How much does the weather influence what we put in our grocery basket?

14 10 2015

What do you think determines what we buy when we go food shopping? Whilst the odd item may catch our eye and lead to one of those ‘impulse purchases’, British consumers can in some ways be rather predictable when it comes to what influences their choices.

For example, when Christmas comes around, it isn’t hard to predict that we’re going to be looking for turkey and sprouts. And when the economy is doing well, the chances are we’ll be buying a few more bottles of expensive wine.

But one of the most important factors – in fact one which around half of the decision makers at UK retailers and suppliers would count in their top three – is the weather. And whilst Santa’s sleigh may come to town once a year like clockwork, us Brits – more so than most – know that the weather doesn’t quite work in such a predictable manner.


The weather can have a significant impact on what we choose to buy when in store, and ultimately on retailer performance. For example, a four degree increase in temperature can lead to sales of burgers increasing by nearly half, according to one leading supermarket.

When the weather changes, retailers risk losing millions through low stock levels, empty shelves and disappointed customers. It can lead to unexpected fluctuations in store footfall and sales, shortages in availability, and impact the costs and efficiencies of the whole supply chain – this is particularly true for fresh, chilled and seasonal products.

We wanted to understand a bit more about how the UK grocery sector as a whole accounts for the weather in its planning, so we have developed a new report based on opinions of key executives and managers across over 200 food suppliers and retailers in the UK. The report looks at just how much the weather impacts their business – and how they use weather products to make those all-important stock predictions. After all, no one likes going to the supermarket to find that their favourite food item is sold out.

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.

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.

Summer downpours on the way

11 08 2015

The weather forecast for later this week is presenting a challenge for our meteorologists.

All the ingredients are present to produce significant rainfall on Thursday and Friday, but complex interactions in the atmosphere make it difficult to say with certainty where the rain will be most intense.

An area of low pressure is expected to develop and push north across the Bay of Biscay and western France on Wednesday night and into Thursday, arriving across southern England on Thursday morning. As it comes north, very warm air over the continent is expected to be drawn into the low pressure’s circulation, making it feel very humid across central and southern areas of the UK


Forecast pressure chart valid for 1am on Friday showing the location of the low pressure system over the southeast of the UK.

Warmer air can carry more moisture, and as such some very heavy rain is possible. However, this type of situation is difficult to forecast accurately a few days ahead and there is some uncertainty about which areas will see the heaviest rainfall. Current indications are that central and southern England and Wales are most likely to be affected. We may also have hail and thunder, this is most likely early on Thursday and then again Friday afternoon.

As we have already seen this summer, this type of weather situation has the potential to cause sudden, localised surface water flooding and hazardous travelling conditions.

Met Office National Severe Weather Warnings have been issued and these will be updated over the next few days as confidence in where and when we will see the heaviest rainfall increases.

Looking further ahead, the whole system is expected to clear away to the east during Saturday, with drier, fresher weather following to all parts with some sunshine.

Big waves and blustery winds for western coasts

3 08 2015

A low pressure system off to the west of the UK is generating some big waves which are set to affect western coasts through today and Tuesday.

Waves of between 2-4 metres (about 6-12ft) are expected through the peak of the swell early on Tuesday at exposed beaches in the South West.

There will also be some fairly strong winds tomorrow, with the potential for gale force gusts around coasts in western areas – which may make for difficult conditions for those camping.

With many people around the coasts for summer holidays, people are being urged to take care.

A spokesman for the RNLI said: “Large waves could make some normal coastal activities we take for granted significantly more risky; the force of surging water or breaking waves can easily knock you over and quickly and drag you out of your depth and once in the water it can be difficult to get out.

“Those particularly at risk from these conditions are walkers on beaches or harbour walls when the water is high; spectators looking at the waves who get too close; and anglers fishing from rocks or exposed headlands.  With a low pressure and high winds forecast, areas that you may have considered safe before could be underwater when large waves come ashore.

“If you are planning a coastal activity, our advice is to respect the water;  watch the shore from a safe distance and assess the conditions – think about the risk before deciding if  you need to go closer.”

The waves are the result of a low pressure which is currently to the west of Ireland. As it has been tracking across the Atlantic its strong winds have been generating large waves.

Pressure chart showing the location of the low pressure at 0100 HRS on Monday morning, where it is generating large waves which are heading for western coasts.

Pressure chart showing the location of the low pressure at 0100 HRS on Monday morning, where it is generating large waves which are heading for western coasts.

As the low gets closer to the UK it will track to the north of Scotland, but the waves it has generated will continue marching east towards our coasts.

The size of the waves on any given beach will depend on a number of local factors.

Tides are not particularly large at the moment, meaning the risk of coastal flooding is low for the next few days despite the big waves.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “The flood risk is very low for the next few days. We always monitor the situation closely, working alongside partners, including the Met Office and local authorities, and issue alerts and warnings if required. People and businesses can sign up to receive these free flood warnings and to check their flood risk via our daily flood risk forecast and live Flood Warnings map.”

With British and Irish waters being dangerously unpredictable, the RNLI have just launched a new campaign ‘Respect the Water’ to raise awareness of hidden dangers around our coastline.

For more information on ‘Respect the Water’ visit

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.

A summer forecasting challenge for Friday

22 07 2015

Forecasting rainfall for the UK during the summer has always posed a more difficult challenge than other times of year – and the weather for this Friday is a perfect example.

The various computer models the Met Office uses to forecast the weather differ on how a low pressure system forming to the west of the UK will behave.

We know that it will bring some wind and rain to the southern half of the UK, but there is no consensus on exactly which track it will take across the country and precisely when it will arrive.

Below you can see the area most likely to see some persistent rain during Friday and into Saturday. There is a 30% chance that rainfall could extend further north than this. The system is likely to bring up to 15-25 mm of rain and winds of up to 30 mph, mainly in exposed areas.

Forecast uncertainties 24-25-July

Currently there are no plans to issue a weather warning for this event, but clearly it has the potential to affect people’s plans for Friday now summer holidays are in full swing.  You can hear more about Friday’s forecast in the video below.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on the situation as it develops to ensure everyone has the clearest picture of what’s likely for Friday, so it’s worth staying up to date with the forecast over the next couple of days.

The current situation is a good example of why summer is tricky because at this time of year the details are vitally important.

Will the showers be inland or at the coast, when will low cloud clear to let warm sunshine through? In winter this might not be so important, but in summer when many are outside making the most of all the UK has to offer it can make a huge difference to your day.

Familiar features of our landscape such as hills, valleys or the sea can cause subtle variations in heat and moisture and therefore dominate the local weather outcome.  This can result in big differences in the weather in quite small areas, it can be sunny on the beach but raining inland or a village fair could be rained off while the next village down the road is dry.

At this time of year it’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on the forecast as the situation can change from day to day.

We’re always harnessing new science and technology to make forecasting ever more accurate and summer forecasting is a major focus for future gains.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,846 other followers

%d bloggers like this: