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.


Possible record heat in Spain, while heavy rain and snow affect the Alps

13 05 2015

Parts of Spain, Portugal and southern France are experiencing unusually high temperatures at the moment. On Tuesday, Seville recorded 38C, and today will be another very hot day for the time of year, with temperatures widely expected to reach the low to mid 30s Celsius.

Met Office Global Model mean sea level pressure and temperature

Met Office Global Model mean sea level pressure and temperature

The hottest conditions will be across the Andalucía region of southern Spain. If temperatures reach or exceed 40C in Seville today this will be a new May record. Cooler conditions will gradually spread from the north tomorrow, although another very hot day is likely in southern Spain. Temperatures are then expected to return closer to average in all regions by Friday.

Meanwhile, southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and northern Italy are at risk of heavy rainfall over the coming days, with heavy snow possible on Friday across the Alps. Up to 150mm of rain could fall within 48 hours, possibly leading to flash flooding and landslides in this mountainous region of Europe, as well as increasing the avalanche risk due to fresh snowfall.

Whilst neither of these two weather events in Europe will affect the UK, we are expecting some heavy rain of our own on Thursday. The band of rain will move across southwest England during the early hours and edge slowly northeastwards through the day, but become almost stationary across parts of Wales, central-southern and southeast England. However, northern England, Northern Ireland and Scotland will remain largely dry and fine.

Stark weather contrasts across the USA

18 02 2015

While the UK continues to see fairly typical winter weather, over the other side of the Atlantic the US is experiencing some stark contrasts.

While some parts in the west are seeing warm and dry conditions, eastern areas are seeing very cold weather.

This week will see a continuation of warmer-than-average conditions in western parts of the USA, with little or no rainfall in the forecast.

Map showing air temperatures across the US, with white (-24C) and blue (below 0C) showing cold air and yellows and oranges showing warm air. From the Met Office's Global Model for 1200HRS GMT on 20 February 2015

Map showing air temperatures across the US, with white (-24C) and blue (below 0C) showing cold air and yellows and oranges showing warm air. From the Met Office’s Global Model for 1200HRS GMT on 20 February 2015

Despite some welcome rainfall at the start of February, California remains in drought, with a large swathe in exceptional drought – which is the highest category that the US Drought Monitor report.

In San Francisco, no rain fell at the downtown observation station or the airport during the whole of January 2015. This is the first January without rainfall since records began in 1850. Normally January is the wettest month of the year, with an average 119mm.

The dry conditions have also resulted in the Sierra Nevada snow pack being at less than 50% of where it should be as we head towards the end of winter.

Meanwhile, the very cold spell of weather is expected to continue across a large part of eastern and northeastern USA, with air originating from the Arctic keeping things icy.

There will be some snow at times, although not as significant as some recent events, though localised heavy ‘lake effect’ snow is likely this week off the Great Lakes.

However, the most noteworthy element will be the extreme cold. Another arctic front will arrive across the East Coast, bringing exceptionally cold conditions.

Places from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic may see some of the coldest weather since the mid-1990s, with numerous record low temperatures expected.

In fact this cold air is expected to reach as far south as Florida, with even the Caribbean expecting well below average temperatures throughout the rest of this week.

Winter storm to hit the U.S.A. and Canada

26 01 2015

While we’re looking at our own wintry weather later this week, a separate weather system is about to bring some very disruptive winter weather on the other side of the Atlantic.

A low pressure system, which is due to bring the severe conditions to the U.S.A., is currently developing over the southeastern United States. It is expected to  deepen very quickly later today. All the ingredients are there: firstly, as it starts to move out over the Atlantic, it taps into the energy provided by warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Secondly, its position relative to the strong jet stream is just right to ensure a rapid development. And thirdly, as it develops, it pulls intensely cold air from Canada into its circulation, which turns much of the rain to snow.

So by Tuesday morning we are expecting an intense depression to be centred off coastal Maine, bringing a combination of hazards. In some areas, especially towards the south and near coasts, heavy rainfall could be an issue but for most places it’s going to be the combination of heavy snow and severe gales which lead to truly atrocious conditions – indeed the word “historic” figures in quite a lot of the American press today.

Blizzards are likely to affect many of the northeastern States from Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) up to Maine and crossing over the border into Canada, with major disruption expected for some communities, including potentially larger cities such as New York and Boston.

As well as posing a major hazard for the road network, impacts on air travel are already starting and are only likely to increase, with knock-on effects for areas quite remote from the weather, including some of the European hubs.

The worst of this particular severe weather should be over by Wednesday but the rest of the week stays very cold in the US, with the risk of renewed snowfall later.

Cold Weather for UK

26 01 2015

Cold weather is again on the way for the UK.  Later this week colder conditions will spread south, bringing a mixture of sunny spells and snow showers from Wednesday onwards.  Temperatures for many will be below normal for the time of year and the wind chill, due to strong winds, will make it feel very cold.

