Reporting the weather across the UK

8 01 2016

December 2015 was the wettest calendar month for the UK in a series of monthly weather records stretching back to 1910. But why does the Met Office state 1910 when listing records, especially when some records existed well before that time?

Part of the answer is that the Met Office has a responsibility to collate weather records for the entire UK, the UK countries and historic counties.  The digital archive used to generate our UK analyses includes station observations back to 1853, but only since 1910 has there been a sufficiently dense network of stations to allow an analysis of the whole UK.

One station, the Oxford Radcliffe Observatory, which is managed by Oxford University School of Geography and the Environment – holds rainfall records back to 1767. This allows a greater understanding of the rainfall in Oxfordshire, but doesn’t allow greater comparison with England or the UK: vital when you are trying to provide a complete picture.

The England and Wales Precipitation (EWP) series stretches back to 1766. In recent times the EWP – a highly significant climate series – is based on records from around 100 stations, but the further you go back the fewer recording stations there were. This provides a good analysis of records for England and Wales, but doesn’t capture the remainder of the UK: Scotland and Northern Ireland. Additionally, it doesn’t take account of the thousands of recording stations which provide more detailed picture for the UK in more modern times.

Dr Mark McCarthy is the head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre. Commenting on the results he said: “Although our UK dataset currently only stretches back to 1910 we are adding to it by digitising more of our extensive paper archives in order to extend these records further back in time. When we have done that it is possible that months like October 1903 may rival or even surpass some of the UK records set in December 2015.

“However for December 2015 we have a good picture  of the rainfall patterns across the UK such as the record breaking rainfall in: Cumbria, North Wales; eastern Dumfries and Galloway; and parts of the Cairngorms.”

December 2015 rainfall anomaly map

December 2015 rainfall anomaly map

“In fact, as our very high-resolution rainfall map in December 2015 shows, parts of England were close to average and some places actually recorded lower than average precipitation. Just like a digital photograph, greater resolution allows you to observe finer detail.  Therefore picking any one place or region may not be representative of the UK as a whole.”

Met Office national records are created using a method to interpolate observations from our network of stations onto a 5km by 5km grid covering the UK. The gridding method is a more sophisticated approach for analysing rainfall than simply taking an average of station data. However, because it also requires a denser network of stations it is not as long running a series as the EWP and some long running observing sites. The different datasets are therefore complementary and we use both to monitor our changing climate.

So, the UK’s national climate series – the records you will see quoted when the Met Office routinely releases statistics – is a comprehensive rainfall analysis covering the whole of the UK back to 1910 using all available observations. Other series including the EWP are also a vital part of our national climate monitoring and provide us with an even longer historical context for some parts of the UK.

Professor Adam Scaife is a climate scientist with the Met Office’s Hadley Centre. He said: “It’s clear that December 2015 was a very significant month for rainfall and was the highest since our records began in 1910.  We have been asked about the link between climate change and the rainfall in December 2015.

“With or without climate change there have always been exceptional spells of weather and there always will be. But climate change can add to the natural variations in our climate and it is this that increases the chance of record breaking weather and unprecedented extremes.  It is therefore vital that we monitor our weather and climate in as much detail as possible to assess and predict future weather extremes.”





Record breaking December rainfall

28 12 2015

This is has already been a record breaking month for rainfall in some parts of the UK, with exceptional amounts of rain falling onto already saturated ground.

The very wet Boxing Day in parts of north Wales and northwest England was well forecast five days in advance with Amber, be prepared, warnings in force from as early as last Wednesday.

In the event the highest rainfall amounts were around 100mm with peaks of 130mm in Lancashire and in excess of 200mm in Snowdonia and caused high impacts across parts of north Wales and northern England.

