Met Office in the Media: 01 July 2011

1 07 2011

The Independent has today reported about a partnership between the Met Office and NCAR and other leading climate scientists to investigate exceptional weather events to see whether they can be attributable to global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions. In ‘Extreme weather link ‘can no longer be ignored’ Steve Connor reports on the Attribution of Climate-related Events (ACE) project which held its first workshop in August 2010 in Colorado.

Peter Stott, Head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution at the Met Office Hadley Centre said:  “We’ve certainly moved beyond the point of saying that we can’t say anything about attributing extreme weather events to climate change. It’s very clear we’re in a changed climate now which means there’s more moisture in the atmosphere and the potential for stronger storms and heavier rainfall is clearly there.”

More information on this work can be found in:

Climate change: how to play our hand? (Guardian)
Pakistan floods – More than just an active monsoon? (Met Office News Blog)

Elsewhere the Daily Mail and other papers have reported on a research paper that has suggested that aircraft taking off and landing increase the amount of snow or rainfall around airports, where due to the variability in weather is likely to mask any phenomenon within the observations.



Met Office Chief Scientist nominated for Public Servant of the Year in Women in Public Life Awards

7 06 2011

Prof. Julia Slingo OBE has been nominated for Public Servant of the Year in Women in Public Life Awards 2011.

Her citation from the Women in Public Life Awards says:

Professor Julia Slingo OBE is widely recognised as a world-leading scientist in her own right. Since February 2009 she has served as Met Office Chief Scientist providing inspirational leadership of science in the Met Office, and in the wider UK and international community. A leading authority on weather and climate science, she frequently speaks to her peers, the media and the public to promote a common understanding of the issues and impacts associated with natural hazards, weather and climate science. Her previous roles include Director of Climate Research in the National Centre for Atmospheric Science where she led climate research from UK academic institutions, and Founding Director of the Walker Institute for Climate System Research at the University of Reading. Julia is also the first woman to be President of the Royal Meteorological Society, a post she held since 2008.

‘Julia is one of very few women to join the influential group of Government chief scientific advisers. Last year’s volcanic eruption in Iceland and subsequent closure of European airspace provided a keen test of her leadership and communication skills, in providing the scientific advice underpinning the UK’s response to the crisis. Throughout this rapidly changing event, she provided Government with expert advice on the distribution of volcanic ash across international airspace. She also provided the leadership needed to quickly implement new science to meet the changing requirements of the aviation community. Importantly, despite considerable pressure from the media and a number of understandably worried airlines, Julia ensured advice was impartial, evidence based and delivered with the highest scientific integrity. This has been acknowledged through a Select Committee enquiry. Julia’s passion and drive for her science, and its impacts on people, is infectious. This passion is never more evident than when she is briefing and advising Government officials and politicians, or speaking in the media. In the last year she has, for example, appeared on BBC Newsnight and provided an authoritative voice for the Independent and Nature on a range of subjects including the flooding in Pakistan and Australia, and the cold winter conditions in the UK. Recognising Julia’s major role during an unprecedented year of global natural hazards, the American Geophysical Union invited her to deliver the prestigious AGU Frontiers of Geophysics keynote lecture to its annual conference in December 2010.’

The Awards celebrate women leaders in society and seek to recognise and promote the work of women in politics, business, the civil service and community leadership. The ceremony will take place on 13 September.

Met Office issues Atlantic tropical storm forecast for the 2011 season

26 05 2011

Our forecast for this year’s North Atlantic tropical storm season states it is likely to be quieter than 2010, with 13 tropical storms between June and November 2011, with a 70% chance that the number will be in the range 10 to 17.

This is very close to the 1980-2010 long-term average of 12, and is in contrast to 2010 which had a total of 19 tropical storms.

Tropical storm frequency forecast. June to November 2011

Tropical storm frequency forecast. June to November 2011

The most likely Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index – a measure of the storm lifetimes and intensities as well as total numbers over a season – is 151, with a 70% chance that the index will be in the range 89 to 212: well above the 1980-2010 average of 104.

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index. forecast  June to November 2011

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index forecast . June to November 2011

For the past four years, the Met Office forecast has given accurate guidance of Atlantic tropical cyclone activity, identifying the relatively quiet seasons of 2007 and 2009 from the active seasons of 2008 and 2010.

Matt Huddleston, Principal Consultant on climate change at the Met Office said: “North Atlantic tropical storms affect all of us through fluctuating oil, food and insurance markets. Seasonal and multi-year forecasts are the focus for key research at the Met Office and the benefits of that are being realised through the increasing accuracy of its predictions”.

This is the second year of operation of the Met Office’s new seasonal prediction system called GloSea4. The new generation model has better representation of the complex physical processes that cause tropical storms and hurricanes to form, thus improving the accuracy of the forecast. The forecast also uses information from the seasonal prediction system of the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts.

One of the key indicators for a tropical storm season is the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which affects sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific and, remotely, conditions in the North Atlantic. It’s therefore vital to be able to accurately predict the ENSO cycle and GloSea4 has shown good skill in such predictions.

Met Office in the News: Friday 18th February

18 02 2011

Earlier this week the journal Nature published a paper in how emissions of greenhouse gases increased the odds of the Autumn 2000 floods.  This paper used the detailed computer climate model developed at the Met Office Hadley Centre. Using this the project team simulated the weather in Autumn 2000, both as it was, and as it might have been had there been no greenhouse gas emissions since the beginning of the 20th century. This was then repeated thousands of times using a global volunteer network of personal computers participating in the project in order to pin down the impact of emissions on extreme weather. The team then fed the output from these weather simulations into a flood model, and found that 20th century greenhouse gas emissions very likely increased the chances of floods occurring in autumn 2000 by more than 20%; and likely by 90% (close to doubling the odds) or more.

Scientific evidence

Lord Henley, Environment Minister, said: “I welcome this research which is the first to attribute how rising greenhouse gas concentrations may increase the chance of a particular flood. This work reinforces the scientific evidence on the need for the UK to tackle climate change, and to increase our resilience to the challenges climate change will bring from extreme weather events.”

Dr Peter Stott, of the Met Office, and a co-author of the report, said: “This study is the first step toward near real-time attribution of extreme weather, untangling natural variability from man-made climate change. This research establishes a methodology that can answer the question about how the odds of particular weather events may be altering. It will also allow us to say, shortly after it has occurred, if a specific weather event has been made more likely by climate change, and equally importantly if it has not.”

Developing the science

The Met Office Hadley Centre has been commissioned by DECC, Defra and DfID to work with international partners as part of the Attribution of Climate-related Events Group. The group is developing the science of attribution of extreme weather that will be needed to provide regular and scientifically robust assessments of how the odds of these phenomena are changing.


Ocean Forecasting Success

Met Office scientists have been awarded the Denny Medal for the best research paper of 2010 by the Journal of Operational Oceanography. The paper describes how the Met Office operational Forecasting Ocean Assimilation Model (FOAM) and the new Nucleus for European Modelling of the Ocean (NEMO) work and presents verification of their performance.

FOAM data of the three dimensional density structure of the ocean were primarily used by the Royal Navy in their sonar propagation models for use in anti-submarine warfare. From this original use, the model has been developed to provide both our government and commercial customers with forecasts that include:

  • Ocean currents
  • Salinity
  • Ocean surface temperatures
  • Sea-ice extent

Such forecasts are critical to sensitive offshore operations such as oil and gas drilling and undersea cable repair and demonstrates how the Met Office supports both our government, defence and commercial customers.

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”.


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