Snow showers are expected to affect parts of the northern half of the UK on Wednesday and Thursday and the Met Office has issued a yellow severe weather warning  for the potential impacts and this will be updated as required this week.  Don’t be surprised to see some snow showers across southern areas too, but these are not currently expected to be heavy enough for the snow to settle.  The northerly winds and cold weather are likely to continue into the weekend.

Is it due to the polar vortex?

There have been reports the cold weather is due to a “displaced polar vortex”.  The large-scale low pressure area in the stratosphere, known as the Polar Vortex, is displaced towards Russia and looks likely to stay that way over the next few days.  However this is not directly responsible for changes in the weather during the coming days. The cold northerly winds we are expecting at the end of the week are not unusual for winter.

What is the jet stream doing?

The jet stream is forecast to move south of the UK from Wednesday onwards. This means we will be on the ‘cold side’ of the jet and cold air from the poles/Arctic will work its way southwards to affect the UK.

Jet Stream forecast map for Saturday showing the track to the south of the UK.

Jet Stream forecast map for Saturday showing the track to the south of the UK.

Is the snowstorm in the USA coming our way?

The snowstorm affecting the east coast of the USA is not coming towards the UK.  It is expected to move away from the States, crossing the Atlantic to the south of the UK to bring heavy rain to Spain and Portugal at the end of the week.




Why are we now seeing colder weather across the UK?

16 01 2015

Over recent weeks, we have spoken about the very strong jet stream across the Atlantic, driving areas of intense low pressure towards the UK. This has bought spells of very wet, windy but relatively mild conditions to the country.

As many of you would have noticed, although the wind and heavy rain has eased, there is now a colder feel to the weather, both by day and night. But what has caused this change in the weather?

Once again the change is down to the jet stream. It has weakened and its track has moved further south, keeping the deep low pressure systems away from our shores. However, now the UK is to the north of the jet stream we are on its cold side, and this has allowed colder weather to feed in across the country.

Current jet stream

Current jet stream across the Atlantic

So what does this mean for us?

As we look ahead into the weekend and next week, the cold weather looks likely to continue. Daytime temperatures will be near or below average and there will be some frosty nights, as temperatures fall below freezing in many areas. We’ll see some sunny spells around and there will also be showers or longer spells of precipitation in places, giving a mixture of rain, hail, sleet or snow, which may settle in some areas.

Because of the threat of wintry weather over the coming days, we encourage everyone to keep up to date with the latest forecasts and national severe weather warnings and to stay weather aware this winter by following the Met Office on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube for the latest weather information. You can find information about how to prepare for every aspect of the winter season at Get Ready for Winter.

As we head towards the latter part of the month, we can see some indications that milder weather may return, but there is considerable uncertainty about this so far in advance.

Strongest winds overnight 14 – 15 January 2015

15 01 2015

As expected, a powerful low pressure system affected the UK yesterday evening and overnight bringing gales and heavy rain to many areas.

The low pressure system will continue to affect the UK today, bringing sunny spells and blustery, heavy showers with the chance of thunderstorms and snow over high ground. Severe gales are again expected around western and northwestern coasts, with the strongest winds likely over Northern Ireland and southwest Scotland, extending to northern Scotland later. You can see detail on this on our forecast and warnings pages.

Below are some of the strongest gust speeds recorded at Met Office observing sites between 7pm yesterday and 7am today.

Strongest gusts 7 pm 14 January 2015 – 7 am 15 January 2015
Date / time Site Max Gusts (mph)
15/01/2015 00:00 CAPEL CURIG GWYNEDD 96
15/01/2015 00:00 ABERDARON GWYNEDD 83
15/01/2015 02:00 BERRY HEAD DEVON 77
15/01/2015 02:00 AVONMOUTH AVON 76
15/01/2015 03:00 ISLE OF PORTLAND DORSET 75
14/01/2015 23:00 CULDROSE CORNWALL 73
15/01/2015 04:00 TIREE ARGYLL 73
15/01/2015 01:00 LOFTUS CLEVELAND 70
15/01/2015 04:00 SOLENT HAMPSHIRE 69
15/01/2015 01:00 LAKE VYRNWY POWYS 69
14/01/2015 23:00 NORTH WYKE DEVON 68
14/01/2015 23:00 SENNYBRIDGE POWYS 68
15/01/2015 06:00 ISLAY: PORT ELLEN ARGYLL 68
15/01/2015 00:00 PEMBREY SANDS DYFED 68
14/01/2015 21:00 DRUMALBIN LANARKSHIRE 67

Below are some of the highest rainfall totals recorded at Met Office observing sites between 7pm yesterday and 7am today.

