of the UK – with temperatures expected to climb to the low to mid-20s Celsius in the south on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Warm air flowing up from the south west will combine with high pressure, bringing settled conditions and sunny spells for many.

Warmest days of the year so far

This week’s above average temperatures follow on from a similar spell last week, which saw temperatures top out at 21.9C at St James’s Park in London on Friday.

This was the ‘warmest day of the year so far’, but It looks like Tuesday and Wednesday will top that – which is to be expected as we head through spring and edge closer to the start of summer.

Unfortunately, the weather we get in April doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about the kind of summer we can expect. We’re still in the midst of spring, so it’s far too early to say what the months of June, July and August may hold.

Summer ‘heatwave’ speculation

That hasn’t stopped speculation about heatwaves, the warmest summer ever and record temperatures in the media. Some stories cite our three month outlook for contingency planners as proof of the impending heatwave, but this is in no way an accurate reflection of what it shows.

The outlook shows probabilities attached to different scenarios for temperature and rainfall over the whole three-month period it covers. This is useful for those who use probabilities to plan ahead on longer-timescales, but not very useful for deciding where and when to go on your UK summer holiday, for example.

What does the longer outlook show?

Our current three month outlook does show that above average temperatures are more likely than below average temperatures for the April-June period. The outlook is essentially the scientific equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race and, just like a horse race, the favourite doesn’t always win.

It’s also important to note that above average temperatures over a three-month period could come about in a variety of ways in terms of actual weather – we can still see warmer than average temperatures when it’s cloudy and wet, for example. Also, even in an above average three-months not all individual months would need to be above average.

This just reinforces the point that the contingency planners outlook doesn’t tell us what specific weather we are going to see at a specific location. For the best information on the weather ahead, people should use the Met Office’s 5-day weather forecast supplemented with our 30-day outlook.

By keeping up to date with the latest forecast, you’ll always have the most up-to-date and accurate view of the weather in store for the UK.

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.

Holiday Dust

24 02 2015

At this time of year, many of us are in search of some winter sun, and a popular destination for Brits abroad is Egypt.

Typical conditions in Cairo at this time of year are fairly warm, dry and sunny. On average in February you could expect to see daytime highs of 21C, 8 hours of sunshine per day, and 1 wet day in the whole month. However, there may be some disappointed holidaymakers at the moment, as rather than sunshine; there is dust in the forecast. A dense dust plume has been developing across Libya and Egypt and will continue to grow over the coming days.

A deep area of low pressure in the central Mediterranean has given some very unsettled weather over recent days, and will continue to bring heavy rain and snow to northern parts of Algeria, Tunisia and perhaps western parts of Libya over the next few days. Very strong winds around the low will generate dust storms and sand storms and these will move across the rest of Libya and into Egypt during the first part of this week.

The dust storms will be severe and widespread enough to cause some disruption to air travel in the region, with perhaps some public health issues also.

The deep pink area in this satellite picture is the dust, and the line of dust stretches right up towards Greece.

The deep pink area in this satellite picture is the dust, and the line of dust stretches right up towards Greece.

These intense dust storms are often called Haboobs, which were first named in Saharan Sudan. They are frequently associated with thunderstorms or even small tornadoes, and usually last about three hours. The storms tend to develop late in the day during summer, and are sometime followed by rain. They can transport and deposit huge quantities of sand or dust, moving as an extremely dense wall that can be up to 100 km wide and several kilometers high.

Dust storm

For more information about the weather abroad, visit our holiday weather section.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,434 other followers

%d bloggers like this: