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.

What do we know about the coming winter?

15 09 2015

There has been some speculation in the media today that we may be in for a long, bitterly cold winter because an El Niño is under way in the tropical Pacific.  However it is still far too early to speculate about what sort of winter the UK will have.

During an El Niño sea surface temperature in the east Pacific warms, altering weather patterns around the globe.  The influence of an El Niño over the UK and western Europe tends to be weaker and less predictable than elsewhere because of how far away we are from the event itself.  There is a link in late winter, when we can see a slightly higher risk of a colder than usual end to winter in El Niño years.

This map shows the effect El Nino has on temperatures around the globe.

This map shows the effect El Nino has on temperatures around the globe.


That’s not where it ends when looking at the UK winter, though. Other factors also have an influence, such as sea surface temperature in the North Atlantic, the Sun’s output, and changes in winds high in the atmosphere above the Equator known as the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation. These could wipe out the influence from El Niño, and all of them need to be taken into account to predict the winter.

Scientist and Manager of Met Office Predictability Research, Dr Doug Smith, said: “We continue to make improvements in the developing area of long-range forecasting but with all the competing influences in the climate it remains too early to predict the coming winter with much confidence.”

Our 30-day forecasts remain the best way for the public to get a long-range look at the weather we’ll see, while our detailed 5-day forecasts and warnings will keep everyone up-to-date for any periods of severe weather.


So what happened to our summer?

28 08 2015

Our Chief Scientist Professor Dame Julia Slingo OBE FRS reflects on this summer’s weather and what has influenced it:

No-one can deny that we have had a pretty disappointing summer with a lot of unsettled weather and only a few warm spells, especially through July and August. Our weather has been dominated by low pressure over and to the west of the country that has brought us periods of heavy rain from the south – what we call the Spanish Plume. So what has been happening?

If we look beyond our shores there have been some big changes in the global climate this year. El Niño is in full flight, disturbing weather patterns around the world. The low pressure that has dominated our weather is part of a pattern of waves in the jet stream around the world that has brought crippling heat waves to places like Poland and Japan. And, looking back over past El Niños, you could have expected that a more unsettled summer might be on the cards for the UK. Closer to home the North Atlantic is more than 2 degrees colder than normal. It seems quite likely that the unusually cold North Atlantic has strengthened and pushed our jet stream south, also contributing to the low pressure systems that have dominated our weather.

So could all this have been anticipated? Seasonal forecasts for this summer suggested that temperatures and rainfall would be near normal. However, as the season progressed all the leading models around the world failed to capture the signal for unsettled weather over the UK. We all know that forecasting months and seasons ahead is still in its infancy and much more research needs to be done. On the other hand our day-to-day forecasts have been really successful in allowing us to warn of bad weather, highlighting yet again the benefits of our research that has delivered year-on-year and decade-by-decade improvements in forecasting skill. Our 5-day forecast is now as accurate as our 1-day forecast was when I started my career. This enables us to make so many decisions that keep us safe, protect our property, keep our infrastructure running and even when to go out and enjoy the sunshine!

All of this cannot happen without improvements to research and technology, and this week the first phase of our new supercomputer went live, five weeks ahead of schedule. This will enable us to provide even more accurate and relevant weather and climate forecasts to all of us, our government, emergency responders, and our many other customers at home and abroad.

The news that the BBC has decided that the Met Office won’t be their main weather provider when the current contract ends has raised the question of where will the new provider get their information from. It’s important to understand that no weather forecasting organization, whether it is a National Met Service like the Met Office or an independent company, can provide a service without a forecast, and that it is the leading meteorological agencies, like the Met Office, that build and deliver those forecasts. So whoever the BBC chooses to deliver their weather services in future, you can be sure that Met Office observations and forecasts will continue to be at the heart of them. We are committed to driving forward the skill and usefulness of our forecasts and ensuring that all of us benefit from the advances the Met Office makes in the coming years with our new supercomputer.

Highest temperatures and rainfall over the weekend

23 08 2015

Over the past 24 hours the weather has delivered a mixture of hot sunshine, thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain as we highlighted earlier in the week.

As expected, sunny skies and warm air being pushed northwards from the continent allowed temperatures to climb across central and eastern parts of the UK, reaching maximums in the high 20s and low 30s on Saturday with a humid feel:

Table showing Maximum temperatures for Saturday 22 August 2015

Location Maximum Temperature in C
Gravesend 30.9
Kew Gardens 30.9
Heathrow 30.7
St James’s Park 30.7
Northolt 30.6

These high temperatures set off two areas of thunderstorms, one over central southern England and another over the Midlands, moving into northern England. These storms caused localised surface water flooding and flooding of some properties in North Yorkshire as up to 30mm of rain fell in an hour. There were also impacts to the York-Leeds rail line.

