Met Office in the Media: 14 December 2010

14 12 2010

The current cold weather continues to feature across the media, with widespread coverage of the predicted return to arctic conditions on Thursday this week.  The Guardian reports that the ‘Weather set to take Arctic turn as big freeze returns to Britain’ whilst the Telegraph reports that ‘The second Big Chill set to last a month‘‎. Wales online have reported ‘Arctic blast blowing in on Thursday‘, whilst in Scotland, where there is the risk of significant snow showers in northern and western parts through Thursday and Friday, The Scotsman warns of ‘The disruption: Motorists warned to expect black Thursday’.

There has been much discussion today about whether we will see a White Christmas this year, with some other forecasters coming out and saying it is “guaranteed”. Most weather forecasters would agree that nothing is ever guaranteed in meteorology and regarding whether it will snow on December 25th it is still too early to provide a detailed forecast. More information is in a post made yesterday on a White Christmas.

Elsewhere there has been widespread coverage of new research by Met Office scientists on using lightning to measure the height of the plume emitted from erupting volcanoes. It is hoped this can be used to help in forecasting ash plume movements. EnvironmentalResearchWeb reported that ‘Volcanic lightning could help monitor plume height‘, along with MSNBC and The Economist.

We have also released verification of our North Atlantic Hurricane season forecast this week. The Met Office accurately predicted the above-average North Atlantic tropical storm season again this year, maintaining the excellent record of its forecast since it was introduced in 2007, and more detail can be found in ‘Continued success for tropical storm forecast’.

Finally, The Armstrong and Miller Show on BBC One on Saturday night used Met Office graphics to support a sketch about the difference between weather and climate. Ben Miller gave us a timely reminder that what is happening outside the window right now is ‘weather’, and the long-term trend averaged over many years is the ‘climate’. You can watch this on BBC iPlayer starting at 7 minutes and 5 seconds in.

Met Office Chief Scientist at the AGU Autumn Meeting

14 12 2010

The Moscone Conference Center, location of the AGU Fall Meeting

The Moscone Convention Center, location of the AGU Fall Meeting

They say that this is the biggest science meeting of any year and with just one look at the crowds surrounding the 2010 meeting in San Francisco it’s hard to argue against that.

Over 15,000 scientists representing every colour and creed of the geophysical disciplines are gathered at the huge Moscone Convention Center to deliver and debate the big topics of the moment.

The Met Office‘s Julia Slingo is among them. Our Chief Scientist is here at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting to deliver a presentation on what she sees as the scientific challenges facing society in making us more resilient to natural hazards.

We live a lifestyle that makes us increasingly vulnerable to all sorts of hazards, be they related to extreme weather or geological phenomenon such as the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. 2010 has provided the world with many examples of just how exposed we are to these kinds of event.

As well as that volcanic eruption that had such a devastating impact on air travel right across the world, extreme rainfall in Pakistan and China and record-breaking temperatures in Russia this past summer have caused tragically high loss of life and massive damage to the infrastructure of those countries. And currently the UK is in the grip of its worst early winter for many years. So what can be done to address this? 

In her talk, Professor Slingo says we need to be able combine work from different areas of science and deliver increased computing capacity to provide better answers to the problems faced by society today.

But more than this it is imperative we look at what computer weather and climate prediction models tell us in a different way. We should focus more on making a quantified assessment of the probability of a certain outcome so that we can provide the sort of advice needed to combat what may be an increasing frequency of such dangerous weather.

And while our models are by no means the finished article they do tell us some things well enough. High temperatures across parts of Russia were clearly signalled by seasonal prediction models and the risk of record-breaking extremes was identified in a small, but significant, number of the ensemble members.

Professor Slingo believes we have the basic building blocks required to deliver better predictions of weather extremes, but it is becoming increasingly obvious we need to link different scientific disciplines to fully counter the threats posed by them. Our increasing vulnerability makes that vital.

Near record temperatures in 2010 to be followed by cooler 2011

2 12 2010

Global temperature has warmed to near record levels in 2010 say climate scientists from the Met Office and the University of East Anglia. Provisional figures for the three main global temperature datasets put 2010 on track to become first or second warmest in the instrumental record.

The preliminary figure for January to October 2010 is 0.52 °C above the long-term average on the Met Office – Climatic Research Unit (HadCRUT3) dataset, placing it equal with the record-breaking 1998. 

The Met Office annual global temperature forecast for 2010, Climate could warm to record levels in 2010, issued at the COP15 talks in Copenhagen, predicted that the year was “more likely than not” to be the warmest year. Dr Adam Scaife, head of long range forecasting at the Met Office said, “The three leading global temperature datasets show that, so far, 2010 is clearly warmer than 2009 despite El Niño declining and being replaced by a very strong La Niña, which has a cooling effect.”

Although La Niña has stabilised, it is still expected to affect global temperature through the coming year. This effect is small compared to the total accrued global warming to date, but it does mean that 2011 is unlikely to be a record year according to the Met Office prediction based on the three main datasets. Nevertheless an anomaly of 0.44 °C is still likely — with the range very likely to be between 0.28 °C and 0.60 °C. The middle of this range would place 2011 among the top 10 warmest years on the record.

Dr Vicky Pope, the Met Office’s head of climate science advice said, “Our annual prediction of global temperatures for the next year combined with our monitoring of the observed climate helps people to put the world’s current climate into context.”

More information is available at

Met Office in the Media: 01 December 2010

1 12 2010

The prolonged extreme cold and snow remain the focus of media attention leading most national news bulletins on TV and Radio and very close to the front of most newspapers.  Notably we have taken part in a live chat for ITV Evening News on both Monday and Wednesday, provided interviews to the Today programme, You and Yours and the ITV Evening News about the continuing cold.

Ewen McCallum, Met Office Chief Meteorologist, wrote and small feature in The Scotsman on the current cold spell and the Daily Mail wrote a small feature on how we are encouraging the public to provide snow depth reports via our website, producing a map of snow depths across the UK.

On the other side of the world the UNFCCC climate change talks, otherwise known as COP16 got underway earlier this week. The Met Office supports the UK government negotiations with robust scientific evidence on how the climate of the earth is changing allowing governments and others to make informed policy decisions. We have published more information on our website about COP16 in Cancun.

Also, in the first of our guest blogs on climate change, Jonathan Leake, Science Editor at The Sunday Times describes the latest research into ‘black carbon’.

Yesterday saw the launch of academic research partnership between the Met Office and the Universities of Leeds, Exeter and Reading. The focus of the research programme will be to combine the strengths of the universities and the Met Office to secure the UK’s position in leading the world in weather forecasting and climate prediction, and provide an outstanding environment to develop the atmospheric science leaders of the future. This was reported in Bioscience Technology and on the BBC

Met Office in the Media: 06 November 2010

6 11 2010

Reuters has reported that the Met Office Chief Scientist, Professor Julia Slingo OBE has suggested that the 2 degree Celsius climate target may need to change.   Professor Slingo clearly stated that the the world should keep the 2C target to aid negotiations, but with advances in climate science these targets should always be kept under review, and if necessary adjusted to take into account research into local and regional effects, particularly on rainfall patterns.  This follows publication of the Met Office Science Strategy, that has as one of its aims the desire to provide better local and regional data, especially on rainfall patterns that would enable individual countries to enter negotiations in a more informed, engaged way.

Several papers have reported on our forecasts of the potential for severe weather affecting the UK on Monday, following a settled, but cooler weekend. The Met Office warning says: “An unusually deep area of low pressure will bring a period of severe gales and heavy rain throughout Monday with inland gusts likely to reach 55 to 65mph in places, especially in areas exposed to the south to southeasterly winds. There is a risk of disruption due to falling trees, especially given that some trees are still in leaf.”.   You can keep up to date with the latest weather forecast on our website.

The New York Times has reported (Historic Sea Voyages Buoy Climate Science) on a project by UK Scientists, including the Met Office Hadley Centre to use historical ship logs to gather past climate data. forms a key part of the International ACRE Project, which is recovering past weather and climate data from around the world and bringing them into widespread use. Met Office Hadley Centre scientist Dr Rob Allan, the ACRE project leader said: “Reconstructing past weather from these historical documents will help further our knowledge of weather patterns and climatic changes.”

