How the ‘pest from the west’ will beat the ‘Beast from the East’

10 12 2012

There was much talk at the end of last week about the ‘Beast from the East’ being set to bring some cold and wintry conditions to the UK this week. However, the balance in the atmosphere has changed and the current cold weather looks set to be replaced by milder, wetter weather by the end of the week.

So what has happened in the atmosphere to bring such a dramatic change in the forecast?

As expected at the end of last week, we do have winds blowing from the northeast, tracking across the North Sea from Scandinavia and bringing scattered showers to eastern parts of the country as shown on the chart below. So, we can expect a couple of days of cold and mainly dry weather with a few showers in eastern counties, sharp frosts and some freezing fog at night.

Actual chart Monday 10 December 2012

The atmosphere is always finely balanced and for the ‘Beast from the East’ to really ‘bear’ its teeth the high pressure area over Greenland would need to develop and draw the wind in from Europe. It now looks like this is not going to happen and instead the depression to the west of the UK is going to win the atmospheric battle and bring heavy rain and strong winds to us all from Thursday.

Met Office forecasters will be monitoring this developing weather situation throughout the week and have already issued warnings to give advanced notice of the potential impacts from the heavy rain in some parts of the country.

The latest forecasts and warnings can be found on the Met Office website, on our mobile apps and through TV and radio broadcasts on the BBC and ITV.

Communicating uncertain forecasts

15 12 2011

This has been a challenging week for the Met Office. As early as last weekend our forecasters identified the potential for some very severe weather to affect the UK at the end of this week. Our forecasting systems had identified a possible area of significant development, which if this were to happen would result in a rapidly deepening, vigorous low pressure system running across the UK bringing with it storm force winds and the potential for widespread disruption to travel as well as the possibility for structural damage and uprooted trees.

Although we were quite sure this low would cross the UK at the end of the week, there was also the potential it may not develop and consequently cross to the south of the UK and instead of stormy winds, bring the risk of heavy rain and snow fall.

And here is where the challenge began.  When the weather is not feeling too predictable how do we make sure we give sufficient warning to people, when the impact of such weather could be so high but the probability of it happening is relatively low?

Right from the beginning of the week our forecasters and advisers have briefed local and national governments and resilience communities on the risks associated with the developing weather situation so that they are fully aware of the potential for this storm. We worked hard to show the range of uncertainty in the predictability of the weather and then honed in on the detail as it became clearer through the week.  This is what the Met Office does best and we have had some very positive feedback.

Our television forecasters at the BBC and ITV, have kept the public right up to date with the latest details of the forecast from the Met Office. The BBC forecast went as far as showing alternative possible forecasts on Tuesday evening highlighting the possible impacts the weather may bring at the end of the week.  These forecasts have been extremely well received by those who saw them and, along with a range of videos on the Met Office website with our Chief Forecasters have kept everyone well-informed on what could be expected.

Our latest forecasts show that the low will track to the south of the UK, with the strongest winds confined to the English Channel and across the near continent. The Met Office has been liaising with MeteoFrance, our counterparts in France, on the severe weather now expected there.

Having said that, it will still be windy along parts of the south coast and our attention for the UK turns to the risk of heavy rain and snow. Warnings have been issued to the public and the resilience community with the potential for heavy rain in southern most counties of England and snow in parts of Wales, the Midland and southern and southeast England through Friday morning.

We continue to show in our forecasts the most likely outcome as well as and what the weather might be like if the low were to push a little further north. Some may say this is just “sitting on the fence” but what this actually shows is how challenging it is to forecast the weather is the UK, and how good forecasts and targeted information can allow people to make the right decisions based on the best information when it really matters.

Met Office in the Media: 09 December 2011

9 12 2011

The severe weather that affected much of the north of the UK over the last day or so has just shown how important accurate weather forecasts are in keeping people safe and well. Our forecasts were in deed very accurate and last night Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The conditions are exactly as predicted when the Met Office issued its red warning.”

Equally important however is clearly communicating our weather forecasts to make sure that the nation knows where and when severe weather will hit and then what the impacts may be.  We work with agencies, such as local and national governments, the police and fire service as well as emergency planners to make sure they clearly know what the weather has in store, but we still need to keep the public informed.

We best do this with our partners at the BBC and ITV, where our weather forecasts reach many millions of people every day. These forecasts over the last few days have been extremely clear, accurate and informative, ensuring we all knew what to expect. Similarly working with national and local newspapers and radio stations across the land the nation was prepared for severe weather when it really mattered.

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