First half of April has been dry and warm

17 04 2015

Early statistics up to the 15th of April show that month so far has been generally settled and warm, with limited rainfall in most areas.

The mean temperature for the UK was 8.2C, which is 0.8C above the long-term (1981-2010) average for the whole month.

Daytime temperatures have risen to well above average in many areas, especially in the south, with the year’s highest temperature so far of 25.1C recorded at Frittenden in Kent on the afternoon of the 15th. This is the highest April temperature anywhere in the UK since 2011.

The UK as a whole has seen average maximum temperatures 1.4C above normal, though much closer to average in coastal parts of northwest England and western Scotland.

Map shows the UK mean temperature for 1-15 April compared to the whole month average.

Map shows the UK mean temperature for 1-15 April compared to the whole month average.

Rainfall has been well below normal so far in most areas. After 15 days of the month you’d expect about 50% of the full-month average to have fallen in a ‘normal’ April, but the UK has seen just 35% (25.2mm). However, there was some persistent and heavy rain across parts of northwest Scotland on 13th and 14th, and parts of western Scotland have had most of the whole-month average already.

It has also been rather a sunny month so far for most parts of the UK, with 63% of the full-month average already – again you would expect around 50% by mid-month.

The forecast for this weekend is for a good deal of dry and bright weather. However, it’s still far too early to judge how this April will finish overall, with half of the month still to add in to the statistics.

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall  
1-15 Apr
Actual Diff to Avg Actual % of Avg Actual % of Avg
  degC degC hours % mm %
UK 12.9 1.4 92.8 63 25.2 35
England 14.0 1.6 98.4 63 14.1 24
Wales 13.5 1.9 92.0 60 20.1 22
Scotland 10.8 1.1 85.8 64 43.7 48
N Ireland 12.8 1.2 81.5 56 32.6 44

Data from the Met Office’s UK digitised records dating back to 1910. You can explore our climate data on our website. Clearly these are early month figures and the statistics at the end of the month will change somewhat.





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.





Powerful super-typhoon heads for Philippines

1 04 2015

There is currently a super typhoon in the western North Pacific called Maysak. This is a particularly strong storm for the time of year with winds in excess of 160 mph. The strongest storms in this region usually occur between August and October. Tropical storms, including typhoons, are reliant on sea surface temperatures for their energy, and as the northern hemisphere has just moved from winter to spring, this is the coldest time of year for sea temperatures. However, in the region where Typhoon Maysak formed just north of the equator, sea temperatures are almost always above 26°C, which is the critical value for tropical storm formation. Furthermore, the sea temperatures are unusually warm in this area by more than 2°C.

Super Typhoon Maysak is the fourth tropical storm of the season in the western North Pacific, the others being Mekkhala, Higos and Bavi. There has not been a year with four or more tropical storms in this region forming before the end of March since 1965. Three of the four storms have been typhoons – only Bavi remained below the 74mph threshold (the sustained wind speed required to become a typhoon). There have never been as many typhoons before the end of March in the era of reliable records (since World War II). Maysak was also the strongest typhoon to develop in March in this region since Mitag in 2002.

Typhoon Maysak as seen from the MTSAT satellite on 1 April 2015 Image courtesy of digital-typhoon.org

Typhoon Maysak as seen from the MTSAT satellite on 1 April 2015
Image courtesy of digital-typhoon.org

Maysak has now started to weaken as it moves west-northwest towards the Philippines. However, Maysak is still likely to be a typhoon when it makes landfall this weekend. There is still some uncertainty over the exact track of the storm, but the most probable path suggests the Philippines’ northern island, Luzon, is most at risk – including the capital Manila. Wind damage and flooding are likely, particularly in coastal areas.

Typhoon Maysak on 1 April 2015. Image courtesy of the US Naval Research Laboratory

Typhoon Maysak on 1 April 2015.
Image courtesy of the US Naval Research Laboratory

The Eye of the Storm

Air sinks at the centre of a typhoon, resulting in the formation of an ‘eye’ which is sometimes free of cloud and mostly calm. However, on occasions small scale rotations can develop within the eye causing distinctive ‘mesovortices’ (small scale columns of rotating air) in the low level cloud pattern. These can be seen in this satellite loop of Typhoon Maysak created by the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at the University of Wisconsin:

http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/goes/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MAYSAK_H8VIS_064_31March_end0600_fast.gif

The Met Office works closely with counterparts at the Philippines weather service PAGASA, providing the latest information on computer model predictions of the likely track and intensity of Typhoon Maysak as it nears the country.