Map showing two day rainfall totals for Christmas Day and Boxing Day

Map showing two day rainfall totals for Christmas Day and Boxing Day

Here is a selection of the highest two day rainfall totals from Met Office observing sites for Christmas Day and Boxing Day:

48hr UK RAINFALL TOTALS 9am 25 DEC – 9am 27 DEC 2015
SITE AREA RAINFALL TOTAL (MM)
CAPEL CURIG GWYNEDD 210.6
STONYHURST LANCASHIRE 100
PATELEY BRIDGE, RAVENS NEST NORTH YORKSHIRE 97
BINGLEY WEST YORKSHIRE 93.6
BAINBRIDGE NORTH YORKSHIRE 89.8
BALA GWYNEDD 89.4
SHAP CUMBRIA 86.4
SPADEADAM CUMBRIA 79.4
PRESTON, MOOR PARK LANCASHIRE 73.2
MYERSCOUGH LANCASHIRE 72.4
BRADFORD WEST YORKSHIRE 69.4
ROCHDALE GREATER MANCHESTER 68.2
MORECAMBE LANCASHIRE 65.8
MONA ISLE OF ANGLESEY 63.6
KIELDER CASTLE NORTHUMBERLAND 61.2
DISHFORTH AIRFIELD NORTH YORKSHIRE 60.8

This wet spell has added to the heavy rainfall through the rest of the month to make December 2015 already the wettest on record in parts of the UK.

Here is a small selection of new December records from Met Office observing stations around the UK 9am 1 – 9am 28 December 2015:

Site Total (mm) 81-10 avg (mm) Previous record
Shap (Cumbria) 773.2 215.6 504.4mm in 2006
Keswick (Cumbria) 517.6 173 376.4mm in 2013
Warcop Range (Cumbria) 281.6 94.1 218.4mm in 2006
Stonyhurst (Lancashire) 331.4 141.6 319.3mm in 1951
Morecambe (Lancashire) 281.4 109.2 272mm in 1909
Bainbridge (North Yorkshire) 496.2 156.5 327.2mm in 2006
Bingley

(West Yorkshire)

241.4 114.3 247.2mm in 2006
Eskdalemuir (Dumfries and Galloway) 500 184.9 390.4mm in 2014
Glasgow Bishopton 311.4 145.6 294.8mm in 2006
Capel Curig (Conwy) 1012.2 308.9 612.8mm in 2006

This very unsettled and occasionally stormy spell was well signalled in our recent three month outlooks and is not unusual for this time of year, indeed this is when climatologically we would expect to have most of our storms.

Throughout this unsettled spell Met Office meteorologists and advisors are working round the clock with our partners to keep everyone up to date with the latest forecast information so they can plan and prepare for the expected weather.





December on track to be the mildest on record

24 12 2015

Mowing the lawn has been the reality for some so far this December, with unseasonably high temperatures. It looks as though the UK is on track to break the record for the warmest December since records began in 1910 and some areas have also seen their wettest.

The latest temperatures for December (1st to 22nd) reveal that the month so far has been far warmer than normal. Early provisional figures* reveal that the mean temperature for December in the UK has so far has been 8.1C, which is 4.2C above the long-term average for the month and well above the previous record of 6.9C set in 1934.

The December figure for England has so far been 9.5C, that’s 5.1C above the same long-term average and 2C above the record of 7.5C set in 1934, and the other UK nations have been similarly warm:

  • the mean temperature of 9.3C in Wales, higher than the previous post-1910 record of 7.5C set in 1934, and 4.8C above average
  • the mean temperature of 5.6°C in Scotland is 2.8C above average, but is so far slightly lower than the previous December record of 5.8C set in 1988
  • the mean temperature of 7.5°C in Northern Ireland is 3C higher than average, and marginally higher than the 1988 December record

Tim Legg of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre said: “With no sign of any significantly cold weather to come in the remaining 9 days of the month, we’re on track to break the warmest December record which was set back in 1934.”

Rainfall 1 - 22 Dec 2015

Rainfall 1 – 22 Dec 2015

MeanTemperature Dec 1 - 22, 2015

MeanTemperature Dec 1 – 22, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainfall and sunshine figures so far confirm December has been dull and wet across most of the UK, with sunshine well down on the long-term average while precipitation (which of course has fallen mainly as rain) has been well above.  Some places have seen record breaking rainfall:

  • Cumberland 310.9mm rainfall 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 248.2mm 2006),
  • Westmorland 474.4mm 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 365.1mm 2006)
  • Dumfriesshire 314mm rainfall 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 307.5mm 2013)
  • Carnarvonshire 441.3mm rainfall 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 376.6mm 1965)
  • Roxburghshire 237.8mm rainfall 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 219.7mm 2013)

 

EARLY mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
1-22 Dec 2015 Act Anom Act Anom   Act Anom
  Deg C Deg C hours % mm %
UK 8.1 4.2 17.7 43 148.0 123
England 9.5 5.1 19.8 42 86.5 99
Wales 9.3 4.8 16.3 39 237.1 143
Scotland 5.6 2.8 14.1 46 229.1 140
N Ireland 7.5 3.0 20.7 56 130.4 114

 

You can find out what the rest of the year has been like on our climate pages.

*Data from the Met Office’s UK digitised records dating back to 1910.

Please note that these provisional figures, especially for rainfall and sunshine, are subject to revision. Anomalies are expressed relative to the 1981-2010 averaging period.





Mild start to December

16 12 2015

Looking at figures dating back to 1960 this has been the mildest start to December for Wales (8.7C), south west England (9.8C) and south east England (10C), and the 4th warmest for the UK as a whole (7.1C), with 1979, 2000 and 2006 being marginally milder.

Early provisional figures* (1-14 December) show the first half of December has been very mild across England and Wales with the maximum daily temperatures 3.2C above average for the UK as a whole.

However there has been a sharp north-south contrast at times with much colder air over Scotland and some frosts.  Elsewhere the humid south-westerly airflow means the weather has remained similar to last month: cloudy with very few clear nights, mild nights and very little sunshine for most areas.

Mean Temperature 1 -14 December 2015

Mean Temperature 1 -14 December 2015

 

The main talking point so far this month has been Storm Desmond, bringing record-breaking rainfall totals over the Lake District and a lot of rain over many northern areas.

Around 200% of the whole month’s normal rainfall has already fallen in a few places in the Pennines and the Lake District, it has also been wet in Snowdonia and parts of southern & central Scotland.  There has been near-normal rainfall across many other areas, and actually below average, for this point in the month, in parts of southern England.

EARLY mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
1-14 Dec 2015 Act deg C Anom deg C   Act Hours Anom %   Act mm Anom %  
Regions            
UK 7.1 3.2 13.4 33 100.2 83
England 8.6 4.3 15.7 33 56.7 65
Wales 8.7 4.2 11.0 26 140.9 85
Scotland 4.2 1.4 10.4 34 161.6 99
N Ireland 6.1 1.6 13.1 35 99.0 87

 

Despite the mild start to winter following on from a mild autumn, it looks like 2015 will be an average year as far as weather is concerned.

This year’s damp and cool spring and summer mean that despite the current mild spell, the rainfall, temperature and sunshine statistics for the year as a whole are all hovering around average, with just 17 days left until the end of the year.

Indications are that the unsettled weather will continue through Christmas and into the new year. Showers or longer spells of rain are expected across all parts, with the heaviest and most persistent rain in the north and west, and the best of the drier conditions across south-east England.

We can expect gales at times, again especially in the north and west. Temperatures will be closer to average than of late, but still generally above, with any snowfall restricted to the high ground of Scotland and northern England.

Please note that these provisional figures, especially for rainfall and sunshine, are subject to revision. Anomalies are expressed relative to the 1981-2010 averaging period.

*Data from the Met Office’s UK digitised records dating back to 1910.





Did climate change have an impact on Storm Desmond?

7 12 2015

The exceptional rainfall in Cumbria over the past few days saw the fall of numerous records and has led many to ask whether it is linked to climate change. The records are based on digitised data going back to the 19th Century.

A gauge at Honister Pass recorded 341.4mm of rainfall in the 24-hours up to 1800 GMT on 5 December 2015, making for a new UK record for any 24-hour period. This beat the previous record of 316.4mm set in November 2009 at Seathwaite, also in Cumbria. A new 48-hour record (from 0900 to 0900 hrs) was also set, when 405mm was recorded at Thirlmere in Cumbria in just 38 hrs.

