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.





A look back at this week’s news

26 08 2015

The Met Office has been in the news again this week, with our contracts for broadcast weather services generating a huge amount of column inches and public reaction.

It’s certainly been heartening to see and hear the level of public support for us. Over the last few days, ‘Met Office’ trended on Twitter and approaching 34,000 people have read our blog. We’ve had over 27,000 mentions of the Met Office on Twitter and lots of comments on our Facebook page. Here’s a very small selection of the feedback we’ve received:

  • @metoffice weather app will remain my first choice when it comes to weather reports.
  • @metoffice Met Office most highly respected in world. …
  • Dont worry @metoffice, you’ll always be my forecaster of choice :) #weather
  • .@metoffice Been using your app for quite a while. You provide an amazing service.
  • … Behind that lay my respect for the expertise and professionalism of the Met Office and its presenters.
  • … I do trust The Met Office and will follow them online …
  • … I’ve used the Met Office local weather map for years and find its forecasts almost unerringly accurate. You must also take into account the exceptional volatility of UK weather, and I doubt anyone can better MO for their knowledge and experience in that regard.

Moving from the positives to the negatives – there is some misinformation around.

Firstly about our apps. There’s been some suggestion in the media that our app is not popular. However, our apps have had 12 million downloads and they are rated 4 out of 5 on android and 3 out of 5 on iPhone. Like all providers we are always looking to improve and we hope build on this in the future. Last week we had 128% increase in app downloads and a 94% increase on website hits too.

Secondly in terms of value for money, it has been suggested that the Met Office charges the BBC £30 million a year. This, in fact, is the total of our commercial revenue from a wide range of customers – aviation, energy, marine, retail to name but a few. We receive only a small fraction of that amount for our presenter services to the BBC. Given that our presenters are paid at market rates this has to be great value for money.

For us, though, it’s never been about the money. It’s about serving the nation and ensuring the public benefits from the best weather forecasts and warnings to make informed decisions.





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.





Met Office in the news – BBC weather contract

23 08 2015

You may have seen reports in the media today that the Met Office won’t be the BBCs main weather provider when the current contract ends.

Obviously everyone at the Met Office is disappointed that we won’t be supplying weather presenters and graphics to the BBC in the future.

MetOffice

As a trusted British institution we work at the heart of Government, with a wide range of customers, and with emergency responders to maintain resilience and public safety. We will be working with the BBC and others to ensure the nations official weather warnings are broadcast in a consistent way; and that our advice underpins forecasts when it matters most. We are also supporting our popular team of presenters to ensure clarity on their future.

Steve Noyes, our Operations and Customer Services Director, said: “Nobody knows Britain’s weather better and, during our long relationship with the BBC, we’ve revolutionised weather communication to make it an integral part of British daily life.

“This is disappointing news, but we will be working to make sure that vital Met Office advice continues to be a part of BBC output.

“Ranked No 1 in the world for forecast accuracy, people trust our forecasts and warnings. There are lots of ways to access these both now and in the future – via the Met Office app, website, and video forecasts, as well as through television and other digital news providers.”

Much of our 93 years of working with the BBC has been based solely on radio and television forecasts. The world is changing though, and nowadays people access weather information in many ways.

As ever, everyone will be able to access trusted Met Office forecasts and warnings on our own digital channels like our app and mobile website, delivered as text, symbols and videos. You can embed that information easily in your own website too. We continue to provide our expert forecasts on independent television networks and there are also now many other news organisations increasingly sharing Met Office content online.





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.





Summer returns but no heatwave

2 06 2015

There have been some stories in the press that a heatwave is on the way later this week.  Although we are expecting temperatures to rise over the coming days with some pleasant early summer weather, any very warm weather will be fairly short-lived.

After an unseasonably cold, wet and windy start to June and the meteorological summer, high pressure is expected to build across southern parts of the UK from Wednesday, resulting in a much quieter and more pleasant spell of weather.

By Friday, a plume of hot air from the continent could bring temperatures in the mid 20s°C  across south eastern parts of the country, but this in turn is likely to trigger some thundery showers. So although temperatures are likely to peak on Friday, this may not necessarily be accompanied by blue skies and sunshine, as a good deal of cloud is possible along with rather humid and hazy conditions.