Official warnings of west Pacific tropical storms are produced by the Japan Meteorological Agency. 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.

Met Office StormTracker provides a mapped picture of tropical cyclones around the globe, with access to track history and six-day forecast tracks for current tropical cyclones from the Met Office global forecast model, as well as the latest observed cloud cover and sea surface temperature. We also provide updates on current tropical storms via @metofficestorms on Twitter.





March continues sunny theme for UK

31 03 2015

Following the sunniest winter in records dating back to 1929, March has continued the trend with above average sunshine hours according to early Met Office statistics.

Map showing sunshine hours between 1-29 March compared to the full-month long-term average.

Map showing sunshine hours between 1-29 March compared to the full-month long-term average.

Up to the 29th of the month, there had been 115.0 hours of sunshine which is slightly above the full-month long-term (1981-2010) average of 101.8 hours.

Northern Ireland has been particularly sunny compared to average, with 126.9 hours of sunshine so far this month – which is well ahead of its long-term March average of 97.7 hours.

It has also been a slightly drier than average month up to the 29th, with 80.4mm of rain for the UK so far making up about 85% of the long-term average for the whole month (95.1mm). We’d expect to have had about 94% of the full-month average by this stage of the month.

England has been particularly dry, with the 39.4mm notching up just 62% of the full month average (64.0mm).

Wales and Northern Ireland were also fairly dry (notching up 74% and 78% of their full month average respectively), whereas Scotland is slightly wetter than average – having seen 148.2mm of rain which is just over the full-month average.

When it comes to temperatures – the month has been spot-on average up to the 29th, with a mean temperature of 5.5C.

Looking closer at individual countries, England, Wales and Northern Ireland were all slightly colder than average (by no more than a few tenths of a degree), while Scotland again bucked the trend with slightly above average temperatures (by 0.3C).

Overall the month has been fairly average so far, with no records broken. The final figures are likely to change slightly once the final two days of the month are added.

You can explore Met Office statistics on our UK Climate pages.

UK statistics for 1-29 March:

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall  
1-29 March
Actual Diff to Avg Actual % of Avg Actual % of Avg
  degC degC hours % mm %
UK 5.5 0.0 115.0 113 80.4 85
England 6.1 -0.1 122.0 113 39.4 62
Wales 5.4 -0.4 118.7 117 86.1 74
Scotland 4.4 0.3 100.2 108 148.2 105
N Ireland 5.6 -0.2 126.9 130 74.3 78




The Met Office Pollen Forecast goes live

25 03 2015

Different types of pollen, released at varying times throughout the year, cause millions to suffer from hay fever and other allergies and these symptoms can have a serious impact on well-being. The Met Office counts pollen from March to August, however, pollen can be in the air much earlier – from January right through to November.

The pollen season has three main pollen type phases :

  1. Tree pollen – late March to mid-May.
  2. Grass pollen – mid-May to July.
  3. Weed pollen – end of June to September

Our pollen calendar has a detailed breakdown of the different types of pollen and their peak times within a season. We manage the only pollen count monitoring network in the UK using information from our network, our weather data and expertise from organisations such as the National Pollen and Aerobiological Unit and PollenUK to produce forecasts that help support allergy and hay fever sufferers through the most difficult time of the year.

There are millions of hay fever sufferers across the UK, and the Met Office forecasts provide vital information to help reduce the impact pollen has on their health.  At this time of year, tree pollen is more prevalent with grass and weed pollens becoming more prevalent from mid May onwards.

Yolanda Clewlow said: “The best way to manage your condition, if you suffer from hayfever, is to keep an eye on the Met Office pollen forecasts to help you understand the best time to take appropriate medication and avoid exposure to pollen.”

We provide free, public pollen forecasts to all of the UK.

Pollen Diary

As part of an important Europe-wide study, hay fever sufferers are recording their symptoms online through the European Aeroallergen Network (EAN) Patient’s Hay fever Diary.

Document your symptoms and compare them with concentrations of pollen in the air, to help identify which pollen you are allergic to, look back at pollen levels from previous seasons and read the latest pollen news. This is a long-term study that will significantly aid research into pollen and hay fever.

Sign up to the pollen diary.

Pollen Maps

Together with Public Health England we have produced species location maps for the south west of key allergenic plant species (Cornwall, Devon, Somerset). The maps show the locations of six different tree and plant species – grass, alder, ash, birch, oak and pine – key allergenic plants for asthma and hayfever.

The pollen forecasts are part of a range of weather-related services offered by the Met Office, which include UV indexHeat Health watch and data supporting the UK air quality forecasts.