Nature has reported on how Brazil’s climate modellers are set to go global with the help of the Met Office Hadley Centre. A new supercomputer will drive model to analyse effects of wildfire on world climate and rather than starting from scratch, the Brazilian approach has been to piggyback on the Hadley Centre’s Global Environmental Model (HadGEM2_ES) while adding new features that reflect the complex interactions between the rainforest and the atmosphere above it. The resulting model could be the first to incorporate a detailed treatment of aerosol emissions from fire, enabling UK and Brazilian scientists to probe how the climate system responds to hot plumes carrying black carbon and other chemical compounds produced by fires in the Amazon and around the world.

“It is a tremendously exciting step forward,” says Richard Betts, who heads climate-impact modelling at the Hadley Centre. The IPCC’s fifth assessment includes a systematic analysis of various land-use scenarios that will allow scientists to explore the interactions between vegetation and climate, says Betts, and fire plays an important role.

Met Office in the Media: 27 Oct 2010

27 10 2010

Over recent days there has been a great deal of coverage regarding the chilly conditions across parts of Britain.  The Daily Telegraph, reports that Frozen Britain braves coldest October night for 17 years. Many parts of northern Britain had a very cold night overnight Sunday into Monday with Levens Hall, Cumbria, seeing an overnight low of -6.6C, the coldest for 17 years. Other cold places included Trawsgoed in Wales and West Freugh in Scotland.  The cold snap has been relatively short lived as winds have now turned more west or southwesterly again bringing milder conditions across the UK.

The Sunday Times has reported on NASA GISS data showing that Oct 2009 to September 2010 was the warmest 12 month period on record since records began. The article also reported that data from the Met Office, where we compile global temperature data in a different way, would confirm that the same period would “probably the first or second hottest on record”.

Explaining the science of climate change

24 09 2010

New web pages which explain the science behind the headlines on climate change have been launched by Government Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Sir John Beddington. 

The web pages, produced with the support of leading scientists from the Met Office Hadley Centre and others, present an overview of some of the most important areas of study in climate change science.  This overview will help anyone wishing to get beyond the day-to-day headlines and gain a deeper understanding of the fundamental scientific issues involved.

Professor Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist said: “I am delighted to have been consulted in the development of Sir John Beddington’s overview and guide to the underpinning science and observations of climate change.

“Our changing climate has huge implications for both policy and people, so it is essential we explain the complex science with as much clarity as possible. These web pages, authored by the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, are an important reference and will contribute to helping people understand the science of climate change”.

 Sir John Beddington said:  “Reporting on climate change science has often created more heat than light. The evidence is compelling that climate change is happening, that human activities are the major driver for this and that the future risks are substantial. 

“At the same time, there is much we need to understand better; for example, the pace and extent of the changes we can expect, and regional impacts. I am grateful for the invaluable advice and inputs from Met Office experts that have helped in developing this new Government Office for Science climate science resource.”

This guide from Sir John Beddington is also supported by the Met Office guide to climate change at

No quick fix

12 08 2010

A Met Office study has shown that our weather and climate could continue to be affected long after any reductions in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The latest findings published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters show that we may be committed to changes in rainfall patterns long after stabilising carbon dioxide and other gases responsible for climate change.

Geoengineering: the risks and rewards of tackling climate change

10 08 2010

Some would argue that geoengineering is a viable solution to climate change if the world fails to reduce carbon emissions. However, relying on artificial methods of cooling the atmosphere has potential risks and could mean that there may have to be much bigger long-term cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. As long as geoengineering is being considered, we will research the potential consequences.

Climate modelling in Bangladesh

5 08 2010

Climate change is likely to intensify the natural hazards that Bangladesh already faces, posing a critical challenge to development initiatives in the country. A collaborative project between UKaid from DFID, the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) has increased Bangladesh’s capacity to apply regional climate change models, interpret outputs from those models and help policymakers plan for climate change.


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