Deputy Chief Meteorologist Martin Young said “although things will be a good deal warmer than of late, there still remains considerable uncertainty about how hot it will be and exactly where will see the highest temperatures on Friday, and the public should keep in touch with the latest forecasts”.

This coming weekend is likely to see temperatures a little lower than Friday’s in the south east, but plenty of pleasantly warm sunshine is expected across much of the UK with temperatures widely in the high teens, and reaching the low 20s°C  in parts of the south.





Partial eclipse of the sun

19 03 2015

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

Friday Weather

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

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

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

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

Will the Eclipse affect Space Weather?

Earlier in the week we saw the biggest solar storm in 11 years which led to sightings of  the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, as far south as Somerset.  The solar storm was caused by a large explosion on the Sun on Sunday (15 March) throwing huge amounts of the Sun’s atmosphere into space. This mass of atmosphere carries with it part of the Sun’s magnetic field and is called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).

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

Picture courtesy of NASA

Picture courtesy of NASA

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





One year on – A look back to last winter

17 02 2015

This weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the Valentine’s Day storm, which also marked the end of a particularly stormy three-month period. A new review article – ‘From months to minutes – exploring the value of high-resolution rainfall observation and prediction during the UK winter storms of 2013/2014’ – written by 16 Met Office co-authors reviews the accuracy of our forecasting and warning of severe weather during winter 2013-14, and assesses its performance.

The paper concludes that the “prolonged period of high impact weather experienced in the United Kingdom during the winter of 2013/14 was very well forecast by the operational tools available across space and time scales.”

Here Huw Lewis, the paper’s lead author, and Derrick Ryall, Head of the Public Weather Service, look at the extreme weather last year and the role of the Met Office in communicating severe weather through the National Severe Weather Warning Service.

Analysis chart 1200 GMT 26 January 2014

Analysis chart 1200 GMT 26 January 2014

Winter 2013/2014 in the United Kingdom was remarkable. The country was battered by at least 12 major winter storms over a three month period and was officially assessed as the stormiest period that the United Kingdom has experienced for at least 20 years.

The series of storms resulted in the wettest winter in almost 250 years (according to the England and Wales precipitation series from 1766), significantly wetter than the previous wettest winter in 1914/1915.

Snapshot of UK rain radar surface rainfall rate for 2200 GMT on 23 December 2013

Snapshot of UK rain radar surface rainfall rate for 2200 GMT on 23 December 2013

The extreme weather caused widespread flooding throughout Southern England and coastal damage – most notably in the South West and Norfolk coasts. The impact of the severe winter storms on individuals, businesses and the government were substantial, including several fatalities, widespread power cuts and damaged infrastructure.

Recent advances in forecasting, technology and the scientific developments in meteorology have been considerable. These developments and improvements in accuracy mean that a four-day weather forecast is as accurate as a one-day forecast was just thirty years ago. During the course of last winter, the Met Office was able to use these forecasts to warn of any severe weather well in advance. In the case of the St Jude’s Day storm at the end of October 2013 warnings went out to the Government and the public five days before the storm even existed.

rainfall

As the accuracy of weather forecasts has evolved, so has the communication of the potential impacts of severe weather. The National Severe Weather Warning Service enables more ‘weather decisions’ which in turn help to minimise the consequences of severe weather. The Met Office was at the heart of the government response to the storms, providing advice on weather impacts through the National Severe Weather Warning Service and Civil Contingency Advisors. The Met Office also worked very closely with both the national and regional media, who in turn played a key role in ensuring that the public were fully informed about the potential impacts of any up-coming weather.

In addition to the Public Weather Service, commercial partners and customers were also provided with detailed updates throughout the period in order for them to plan effectively for logistical issues. Together, these advanced warnings helped authorities, businesses and individuals to be better prepared to take mitigating actions.

Driving further improvements in accuracy and therefore reducing the lead time and increasing the detail of severe weather warnings is one of the Met Office’s key priorities . The ultimate aim is to improve the potential for users to plan preventative measures for severe weather events much further ahead. Underpinning all of these developments is a continuing programme of scientific research and access to enhanced supercomputing over the next few years.





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.

UPDATED FRIDAY 19th DECEMBER

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.








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