 





Partial eclipse of the sun

19 03 2015

Friday morning will see a partial eclipse of the sun over the UK. So what does the weather have in store?

Friday Weather

There is expected to be a lot of cloud around for Friday morning. There may be some clearer spells across central England, Wales and the south west England, with a chance of some breaks in the cloud either side of this.

It looks like Southern England, Northern England, Northern Ireland and Scotland will have cloud and this will be thicker the further north you go.

Check out the expected cloud cover in your area on our cloud map.

If you’re interested in seeing the eclipse, it’s worth heading out to take a look regardless of the weather. If it’s cloudy it’ll still get noticeably darker as the moon passes in front of the sun, and you may just get a better look if the cloud thins or a small break in the clouds appears at the right time – but do remember to use appropriate viewing equipment.

Will the Eclipse affect Space Weather?

Earlier in the week we saw the biggest solar storm in 11 years which led to sightings of  the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, as far south as Somerset.  The solar storm was caused by a large explosion on the Sun on Sunday (15 March) throwing huge amounts of magnetically charged particles into space, called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).

The eclipse won’t have an impact on the space weather we experience, however it will give scientists an opportunity to study the corona of the Sun in more detail. The detail within the corona is only visible when the extremely bright light from the Sun is obscured during an eclipse. A number of instruments used for monitoring the Sun for space weather forecasting, such as the LASCO instrument on the SOHO satellite, produce an artificial eclipse by placing an obscurer in front of the solar disc. This produces images like the one below showing a ‘streamer’ to the left of the Sun and a twisted magnetic structure within a coronal mass ejection on the right.

Picture courtesy of NASA

Picture courtesy of NASA

In the image, the position of the Sun is indicated by the white circle, with a larger obscurer blocking out the bright light from the Sun exposing the finer and fainter structures.





Northern Lights continue for the UK

18 03 2015

There could be another chance to see the Northern Lights tonight (18 March) in the UK, but we are not expecting sightings to be as widespread as last night.

The lights are the result of the biggest solar storm in 11 years. There were reports of sightings as far east as Norfolk and as far south as Somerset.

Elsewhere areas of Canada reported power outages affecting their electricity grid and satellite operators took mitigating action to protect satellites from the effects of the solar storm.

The storm was caused by a large explosion on the Sun on Sunday throwing huge amounts of magnetically charged particles into space, called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).

As the particles travel towards Earth they interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and increase global geomagnetic activity, which releases energy into the atmosphere giving off light in the process.

Called the Northern Lights or the aurora borealis, the light is visible in parts of the globe in darkness. The Northern Lights get stronger and more colourful the further north you are.

The CME arrived at Earth in the early hours of Tuesday morning with the disturbance reaching a level of G4 on the 0 to 5 NOAA geomagnetic space weather scales last night.

There is a chance the aurora borealis will be visible again tonight but mainly in Scotland and Northern Ireland depending on cloud cover. Check cloud cover in your area via our dedicated pages.  See the British Geological Survey  web pages for tips on how best to see the aurora.

Below are some of the pictures you shared on Twitter

 





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.





‘Super tides’, the weather and coastal flood risk

20 02 2015

UPDATED 27/02/2015 – this blog has been updated under the section ‘So what are ‘super tides” with the help of the National Oceanography Centre.

In this joint blog from the Environment Agency and the Met Office, we look at the issue of so-called ‘super tides’.

There has been a lot of media coverage about the potential impact of so-called ‘super tides’ which are due from today (Friday, 20 February) through to Monday.

So what are ‘super tides’?

Tides are governed by the gravitational pull of the moon and, to a lesser extent, the sun. Because the sun and moon go through different alignment, this affects the size of the tides.

When the gravitational pull of the sun and moon combine, we see larger than average tides – known as spring tides. When the gravitational pulls offset each other, we get smaller tides known as neap tides. We see two periods of spring and neap tides roughly every month.

Yet some spring tides are higher than others. This is because tidal forces are stengthened if the moon is closest to Earth in its elliptical orbit (astronomers call this perigee). Tide forces are also enhanced when the sun and the moon are directly over the equater. For ths Sun this happens on or around 21 March or September (the equinoxes). Spring tides are always higher at this time of year. The moon’s orbit also takes it above and below the equator over a period of 27.2 days. Just as with the Sun, the tide generating forces are at their greatest when the moon is directly overhead at the equator.

Very large spring tides occur when these astronomical factors coincide. Approximately every 4.5 years the moon is closest to the Earth, and is also overhead at the equator, at either the March or September equinox.

In some places, these extreme tidal conditions can cause water levels to be 0.5m higher than a normal spring tide, but the weather can have a greater impact than even these largest of tides

What is the role of the weather in sea levels?

It’s important to realise that just because we are expecting big astronomical tides over the next few days, these won’t cause the highest sea levels we’ve seen – even in the last few years. That’s because the weather can have a much bigger impact on sea level than the 18-year tidal cycle.

Strong winds can pile up water on coastlines, and low pressure systems can also cause a localised rise in sea level. Typically the difference in water level caused by the weather can be between 20 and 30cm, but it can be much bigger.

On the 5th December 2013, for example, the weather created a storm surge that increased the water level by up to 2 metres. Although an estimated 2,800 properties flooded, more than 800,000 properties were protected from flooding thanks to more than 2,800 kilometres of flood schemes. The Environment Agency also provided 160,000 warnings to homes and businesses to give people vital time to prepare.

This highlights the importance of the Met Office and the Environment Agency working together to look at the combined impact of astronomical tides, wind, low pressure and waves on flood schemes to assess the potential impacts for communities around our coast.

Will we see coastal flooding this weekend?

Given the height of the tides there may be some localised flooding. Weather isn’t playing a large part in water levels over the next few days, although strong winds on Monday are likely to generate some large waves and push up sea levels slightly. This is nothing unusual for winter. You can see more about what weather to expect with the Met Office’s forecasts and severe weather warnings.

The Environment Agency and the Met Office are working together to closely monitor the situation, and the Environment Agency will issue flood alerts and warnings as required.

In the Humber Estuary, for example, we are expecting total water levels of between 4.20-4.39 metres – well below record levels of 5.22m.

John Curtin, Environment Agency’s Director of Incident Management and Resilience, said:  “We are monitoring the situation closely with the Met Office and will issue flood alerts and warnings as required.

“It’s possible we could see some large waves and spray and urge people to take care near coastal paths and promenades and not to drive through flood water.

“However, we can only get a warning to you if you’ve signed up to our free service. People can also see their flood risk and keep up to date with the latest situation on the GOV.UK website at https://www.gov.uk/check-if-youre-at-risk-of-flooding or follow @EnvAgency and #floodaware on Twitter for the latest flood updates.”

For those in Scotland, you can see flood updates for your area on the SEPA website here.

For those in Wales, you can see flood updates in English and Welsh on the Natural Resources Wales website here.

You can also see John explaining the Environment Agency’s flood warnings here:





Two cyclones to hit Australia

19 02 2015

Whilst here in the UK, we are coming towards the end of our winter season, Australia is coming towards the end of summer, but is in the middle of its cyclone season, and unusually there are currently two tropical cyclones affecting the country.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Lam is currently to the north of Australia’s Northern Territory, in the Arafura Sea. The storm is expected to make landfall on Thursday as a category 4 storm, between Milingimbi and Gapuwiyak. Huge rainfall figures are forecast, with 300 to 600mm daily, potentially adding up to more than 800mm in places throughout the storm event, with flooding likely inland, as well as coastal flooding and damaging winds. Residents close to the coast have been advised to be ready to move to shelter with emergency kit. However, as the area is not densely populated, significant impacts are not expected. The nearest large population centre is Darwin, and although it is likely that there will be some wet and windy weather here, it is not expected to be anything that Darwinians aren’t used to.

Credit: Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Credit: Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Storm track and warning areas for Tropical Cyclone Lam

Storm track and warning areas for Tropical Cyclone Lam

Meanwhile, Severe Tropical Cyclone Marcia is heading towards the Queensland coast, and is expected to make landfall between Mackay and Gladstone on Thursday night as an extremely powerful category 5 storm. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology are forecasting Marcia to track inland for a while and quickly weaken, before turning parallel with the coast, which keeps the main risk area to the north of Brisbane. However, there is some uncertainty with the exact track of the storm, and if it were to remain closer to the coast, Brisbane could be in line for a significant amount of rainfall, potentially as much as 400mm. Destructive winds are likely around the coast and abnormally high tides will be experienced with water levels expected to rise above the highest tide of the year. Dangerous storm tides are forecast as the cyclone crosses the coast, as well as treacherous surf on exposed beaches.

Credit: Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Credit: Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory

Storm track and warning areas for Tropical Cyclone Marcia

Storm track and warning areas for Tropical Cyclone Marcia

Met Office StormTracker provides a mapped picture of tropical cyclones around the globe with access to track history and six-day forecast tracks for current tropical cyclones from the Met Office global forecast model and latest observed cloud cover and sea surface temperature. We also provide updates on current tropical storms via @metofficestorms on Twitter.








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