Across the northwest of the UK it was fresher and mainly dry with some sunshine, while the areas in between were rather cloudy with some rain.

Overnight, the heavy, thundery downpours continued to move northwards, while heavy rain also spread into western parts of the UK. By this morning at 10am the rainfall totals for the 24 hours were as follows:

Table showing rainfall totals for the 24 hours up until 10am on Sunday 23 August 2015

Location Rainfall in mm
Bramham 62.6
Ryhill 54.6
Tredegar 40.6
Linton-on-Ouse 39.8
Scolton Country Park 36.8

During today, the heavy rain has continued to spread north and eastwards with a mixture of sunny spells and heavy showers following across the south. Ahead of this, temperatures across eastern England have again peaked in the mid to high 20s.

Table showing rainfall totals bwtween 10am and 4pm on Sunday 23 August 2015

Location Rainfall in mm
Hereford 20.8
Llanbrynmair 20.4
Sarn 17.8
Lake Vyrnwy 17.2
Porthmadog 17.2

The changeable weather will continue as we head into next week. Met Office National Severe Weather Warnings have been issued and everyone is encouraged to keep up to date with forecasts and warnings over the next few days and to make plans accordingly.

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.

Taiwan preparing for violent Typhoon

4 08 2015

A Typhoon is expected to bring flooding to parts of Taiwan and eastern China later this week with 500-700mm of rain forecast. Typhoon Soudelor is at the moment moving through the northwestern Pacific Ocean and looks likely to track across central Taiwan on Friday before making landfall over eastern China as it weakens.

This is a violent typhoon and is presently 500 miles to the west of the Northern Mariana Islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean and is moving towards Taiwan. Currently surface wind speeds are estimated to be 130 mph with gusts of 190 mph, although these speeds are likely to ease slightly before reaching Taiwan.

Picture courtesy of Japanese Meteorological Agency

Picture courtesy of Japanese Meteorological Agency

This storm brings the threat of a storm surge and high waves to coastal areas of Taiwan and the southern Ryukyu Islands by Friday, as well as very strong winds quite widely, including to the capital of Taiwan, Taipei. Torrential rain is also expected which will bring a risk of significant flooding with the potential for 500-700mm rain falling in some areas in a 24 hour period.

The exact track of the storm could change over the coming days; you can see the latest track of Typhoon Soudelor through Storm Tracker and by following @metofficestorms on Twitter.

Wet and dull July

31 07 2015

UPDATE: The figures below have now been updated to include data from the 1-31 July 2015.

July 2015 was cool, dull and wet across the UK according to Met Office statistics for 1-31 July.

The month began with a record-breaking heatwave, with hot, humid air moving in from the continent.  36.7 °C was recorded at Heathrow 1 July, the highest recorded temperature in the UK since August 2003.

However the rest of the month has been characterized by cooler and often more unsettled conditions, particularly in the north, as a result of a westerly Atlantic air flow.  Rainfall has been above average in most areas, particularly across parts of East Anglia, central and eastern Scotland.

MeantempJuly2015 RainfallJuly2015

minimum temperature mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
Jul 1 – 31 2015 Act (°C)   Diff from avg (°C)   Act (°C) Diff from avg (°C) Act (hrs) % of avg Act (mm) % of avg
UK 10.3 -0.6 14.4 -0.7 164.8 96 109.5 140
England 11.2 -0.4 15.8 -0.5 191.9 99   82.3 131
Wales 10.8 -0.3 14.4 -0.8 175.1 98 112.4 121
Scotland 8.7 -0.9 12.2 -1.0 125.3 89 152.4 153
N Ireland 9.6 -1.1 13.3 -1.3 117.4 84 116.8 144

The south-east has seen some drier and more settled weather with temperatures near average, although there has also been some changeable weather here with over 20mm of rain falling on the 24 July and some cooler temperatures and strong winds on 26 and 27 July.

Elsewhere temperatures have been below average, particularly in the west and north, and it has been a rather dull month with sunshine totals being below average across much of the country.

Data from the Met Office’s UK digitised records dating back to 1910. You can explore our climate data on our website.

Summer weather to return as we head into weekend

28 07 2015

More summer-like weather will return to the UK with conditions and temperatures due to improve as we head into the weekend.

This will come as welcome news to many after a spell of disappointing weather over the past few days which has seen prolonged rainfall and some unseasonably strong winds.

Through to Thursday the UK will be seeing a flow of cool air from the north which is helping to keep day and night temperatures slightly below normal. Overnight temperatures in some rural areas could fall to a few degrees above freezing – with a few isolated spots even seeing frost early on Thursday.

This is all set to change, however, as the northerly flow will be cut off to allow westerly winds, and milder air, to push in later on Thursday.

This will enable temperatures to recover to more normal levels for the time of year across many parts of the country, although some cool nights remain likely.

Colour chart showing temperature change over the next few days, with cooler air (green) making way for warmer conditions (yellow/orange).

Colour chart showing temperature change over the next few days, with cooler air (green) making way for warmer conditions (yellow/orange).

At the same time, high pressure is also set to establish across most of England and Wales to bring lighter winds and more in the way of sunshine for Friday

Scotland and Northern Ireland will continue to see some showers, and these may affect other northern areas into Saturday, though conditions will be markedly improved on recent days for many.

Over the weekend, many parts of England and Wales will be mainly dry with sunny spells. In light winds it will feel much warmer than of late, with temperatures back into the twenties across much of central and southern England.

It may also warm up further across southern and eastern areas on Sunday and into Monday.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland said: “It’s great to hear the weather is improving, however, come rain or shine, Scotland is a beautiful place to explore! Our surveys continually show that the weather is of little consequence to visitors. Whether it’s stormy clouds over the mountains of Glencoe or blue skies over coral beaches in Skye, visitors are in awe of the breathtaking scenery and visit and re-visit in their droves for the landscapes, cities, culture and friendly people.”

“With lots of exciting events and activities planned across the country including, of course, the world-famous Edinburgh Festivals next month, we know visitors will have an experience of a lifetime in Scotland this summer regardless of the weather.”

James Berresford, Chief Executive for VisitEngland, said: “The forecast of good weather is great, especially with the summer season upon us. The release of our latest figures today reveal a strong performance for domestic tourism in the first quarter of this year so we hope this will continue over the summer months. We know holidays in England generate high levels of satisfaction for visitors, and with world class indoor and outdoor attractions, fantastic events and festivals across the country there is still time to plan a last minute short break or day trip in England whatever the weather.”

While we will have a spell of good weather and more summer-like temperatures for many into the weekend, it looks as if more unsettled conditions will move in from the west later on Sunday. These conditions will spread slowly east on Monday, with all areas seeing more unsettled conditions by Tuesday.

Temperatures are likely to be closer to normal by then.

Stay up to date with our forecasts to see how the wather is set to improve in your area.

Are we set for record July rainfall?

27 07 2015

While July has seen a good deal of dry and bright weather, we’ve also seen a few periods of heavy rainfall.

Whether through intense thundery downpours or prolonged periods of rain such as seen in southern parts of the UK on Friday last week, these events have dramatically pushed up the rainfall totals for the month.

This has led to speculation about whether this July could be on course to be the wettest on record. However, a quick look at the statistics shows that while it has certainly been wet, we’re unlikely to break any national records this month.

Provisional rainfall statistics for July 2015 so far suggest that with 5 days of the month remaining much of the country has already received close to or above average rainfall for the month – but we’re some way off breaking the records for each country.

Table showing rainfall figures so far this month compared to average and the records:

Rainfall 1-26 Jul 2015 Current record July 1981 – 2010 average
UK 93 mm 146 mm (2009) 78 mm
England 70 mm 129 mm (2009) 63 mm
Scotland 128 mm 186 mm (1940) 100 mm
Wales 102 mm 241 mm (1939) 93 mm
Northern Ireland 95 mm 186 mm (1936) 81 mm

The wettest regions compared to average have so far this month been eastern Scotland, East Anglia and the south west of England. If records are going to be broken they will most likely be localised rather than national records.

Even those regional records are far from a sure thing. The weather is generally improving for most parts of the country and high pressure, bringing more settled conditions, is expected to build towards the back end of the week.

This means the last few days of this month are unlikely to add big rainfall numbers to the totals we have so far.

Map showing 1-26 July 2015 rainfall compared to the 1981-2010 average. Most places have received their full-month average (shown in white), while the darker blue areas have seen significantly more than average already.

Map showing 1-26 July 2015 rainfall compared to the 1981-2010 average. Most places have received their full-month average (shown in white), while the darker blue areas have seen significantly more than average already.

A wet getaway

24 07 2015

As many of us plan to head off on holiday, heavy rain and strengthening winds cross southern England today (Friday), persisting overnight in the east, before clearing on Saturday morning.

A Yellow warning has been issued for southeast England and East Anglia, valid from Friday afternoon to 11am Saturday because of the potential impacts the heavy rain and wind could have.


Weather warning 24.07.15

As an area of low pressure is crossing northeastwards across the UK today (Friday), close to southern England, it deepens into quite an intense feature for this time of year and is expected to bring disruptive rain and wind, particularly within the warning area.

More than 30 mm of rain is expected quite widely, but there is a chance some isolated locations could well see more than 70 mm of rain. Wind gusts are also expected to be strong across the warning area, with northerly winds gusting to 45 mph inland and around 55 mph along coasts. This combination of factors could bring the risk of disruption to outdoor activities and heavy holiday traffic.
Highways England has launched a website especially for drivers heading to the South West of England to help plan their journey.


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