The weekend’s record rainfall was associated with a persistent, south-westerly flow bringing a ‘river of moisture’ from as far away as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Ocean temperatures in the West Atlantic are currently well above normal and may well have contributed to the very high levels of moisture in the air masses which unleashed rainfall on the Cumbrian fells.

Professor Dame Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist, says “It’s too early to say definitively whether climate change has made a contribution to the exceptional rainfall. We anticipated a wet, stormy start to winter in our three-month outlooks, associated with the strong El Niño and other factors.

“However, just as with the stormy winter of two years ago, all the evidence from fundamental physics, and our understanding of our weather systems, suggests there may be a link between climate change and record-breaking winter rainfall. Last month, we published a paper showing that for the same weather pattern, an extended period of extreme UK winter rainfall is now seven times more likely than in a world without human emissions of greenhouse gases.”





Wind and rain records for Storm Desmond

6 12 2015

Storm Desmond, the fourth named storm of the season, bought widespread heavy rain and storm force winds to areas of northern England and Scotland.

The rainfall experienced in many parts of the north west of the UK is thought to have been exceptional and early provisional rainfall statistics indicate many places have seen totals widely over 180 to 200 mm in the Lake District. It is thought very locally event totals may be in excess of 300 mm locally.  The Met Office issued a Red ‘take action’ severe weather warning for rainfall yesterday, the first red warning since February 2014.

48 Hour UK Rainfall Total 0900 4th December – 0900 6th December
Site Name Area Rainfall Total mm
Shap Cumbria 262.6
Keswick Cumbria 178.4
Blencathra Cumbria 174.8
Capel Curig Gwynedd 170.6
Tyndrum Perthshire 141
Eskdalemuir Dumfriesshire 139.2
Bainbridge North Yorkshire 136
Cluanie Inn Ross & Cromarty 132.8

The rainfall caused some rivers to flood and homes had to be evacuated in areas of Cumbria and in Northumberland. The Environment Agency still has a number of flood warnings in place.

An Amber ‘be prepared’ warning for wind was in place for parts of  SE Scotland and NE England as wind speeds were expected that could potentially cause disruption, structural damage and disrupt transport.  Gusts of over 80 mph were experienced in more exposed locations, with the strongest recorded gust of 99 mph at Great Dun Fell, a high level site in Cumbria at 847m.

Max Gust Speeds 5 December 1800 – 6 December 0900
Site Name Area Max Gust mph
Capel Curig Gwynedd 81
Needles Old Battery Isle of Wight 78
High Bradfield South Yorkshire 77
Redesdale Camp Northumberland 73
Loftus Cleveland 70
Aberdaron Gwynedd 69
Charterhall Berwickshire 68
Valley Gwynedd 67

 

There are no weather warnings in place for the rest of today (Sunday), however the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) still have a number of flood warnings in place as water courses are still reacting to yesterday’s rainfall. A warning is in place for Monday and will be updated as required.

You can keep up to date with the latest forecast using our five day forecast pages, the latest weather warnings on our National Severe Weather Warnings pages and find out what to do in severe weather.





2015 likely to be the warmest on record

25 11 2015

This year’s global average surface temperature is likely to be the warmest on record according to data from the Met Office, and is expected to continue the trend showing 15 of the top 16 warmest years have happened since 2001.

These findings concur with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) findings also announced today.

2015 a more ‘clear-cut’ record

Provisional figures up to the end of October show this year’s near-surface global temperature as estimated from the HadCRUT dataset has been around 0.71 ±0.1 °C above the 1961-1990 average of 14.0 °C.

This is in-line with the Met Office’s forecast, issued in December 2014, which predicted 2015 global temperatures would be between 0.52 °C and 0.76 °C* above the 1961-1990 average, with a central estimate of 0.64 °C.

In HadCRUT, this year is clearly warmer than 2014, the previous nominal warmest year in the record, which was 0.57 ±0.1 °C above the 1961-1990 average.

Global Temperature graph

Colin Morice, a climate monitoring scientist at the Met Office, said: “Last year was nominally the warmest year in our records but wasn’t much higher than the other top warmest years. This year the temperature is markedly warmer than anything we’ve previously seen in the 166-year record, meaning its position at the top of the rankings looks set to be much more clear cut.”

 

The HadCRUT dataset, jointly compiled by the Met Office and Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, uses data from more than 6, 000 observation sites around the world and observations from ships and buoys at sea. It is recognised as one of the world’s leading indices of global temperature.

Temperatures 1 °C above ‘pre-industrial’ for first time

2015 is set to mark the first time in the record that annual global temperatures reach 1 °C above ‘pre-industrial’ temperatures (taken here as an average of the 1850-1900 period*).

This is important because governments around the world have agreed the aim of trying to limit warming to 2 °C or less above pre-industrial to try to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

Leading independently-run datasets agree

Findings from HadCRUT are very similar to independently-run global temperature datasets compiled by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies.

Information from all three datasets is included in an announcement from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on global temperature, which also concludes this year is likely to be the warmest on record.

Where did 2015’s warmth come from?

This year has seen a strong El Niño develop, with unusually warm sea surface temperatures across the Tropical Pacific, releasing heat into the atmosphere and pushing up global temperatures.

Global Temperature chart

Global Temperature chart

While this has contributed to 2015’s warmth, this is likely to be comparatively small compared to the long-term influence of warming caused by human greenhouse gas emissions.

This is backed up by research from the Met Office last year which showed global temperatures seen in recent years would be highly unlikely in a world without human influence on the climate.

What’s in store for the year ahead?

Last year saw record or near record warmth globally, this year is warmer still and the current expectation is that next year will also be warm.

This is due to two factors: firstly, the ongoing warming due to human influence, and secondly although the current El Niño is expected to peak around the end of this year, its main warming influence is usually felt in the months afterwards. For example, a strong El Niño peaked at the end of 1997 – but it was 1998 which went on to become a record (at the time) by some margin.

There are other natural factors – such as changes in longer term ocean cycles or volcanic eruptions – which could act to reduce global temperatures next year, so there will always be some uncertainty.

The Met Office will give more detail in the expected global temperature for 2016 when it publishes its forecast in the latter part of December.

 

* While late 19th century temperatures are commonly taken to be indicative of pre-industrial, there is no fixed period that is used as standard and a variety of other periods have been used for observational and palaeo datasets. There are limitations in available data in the early instrumental record, making the average temperature in the reference period less certain. There is not a reliable indicator of global temperatures back to 1750, which is the era widely assumed to represent pre-industrial conditions. Therefore 1850-1900 is chosen here as the most reliable reference period, which also corresponds to the period chosen by IPCC to represent a suitable earlier reference period.





Warm, sunny and dry October

30 10 2015

Early provisional figures (1-28 October) show sunshine and temperatures were above normal in almost all places this month while rainfall has been below average, especially in western areas.

Much of October has been relatively settled, with high pressure dominating our weather. This has led to many dry, sunny days but cold nights and even a few frosts (coldest so far -5.0 °C at Braemar on 17th).  Although the end of the month so far has been more unsettled, it has remained milder than average.

Rainfall has been below average, especially in the west of the UK, with only around 30% of average in eastern parts of Wales.  The exception to this has been a band from Cambridgeshire to North Yorkshire and around Aberdeen where rainfall has been around average (at the time these figures were compiled we would expect around 90% of the month’s total rainfall and sunshine to have happened).

1-28 October 2015 sunshine

1-28 October 2015 sunshine

1-28 October 2015 rainfall

1-28 October 2015 rainfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maximum temperatures (daytime) have been above normal in almost all areas for October, with north west Scotland being 2°C above, while south-east England stayed around average.  However cooler nights have led to Mean temperatures (average of daytime and night-time temperatures) over most of England and Wales being near average, but a degree or so above in parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

EARLY mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
1-28 Oct 2015 Act Anom Act Anom Act Anom
  degC degC hours % mm %
Regions            
UK 9.9 0.4 88.5 96 61.6 48
England 10.6 0.2 89.5 87 50.5 55
Wales 10.0 0.1 89.0 96 64.3 38
Scotland 8.6 0.7 85.4 113 78.4 45
N Ireland 9.8 0.4 94.7 108 64.8 54

 

Meanwhile Halloween starts off cloudy or foggy for many with some patchy rain across northern parts.  However this clears leaving a mild day with patchy sunshine for many in the afternoon.   Sunday, 1st November, looks much the same staying mostly dry with some sunny spells.  Check out our five day forecast for more details.

Please note that these provisional figures, especially for rainfall & sunshine, are subject to revision. Anomalies are expressed relative to the 1981-2010 averaging period.

 

 





Spooky heat for Halloween weekend?

28 10 2015

Last Halloween saw record breaking temperatures across parts of the United Kingdom, with both Kew Garden’s, London and Gravesend, Kent reaching a maximum temperature of 23.6C.

What can trick or treaters expect this year on Halloween?

The weather’s currently in an unsettled mood, with a mild south or southwesterly flow dominating the weather pattern. Most areas will escape night frosts for the rest of the week, and yesterday (Tuesday) parts of London reached almost 20 degrees during the afternoon. Although the next couple of days are likely to bring rain to all areas, the worst of the unsettled weather should stay in northern and western parts of the UK as we head into the last day of October.

Pressure chart for midday on Saturday 31 October 2015

Pressure chart for midday on Saturday 31 October 2015

Pressure will rise across the south allowing more settled conditions to take hold towards the south and east. The generally mild theme looks likely to continue with warm air spreading northwards from the continent. As a result there is a possibility that parts of southeast England could see maximum temperatures in the high teens, perhaps touching 20 Celsius. The extent and degree of warmth will be affected by how much cloud cover there is which is difficult to forecst accurately 3 days ahead, however therer will be some decent bright or sunny spells. You can keep up to date with the most recent forecast on our 5 day forecast pages.

Sunday sees the start of a new month and it’s looking likely that we will see similar weather to Saturday with many places staying dry with bright or sunny spells after early mist or fog clears. The warm air may hang on across the south where, if sunshine allows, it could turn very warm with temperatures getting close to the UK temperature record for November of  21.7C (reached at Prestatyn, North Wales on 4 November 1946). Record breaking or not, this weekend provides plenty of opportunities to get out and shake off those cobwebs.





Warm, dry, sunny start to October

16 10 2015

The first half of October has been dominated by high pressure, giving a warm, dry, sunny start to October across the UK.

The month started with some weather fronts crossing the UK bringing rain in places. However the mid month statistics* (1 -14th October 2015) show that from the 5th onwards a high pressure system has dominated our weather bringing dry, settled conditions for most of us.

However, because of the position high pressure, we have seen relatively cool air coming in from the north-east. This has resulted in plenty of pleasant, sunny days, particularly in western areas, but with temperatures dropping away at night and a few frosts in places (coldest in this period -3.7 °C at Altnaharra on 13th).  Sunshine hours and maximum temperatures so far this month have been above average, but many places have seen night time temperatures below what we would expect, meaning the overall mean temperatures so far are above average for the whole of October.

MeanTemp Oct 1-14 2015

Rainfall has been well below normal in western areas, although closer to what would be expected by this point in the month in some eastern parts of the UK.  As a whole the UK has seen just 20% of the expected monthly rainfall so far, well short of the 50% we would expect to see by mid month.

1-14 Oct 2015 mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
degC degC hours % mm %
UK 10.3 0.8 57.1 62 25.5 20
England 11 0.6 60.7 59 25.2 27
Wales 10.4 0.5 60.2 65 24.8 15
Scotland   9.1 1.2 49.7 66 28.5 16
N Ireland 10.3 0.9 61.4 70 12.1 10

Of course, while these figures are interesting, they don’t tell us where the month will end up overall. Latest forecasts show that the settled weather is expected to continue for many over the next few days, before conditions become generally more unsettled across the UK with outbreaks of rain and stronger winds, interspersed with drier, brighter periods as we head towards the end of the month.

*Data from the Met Office’s UK digitised records dating back to 1910.








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