Highest rainfall 7pm 14 January to 7am 15 January 2015
Site Rain (mm)

You can share the weather you have experienced through the ‘Weather Impacts’ section of WOW

The stormy weather we have seen over the last couple of weeks is now coming to an end and conditions over the weekend and into next week look calmer but colder with frosts at night and wintry mix of showers.

Extreme global weather

5 01 2015

The UK may be experiencing what looks likely to be a milder than average winter but other parts of the globe are struggling against some extreme weather conditions.

Middle East

Heavy snow is expected to affect large parts of Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and SW Russia early this week. As the cold conditions spread east later in the week, strong to gale force winds and heavy snow are expected across more eastern parts of the Mediterranean.

This will lead to the Middle East seeing temperatures 10 or 15C below normal for the time of year. For example, overnight temperatures could fall to -10C in Syria by mid week, with daytime temperatures struggling to rise above freezing.

This is likely to have a significant impact on refugees and the humanitarian aid agencies in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, with problems enhanced by the threat of frozen water supplies. Although overnight temperatures of -5 to -10C are expected, these values may well fall much lower if there is snow cover.

North America and Canada

Large areas of the USA and Canada are experiencing very cold conditions, with the threat of heavy snowfall across some parts over the coming days.

The eastward movement of a cold front over the weekend has dragged very cold air down from the arctic. Temperatures across parts of Canada have fallen to -30C, and widely across North America, daytime temperatures have ranged between 0 and -6C, with the bitterly cold conditions enhanced by strong winds.

As well as the low temperatures, some parts have seen heavy snowfall, such as the Pacific Northwest and areas to the east of the Great Lakes.

Further heavy snowfall is expected this week, particularly down-wind of the Great Lakes due to “lake effect” snow. This is caused when cold flows across relatively warm bodies of water such as the Great Lakes. The air rises in strong convective currents which creates clouds and heavy precipitation. In these very cold conditions, the moisture in the clouds will fall as snow.

Lake Superior (top left) and Michigan (centre) can be seen generating 'lake effect' snow. Provided by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE

Lake Superior (top left) and Michigan (centre) can be seen generating ‘lake effect’ snow. Provided by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE

The significance of this is highlighted by snowfall projections over the coming days. Lake Ontario, the easternmost of the Great Lakes with a surface area of 18,960 km2, is expected to bring narrow bands of heavy snow to areas east of the lake. These narrow bands could generate 2-3 feet of fresh snow over the next 24-36 hours causing significant disruption.

Whilst the freezing temperatures are expected to last throughout the week, temperatures may recover slightly through the weekend.

Will the US weather affect the UK?

The cold conditions will have the effect of strengthening the jet stream, which will move close to the UK over the coming days. This will bring unsettled conditions through this week, with spells of wet and windy weather, particularly across northwestern parts of the country. However, it will be mild, particularly towards the end of the working week when daytime temperatures could reach around 14C.

There is the potential for the remnants of this cold air to move eastwards across the Atlantic to affect the UK over the weekend. However, the airmass will become heavily modified by the Gulf Stream, and there is little risk of the extreme temperatures over North America affecting the UK.

White Christmas?

26 12 2014

Most people woke up yesterday to a green Christmas rather than a white one.

Snow was recorded at our observation site at Lerwick and some sleet was also recorded at Wick between 11am and 12pm, however for the rest of the UK it remained dry and clear throughout Christmas Day.

To find out what the forecast for your area is for the next five days visit our website: metoffice.gov.uk

Dreaming of a White Christmas?

17 12 2014
Summit of An Socach, the Cairngorms, Scotland.

Summit of An Socach, the Cairngorms, Scotland.


With less than a week to go before Christmas Day, we are going to look at the likelihood of a white Christmas – will we be waking up to a picturesque covering of snow on the big day?

So far, December has seen some large fluctuations in the weather, with spells of wetter, milder conditions interspersed with colder, sunnier conditions with temperatures closer to average.

Through today and tomorrow, we will see plenty of fine weather across the UK, with some crisp winter sunshine. There will be some showers across the north and west of the country, that are likely to be wintry over higher ground.

A return to largely mild weather is expected from Sunday (21st), with cloudy, damp conditions for many parts, and there is the threat of some heavy rain in places.

As we head into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, there is still a fair amount of uncertainty – which is as you’d expect this far ahead. The strongest signal currently shown in the computer models is for the colder, showery weather to return across Britain, with showers most frequent across the north and east. But will we see any snow?

At this point, the most likely areas that will see some of the white stuff will be across higher ground in the north, with rain at lower levels. Temperatures will be fairly close to average and there will be some frosty nights under clear skies.

It is important to note, however, that there’s still a small chance we could see different weather for Christmas Day. So with just under a week to go until the big day, it looks most likely that the majority of us won’t be seeing a white Christmas. Because of the uncertainty of long range forecasts, however, we recommend staying up-to-date with our website for the latest information on our forecasts and warnings.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,433 other followers

%d bloggers like this: